Extended presumption against short sentences: monitoring information July 2019 – December 2019

This bulletin provides information to monitor the effects of the implementation of the Extension to the Presumption Against Short Sentences (PASS).


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 current extension to 12 months follows the original statutory presumption against short-term sentences which was approved by the Scottish Parliament through the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010.

Evidence suggests that short custodial sentences are less effective than community sentences at reducing re-offending. For example, people released from a custodial sentence of 12 months or less are reconvicted nearly twice as often as those sentenced to serve a Community Payback Order (CPO) https://www.gov.scot/publications/reconviction-rates-scotland-2016-17-offender-cohort/. Extending the presumption against short prison sentences should encourage greater use of community sentences and help break cycles of reoffending.

This publication provides information on sentencing patterns in the courts following commencement of the extended presumption on 4 July 2019. Information on disposals from April 2017 to June 2019 is also included to provide context and background relating to sentencing patterns prior to the implementation of PASS.

The Criminal Proceedings bulletin is the National Statistics source for court proceedings in Scotland https://www.gov.scot/publications/criminal-proceedings-scotland-2017-18/. However, the publication schedule of the Criminal Proceedings bulletin is such that data to monitor the impact of PASS will not be available until at least Spring 2021.

In the interim, the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) has provided information to the Scottish Government on every charge disposed of for every individual brought to court in 2017-18, 2018-19 and April 19 to December 19. This information has been processed to isolate the most serious disposal for each individual in a case, using similar methodology to that used in the Criminal Proceedings bulletin. It should be noted that although the overall trends presented by both sets of statistics will be similar, actual numbers will vary because the data sets are processed in different ways. In the data presented here, if an individual was given one or more custodial sentence, the total sentence length has been extracted. So for example, if an individual was given three consecutive custodial sentences of 6 months for different charges, their total sentence length will be 18 months.

The data presented in this report will be available to monitor the impact of PASS until such time as they can be replaced by those in the Criminal Proceedings bulletin.

The background data for the charts in this bulletin are available in the supporting files accompanying the bulletin.


Email: justice_analysts@gov.scot

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