One in four criminals re-offend within a year

More than a quarter of offenders are re-convicted within a year, according to official statistics.

The statistics were released by the Scottish Government
The statistics were released by the Scottish Government

Figures from the Scottish Government show that in 2014-15, 28.2 per cent of the 43,634 people released from prison or given a non-custodial sentence such as a community payback order or fine had a further conviction within a year.

The overall re-conviction rate has fallen 0.3 per cent from 2013/14, continuing an 18-year downward trend.

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But of those given a custodial sentence of six months or less, 57 per cent were re-convicted within a year and 39 per cent were back in prison 12 months later.

Offenders released from jail in 2014/15 had a higher re-conviction rate at 43.9 per cent than for any other type of sentence except drug treatment and testing orders.

Statisticians highlighted that offenders who receive short sentences typically commit “low level” crimes such as shoplifting, but often in higher volumes and are more likely to be re-convicted.

Sex offenders had the lowest re-conviction rate at 12.1 per cent, while people committing crimes of dishonesty such as theft or shoplifting had the highest out of the crime classifications at 42.5 per cent.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said the figures showed that community sentences, including community payback orders (CPOs) brought in to replace community service, were more effective at cutting re-offending than short jail terms.

The re-conviction rate for those given CPOs is four percentage points lower than in 2011-12, the first full year after they were introduced, and also lower than for the community orders they replaced - but up 3.6 percentage points on the previous year.

Mr Matheson said: “These figures show we are continuing to make good progress on tackling re-offending – a key goal of this government’s justice strategy.

“The continued fall in re-convictions is down to hard work from partners across Scottish justice, working together to prevent offending and keep our communities safe.”

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But Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Liam McArthur said the figures showed the need for sentencing reform.

He said: “The fact remains that more than half of those given short-term prison sentences are reconvicted within a year.

“This is yet more evidence that disruptive, short-term prison sentences are less effective at rehabilitating people than robust, community-based sentences.”

Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Douglas Ross added: “The fact that more than a fifth of violent offenders find themselves back in court within a year of release is a damning indictment on our justice system.

“The SNP may think the answer to this is to do away with prison sentences of a certain length altogether, but we’d rather see every prisoner being given work and education, to give something back to society and increase chances of reintegration on the outside.”