Data on effects of presumption against short sentences

An Official Statistics Publication for Scotland.

Initial monitoring information on the effects of the presumption against short sentences of 12 months or less (PASS) has been published by Scotland’s Chief Statistician.

Extended Presumption Against Short Sentences - Monitoring Information covers all charges disposed of in Scotland’s courts from 1 July 2019 to 31 December 2019, with additional data from April 2017 added to give context to any changes.

This initial bulletin covers the first six months of the presumption and gives initial indications of how the presumption is currently working and may develop in the future.

Due to the time between an offence being committed and disposed of in court, this publication includes relatively few offences that are subject to the presumption.

The information presented shows:

  • Numbers of community disposals reached their highest level (since April 2017) in October 2019, when 1,841 (24%) of all disposals were community orders
  • Numbers of custodial disposals have been falling since April 2019 and reached a low in November / December 2019
  • The decrease in overall numbers of custodial disposals has been driven by a decrease in custodial disposals given to males
  • In November and December of 2019, the number of custodial sentences given for a period of 12 months or less was around 665, the lowest value since April 2017
  • The proportion of all disposals accounted for by custodial sentences of 12 months or less has fallen from 12.8% in April 2019 to 9.5% in November 2019


Read the full statistical publication.

The presumption against short sentences (PASS) was extended from three months or less to twelve months or less by the Presumption Against Short Periods of Imprisonment (Scotland) Order 2019. The presumption applies to all offences committed on or after 4 July 2019.

National Statistics show that those released from a short prison sentence of 12 months or less are reconvicted nearly twice as often than those sentenced to serve community payback orders (CPOs). Extending the presumption against short prison sentences should encourage greater use of community interventions and help break cycles of reoffending.

The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) have supplied data on offences disposed of in court to allow the Scottish Government to monitor the effects of PASS. These data will be available until such time as the National Statistics Criminal Proceedings bulletin can be used to monitor the extended presumption.

Official statistics are produced by professionally independent statistical staff – find more information on the standards of official statistics in Scotland.


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