Monitoring Data on Presumption Against Short Sentences

An Official Statistics Publication for Scotland.

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

This monitoring information covers all charges disposed of in Scotland’s courts from 1 January to 31 December 2020, with additional data from April 2017 added to give context to any changes.

This bulletin is being published at this time in response to a commitment made in the previous version of the bulletin to provide regular updates.

The impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the Justice System, the associated adjournment of the majority of court business and the resulting backlog in court cases waiting to progress makes it difficult to separate the effects of the pandemic from the effects of PASS. The bulletin therefore describes what has happened to court disposals (with a focus on custodial sentences of 12 months or less) in 2020 but does not attempt to attribute those results to events or policies.

The data presented shows that:

• the number of custodial sentences of less than or equal to 12 months, and the proportion of all disposals that these made up, were reducing in the period between the implementation of the extended PASS and the announcement of lockdown in late March.
• the number of Restriction of Liberty Orders (RLO) issued has increased steadily since lockdown and numbers were at a recent high in December 2020.

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).

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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