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National Indicator: Reconviction Rates

 Reduce reconviction rates

Indicator Measure
Average number of reconvictions per offender

Current Status
The average number of reconvictions per offender has decreased by 0.10 reconvictions, from 0.60 in the baseline year of 2006-07, to 0.50 in 2014-15.

1997-98 to 2014-15

* Please note that the definition of this national indicator changed slightly for the 2011-12 cohort to improve the clarity of the measure. Before the 2011-12 cohort, this indicator was reported as “reconviction frequency rates”, which was calculated as the average number of reconvictions per 100 offenders. The figures for all cohorts are now stated as the “average number of reconvictions per offender”. As the new definition is essentially the same as the previous definition, the change does not affect the relative magnitude of the figures when comparing between cohorts, or the relative magnitude of the threshold for change.

Source: Scottish Government
The data for this chart is available at the bottom of the page.

Last Update: 02 May 2017
Next Update: May 2018

Reduce reconviction rates

Why is this National Indicator important?
What will influence this National Indicator?
What is the Government's role?
How is Scotland performing?
What more do we know about this National Indicator?
Criteria for recent change
Further information
Who are our partners?
Related Strategic Objectives

Why is this National Indicator important?

Crime affects us all. By reducing criminal reoffending, we reduce the emotional, social and economic impact of crime on our communities.  By providing specific support and services to those people serving sentences in the community or those transitioning from custody, we will help them to fulfil their responsibilities as citizens, move away from offending and help create safer and stronger communities, where individuals take responsibility for their actions. The average number of reconvictions per offender is one of the main ways of measuring how well we are managing and supporting those that enter our criminal justice system.

What will influence this National Indicator?

The number of times offenders are reconvicted is influenced by a number of factors including: type of offender and the efficiency of the criminal justice system. Research evidence shows that the following can be effective at reducing reoffending:

  • Community sentences are more effective at reducing reoffending in the long term than short term prison sentences
  • Stable and quality employment protects against reoffending, especially if accompanied by other forms of support
  • Drug treatment programmes, have on average, a positive impact on reoffending
  • Holistic interventions that target offenders' multiple needs and involve work with offenders families and the wider community (e.g. employers) are more likely to be effective at reducing reoffending
  • Enhancing thinking skills using Cognitive Behaviour Therapy programmes have been proven effective at reducing reoffending
  • The effectiveness of prison-based interventions is enhanced when aftercare support is provided following release
  • Respectful, participatory and supportive contact with a supervisor can trigger positive changes in attitudes and behaviour
  • Interventions for women offenders are more likely to be successful if they target financial needs and establish positive social relationships

There are a range of interventions that could reduce reoffending. Effective interventions can offer good value for money if they can reduce the frequency of repeat offending. Interventions tailored to address the needs of the individual are more likely to have a positive impact on behaviour. However, they also need to be motivated to change, believe they possess the skills to change and be supported through change by empathic and skilled practitioners.

What is the Government's role?

The Scottish Government’s National Strategy for Community Justice was launched in November 2016 and underpins the new model for community justice.

The Strategy supports the Government’s vision where Scotland is a safer, fairer and more inclusive nation where we:

  • prevent and reduce further offending by addressing its underlying causes; and

  • safely and effectively manage and support those who have committed offences to help them reintegrate into the community and realise their potential for the benefit of all citizens.

The Strategy, developed with local authorities, health boards, justice agencies, third sector, victims groups and people with convictions, sets out the key priorities which will achieve this vision as well as the evidence-based actions that will help drive improvement in priority areas. The priorities and improvement actions in the strategy are in line with the evidence as set out in “What works to reduce reoffending”. One of the key structural outcomes is the delivery of effective interventions to prevent and reduce further reoffending.

The new model came into effect from 1 April 2017, and places the responsibility for local planning and monitoring of community justice services with local statutory community justice partners. This strengthens the way services and communities work together to address the causes of offending, to prevent and reduce further offending and ultimately make communities safer.

A new national body, Community Justice Scotland, has been established to provide national leadership, champion best practice and promote improvement and innovation through the new model.  Community Justice Scotland will work with Community Justice Partners to promote and support improvement through delivery of community justice outcomes that contribute towards the priority areas.

The Government directly supports and resources the new model by funding Community Justice Scotland and Local Authorities to support the implementation of the new model and to deliver Criminal Justice Social Work services and initiatives, and the Criminal Justice Voluntary Sector Forum to develop an approach to strengthen engagement and collaboration between the third sector and community justice partners. 

How is Scotland performing?

The average number of reconvictions per offender in a year period for offenders either released from a custodial sentence or given a non-custodial sentence in 2014-15, was 0.50. This was a decrease from 0.52 in 2013-14 by 0.02 reconvictions per offender and so is classified as “Performance Maintaining” (see Technical note for thresholds of changes for ratings). Since the baseline year of 2006-07, the average number of reconvictions per offender has decreased from 0.60 to 0.50 in 2014-15, a reduction of 0.10 reconvictions per offender, on average.

Note: The definition of this national indicator changed slightly for the 2011-12 cohort to improve the clarity of the measure. Before the 2011-12 cohort, this indicator was reported as “reconviction frequency rates”, which was calculated as the average number of reconvictions per 100 offenders. The figures for all cohorts are now stated as the “average number of reconvictions per offender”. As the new definition is essentially the same as the previous definition, the change does not affect the relative magnitude of the figures when comparing between cohorts, or the relative magnitude of the threshold for change.

The data is available at the bottom of the page.

What more do we know about this National Indicator?

Males have a higher average number of reconvictions per offender than females. The average number of reconvictions per offender in 2014-15 was 0.51 for males which is which is 15.9% higher than that the value of 0.44 for females.

Offenders aged over 40 have the lowest average number of reconvictions compared to other age groups. The average number of reconvictions per offender in 2014-15 for the over 40 age group is 0.35, compared to 0.64, 0.50, 0.52 and 0.56 for offenders in the under 21, 21 to 25, 26 to 30, and 31 to 40 age groups, respectively.

The data is available at the bottom of the page

Criteria for recent change

The definition of this national indicator changed slightly from the 2011-12 cohort onwards, to improve the clarity of the measure. Before the 2011-12 cohort, this indicator was reported as “reconviction frequency rates”, which was calculated as the average number of reconvictions per 100 offenders. The figures for all cohorts are now stated as the “average number of reconvictions per offender”. As the new definition is essentially the same as the previous definition, the change does not affect the relative magnitude of the figures when comparing between cohorts, or the relative magnitude of the threshold for change.

The threshold for determining the direction of change accounts for the fact that the most recent figure tends to be an underestimate due to delays in recording the outcome of particularly complex cases. A published figure for the most recent cohort is typically 0.02 reconvictions lower than its final revised figure. To reflect this, the thresholds for change compared to the previous year’s figure are: a decrease of 0.03 or more for “Performance Improving”, a decrease of 0.01 or less (or an increase) for “Performance Worsening”, whereas a decrease of 0.02 is given a “Performance Maintaining” rating.

For information on general methodological approach, please click here.

Further Information

For information on general methodological approach, please click here.

Scotland Performs Technical Note

Who are our partners?

Association of Directors of Social Work

Community Justice Authorities

COSLA

Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service

Health Boards

Local Authorities

Parole Board for Scotland

Risk Management Authority

Scottish Court Service

Scottish Police Forces

Scottish Prison Service

Third Sector Partners

Victim Support

Related Strategic Objectives

Wealthier and Fairer

Safer and Stronger

View National Indicator Data

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Title:Reduce reconviction rates
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