Re-conviction rates for offenders in Scotland falls to 19-year low

The Scottish Governments programme for government provides an undertaking to introduce a presumption against jail sentences of less than 12 months. Picture: John Devlin

Offenders released from short prison sentences are twice as likely to be reconvicted of a crime as those given community payback orders, new figures show.

Statistics published yesterday show Scotland’s reconviction rate has fallen to a 19-year low.

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The percentage of offenders who were convicted of another crime within 12 months dropped from 28.3 per cent to 27 per cent between 2014/15 and 2015/16.

The figures also showed that those released from a short prison sentence are reconvicted almost twice as often in 12 months than those given community payback orders (CPOs).

Offenders who committed crimes of dishonesty had the highest average number of reconvictions, while those convicted of a sexual crime had the lowest.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “Scotland has continued to reduce the number of people who re-offend, implementing a clear focus on rehabilitation, working alongside partners in local government, the third sector and Scottish Prison Service, to help many people with convictions turn their lives around.

“Short custodial sentences often serve little purpose, and these independent figures support our work to encourage courts to consider community sentences as a robust alternative to custody – challenging and supporting men and women to tackle underlying issues behind offending behaviour.

“There will always be cases where the court rightly decides prison is the most appropriate sentence, and we are supporting the Scottish Prison Service to provide services that help transform the lives of people in custody.”

Published yesterday, the Scottish Government’s programme for government provides an undertaking to introduce a presumption against sentences of less than 12 months.

Scottish Labour’s Justice spokesman, Daniel Johnson, said: “Cutting re-offending rates is a key tool in cutting crime and building a safer society.

“With one in four prisoners going on to commit further crimes after being released from prison there is clearly much more work to be done, including giving prison officers the resources they need to do their jobs.

“But these figures also clearly show community sentences, when done properly and with public trust, reduce re-offending.

“But there still seems to be a preference towards administering short term jail sentences – and the SNP government must do more to encourage the use of community sentences where appropriate.”