Reconviction rate in Scotland remains at lowest level in 20 years

A quarter of offenders in Scotland commit another crime within a year of their previous conviction, the joint lowest level on record in 20 years.
The reconviction rate in Scotland remains at a record lowThe reconviction rate in Scotland remains at a record low
The reconviction rate in Scotland remains at a record low

Just over a quarter of offenders (27.2%) were reconvicted within a year in 2016-2017, official figures published today have revealed.

It means the average number of reconvictions per offender - a measure of how often offenders are reconvicted - was 0.48 during that period. Both figures are the same as they were for the previous period in 2015-2016.

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Justice secretary Humza Yousaf said he hoped MSPs will back proposed reforms to increase the use of community-focused sentences.

There is already a presumption against the courts passing prison sentences of three months or less. The Scottish Government wants to extend that presumption to prison terms of less than 12 months. MSPs are due to vote on the issue later this week.

The reconviction rate has generally fallen in Scotland over the last 20 years. In the decade between 2007-08 and 2016-17, the reconviction rate decreased from 31.2% to 27.2%.

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Over the same period, the average number of reconvictions per offender decreased by 16% from 0.57 to 0.48. As in previous years, male offenders were reconvicted more often, on average, than female offenders.

In the latest statistics, the average number of reconvictions per offender for male offenders was 0.49, compared to 0.43 for female offenders.

Reconviction rates and the average number of reconvictions for men were near identical between 2015-16 and 2016-17 but slightly increased for women over the same period.

Offenders who committed a crime of dishonesty had the highest average number of reconvictions per offender during the latest period (0.94), whereas offenders who committed a sexual crime had the lowest average number of reconvictions per offender (0.16).

The reconviction rate for custodial sentences was 42.3% - a decrease from 43.7% in 2015-16, while the average number of reconvictions for custodial sentences decreased by 5% from 0.86 to 0.82 over the same period.

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For the most commonly used community sentence, community payback orders (CPOs), the rate of reconvictions was 31.2% in 2016-17 - similar to the figure of 31.1% 2015-16.

On average, the number of reconvictions per offender for CPOs was 0.55 in 2016-17, which was the same as the previous year.

The analysis suggested offenders released from a short prison sentence of 12 months or less were reconvicted nearly twice as often than those sentenced to serve CPOs.

Mr Yousaf said: "Scotland's justice system now provides a broad range of disposals to deal with people who commit crime, with robust sentences to ensure those convicted in the courts pay their debts to society, while helping many - indeed a majority - to turn their lives around and contribute positively to their families and communities.

"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.

"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."

He added: "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."