Reducing reoffending

Reconviction rate remains at lowest level in 20 years.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf has welcomed official figures showing Scotland’s reconviction rate remains at its lowest level since records began.

Almost three-quarters of people released from prison or given a non-custodial sentence in 2016-17 were not convicted again within 12 months – the same level as 2015-16.  Meanwhile, the average number of reconvictions per offender was 0.48, representing a 16% fall over the last decade.

People who had committed a crime of dishonesty had the highest average number of reconvictions per offender (0.94), while those who committed a sexual crime had the lowest average number of reconvictions per offender (0.16).

The National Statistics also showed that those released from a short prison sentence of 12 months or less were reconvicted nearly twice as often than those sentenced to serve community payback orders (CPOs), the most commonly used community sentence.

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.

"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."


The National Statistics publication, ‘Reconviction Rates in Scotland: 2016-17 Offender Cohort’ has been published by Scotland’s Chief Statistician.

Read the statistical news release for the publication.

The publication contains detailed analyses of reconviction rates and the average number of reconvictions per offender by: offender characteristics, sentence type, crime type, and local authority.

The reconviction rate, is defined as the proportion of offenders who are reconvicted within a year after being released from a custodial sentence or given a non-custodial sentence.

The average number of reconvictions per offender, is the number of times, on average, that offenders in a cohort are reconvicted within a year after being released from a custodial sentence or given a non-custodial sentence.

Official statistics are produced by professionally independent statistical staff.

In May the Scottish Government laid an affirmative order in the Scottish Parliament to extend the current presumption against short prison sentences of three months or less to 12 months or less – in order to encourage the greater use of more effective community sentences.

The full Parliament is due to vote on the order this week, following scrutiny and approval by the Justice Committee. If passed, the changes will come into force this summer.


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