Reoffending rates fall in Scotland

By Reevel Alderson
Home affairs correspondent, BBC Scotland


Almost a third of offenders sentenced to community payback orders (CPOs) went on to commit a further crime, official figures have shown.

However, the statistics also showed the reconviction rate of 30.8% in 2015/16 was down from 32.9% in 2014/15.

The report by Scotland's Chief Statistician said overall reconviction rates had fallen, continuing the trend over the past decade.

The rate of reconvictions has fallen by 22% since 2006/07 to a 19-year low.

The figures also showed those sentenced to short jail terms were reconvicted almost twice as often in 12 months than those given CPOs, which in most cases include unpaid work in the community.

Low-level crimes

The report said: "In general, offenders who were convicted for lower level index crimes, which tend to be committed in higher volumes, are more likely to be reconvicted than those who commit more serious crimes.

"This is largely because these offenders commit relatively low-level crimes such as shoplifting, and tend to commit them in higher volumes so they are reconvicted more often."

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said the figures underlined the government's belief that courts should consider community sentences as an alternative to short jail terms.

There is already a presumption against the courts passing jail sentences of three months or less - but it is expected this will be extended in 2019 to terms of less than a year.

Under the policy, which does not require new legislation, sheriffs and JPs would continue to be able to impose short sentences, but would have to set out their reasons for ignoring non-custodial options.

Mr Yousaf said: "Scotland has continued to reduce the number of people who reoffend, 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.

Image caption,
The Dumfries firewood project operates with offenders on community payback orders

"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."

The community safety charity Sacro welcomed the further fall in reconviction rates, which it said were a real indicator of persistent offending across the country.

Chief executive Tom Halpin said: "We know that collaboration across public and voluntary services makes a material difference in supporting people to change their lives.

"The Scottish government's focus on a progressive, evidence-led approach to reducing offending is the right way forward.

"We can see from the outcomes being achieved that the impact of tackling the root causes of offending builds safer communities for us all."

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