Scotland's reconviction rates remain at 20-year low

Man in handcuffs Image copyright Getty Images

Almost a third of offenders sentenced to payback orders which include unpaid community work were reconvicted within a year.

New figures also show that about six in 10 people sentenced to prison terms of three months or less were reconvicted.

Overall, the reconviction rate in 2016/17 was unchanged at 27.2%.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said the National Statistics report showed Scotland's reconviction rate remained at its lowest level in 20 years.

The figures show that 31.2% of those ordered to carry out community payback orders (CPO) were reconvicted within 12 months.

People given CPOs may be ordered to undertake measures including paying compensation, carrying out unpaid work in the community or receiving treatment for a drug addiction.

Of those offenders given jail terms, 42.3% were reconvicted - down from 43.7% in 2015/16.

But the reconviction of those given custodial sentences of three months or less stood at 58.3%, a slight fall from 58.7% in the previous year.

Image copyright NAtional Statistics

There is already a presumption - not a ban - against the courts passing jail sentences of three months or less.

The Scottish government wants to extend that presumption to prison terms of less than 12 months.

The Scottish Parliament is due to vote on the issue later this week, following scrutiny and approval by the Holyrood's justice committee.

If passed, the changes would come into force this summer.


Mr Yousaf said there were a broad range of "disposals" available to judges dealing with people who commit crime, ensuring they pay their debts to society and turn their lives around.

"I hope parliament will this week back our reforms to step up the use of community-focused sentences such as CPOs as more effective alternatives to often counter-productive short prison terms of 12 months or less - where about half of those released are reconvicted, and a third returned to custody, within a year," he added.

"Clearly there will always be serious crimes where the court decides prison is the right sentence, and we continue to support Scotland's hard-working prison staff and third sector partners to help challenge and ideally transform the lives of people in or leaving custody.

"Our firm focus on rehabilitation and reintegration has helped achieve a reconviction rate over the last two years that is the lowest since comparable records began 20 years ago.

"This remains a key focus of Scotland's modern justice system in order to continue reducing reoffending - in turn, helping to keep crime down and communities safe, with fewer victims."

The statistics also found:

  • From 2007/08 to 2016/17, the reconviction rate dropped from 31.2% to 27.2%
  • The average number of reconvictions per offender decreased by 16%, from 0.57 to 0.48, over the same decade
  • Male offenders are reconvicted more often, on average, than women
  • People who commit crimes of dishonesty had the highest average number of reconvictions per offender (0.94 in 2016/17)
  • Offenders who commit a sexual crime have the lowest levels of reconvictions (0.16)

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