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Reconviction Rates in Scotland: 2009-10 Offender Cohort

Analysis of one year reconviction rates for the cohort of offenders released from a custodial sentence or receiving a non-custodial disposal in 2009-10

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4 Main findings: reconviction rates for court disposals[4] (Tables 1 to 16)

4.1 There were 47,336 offenders discharged from custody or given a non-custodial sentence in 2009-10 (Table 1). In the following year, these 47,336 offenders had 54.0 reconvictions for every 100 offenders, and the reconviction rate was 30.1 per cent.

4.2 Over the past eight years the number of offenders discharged from custody or given a non-custodial sentence increased from 44,854 in 2002-03 to 53,248 in 2006-07 but has since declined to 47,336 in 2009-10. During this period, there has generally been a decline in the one year reconviction frequency rate and a corresponding decline in the one year reconviction rate (Table 1 and Chart 1). This decrease is somewhat expected given a falling number of crimes and offences recorded by the police since 2004-05 (Recorded Crime in Scotland, 2011-12). Crime and victimisation surveys also reveal a similar pattern of falling incidence of crime (Scottish Crime and Justice Survey, 2010-11).

4.3 In 2002-03, the reconviction frequency rate was 63.9 and the reconviction rate was 32.9 per cent, whereas in 2009-10 they are 54.0 reconvictions per 100 offenders and 30.1 per cent respectively. Overall, this shows that there has been a reduction of nearly 10 reconvictions for every 100 offenders between 2002-03 and 2009-10, and a decrease in offender reconviction by 2.8 percentage points.

Age and gender

4.4 Males have higher reconviction frequency rates and higher reconviction rates than females (Table 2). The reconviction frequency rate in 2009-10 is 56.1 and 44.0 for males and females respectively, the reconviction rates are 31.3 and 24.3 per cent.

4.5 Those aged under 21 have the highest reconviction frequency rate and the highest reconviction rate (Table 3 and Chart 3). The reconviction frequency rate is 65.3 in 2009-10, a fall of 6.7 reconvictions for every 100 offenders since 2008-09. The reconviction rate for this age group is 36.1 per cent in 2009-10, a fall of 1.8 percentage points since 2008-09.

4.6 In 1997-98 there was a marked difference in the level of reconviction between those offenders aged under 21, against those aged 21 and over. However, in 2009-10 the difference in reconviction between these two age groups is not as pronounced. In 1997-98 the reconviction frequency rate for the under 21 age group was 93.4 and for those aged over 21 it ranged from 39.7 to 63.1. However, in 2009-10 the reconviction frequency rate for the under 21 age group was 65.3 and for those aged over 21 it ranged from 44.1 to 60.2. Therefore, this marked difference is largely because of a striking fall in the number of reconvictions for the under 21 age group. In 1997-98 this group had a reconviction frequency rate of 93.4 and in 2009-10 the reconviction frequency rate is 65.3; a fall of about 28 reconvictions for every 100 offenders over an 12 year period.

4.7 Over the past seven years there has also been a general decline in reconviction frequency rate for those offenders who are aged 21 to 25. In 2002-03 the one year reconviction frequency rate was 73.8 and in 2009-10 it is 58.8. Overall, for those aged between 21 and 25, this shows that there has been a reduction of over 15 reconvictions for every 100 of these offenders.

Chart 3 One year reconviction frequency rates by age: 1997-98 to 2009-10 cohorts

Chart 3 One year reconviction frequency rates by age: 1997-98 to 2009-10 cohorts

4.8 There has also been a decline in the one year reconviction rate between 2002-03 and 2009-10. The one year reconviction rates for 2002-03 were 41.3 and 37.1 per cent for the under 21 and 21 to 25 age groups respectively, and the reconviction rates for 2009-10 were 36.1 and 33.2 per cent for the two age groups.

4.9 Conversely, over the past seven years there has been a slight increase in reconviction frequency rate for those offenders aged over 30. In 2002-03, the one year reconviction frequency rate was 41.7, in 2008-09 it reached 47.3, but it has fallen back to 44.1 in 2009-10.

4.10 Males aged under 21 have the highest reconviction frequency rate and the highest reconviction rate (Table 4). The reconviction frequency rate is 68.7 in 2009-10, and the reconviction rate for this age group is 37.9 per cent.

4.11 Between 2006-07 and 2009-10 there has been a decline in the reconviction frequency rate for those female offenders who are aged 25 and under (Table 5 and Chart 4). The under 21 age group declined from 54.4 to 45.0 and the 21 to 25 age group declined from 65.9 to 49.5.

Chart 4 One year reconviction frequency rates, females by age: 1997-98 to 2009-10 cohorts

Chart 4 One year reconviction frequency rates, females by age: 1997-98 to 2009-10 cohorts

Index disposal

4.12 Offenders given a DTTO have the highest reconviction frequency rate and the highest reconviction rate compared to the other disposals (Table 6 and Chart 5). The reconviction frequency rate is 149.6 in 2009-10, and the reconviction rate is 62.8 per cent.

4.13 Over time there has been a decline in the reconviction frequency rate for those offenders who are given a DTTO. These orders were rolled out to Glasgow, Fife and Aberdeen between 1999 and 2002, and Edinburgh, Renfrewshire, Inverclyde and Tayside in 2002-03. In 2002-03 the one year reconviction frequency rate was 240.6 and in 2009-10 the rate is 149.6. Overall, for those given a DTTO, this shows that there has been a reduction of 91 reconvictions for every 100 of these offenders.

Chart 5 One year reconviction frequency rates by disposal: 1997-98 to 2009-10 cohorts

Chart 5 One year reconviction frequency rates by disposal: 1997-98 to 2009-10 cohorts

4.14 There has also been a decline in reconviction rates for those given DTTOs. The one year reconviction rate for 2003-04 was 79.1 per cent, and the reconviction rate for 2009-10 was 62.8 per cent.

4.15 The reconviction frequency rate for offenders given a custodial sentence or a probation order are of a similar magnitude. The reconviction frequency rates are 91.8 and 75.5 respectively for these disposals in 2009-10. On the other hand, the reconviction frequency rate for offenders given a community service order is 37.3 for every 100 offenders in 2009-10.

4.16 The reconviction frequency rate for all disposals show some evidence of a decline since 2002-03. While there is this general decline in reconviction rates for custodial sentences, this is set against a rising prison population during the same period. The complexity in relation to the drivers of the prison population is discussed in detail in the publication Prison statistics and population projections Scotland: 2011-12.

4.17 There was a substantial decrease in the number of individuals who were given a monetary disposal in a court in 2009-10 compared to 2007-08 (20,961 offenders compared to 27,493), and this reflects the impact of summary justice reform which was designed to take less serious cases out of the court system (see Section 5).

Index crime

4.18 Not surprisingly, offenders who commit lower level high volume crimes are more likely to be reconvicted than those who commit more serious crimes. Offenders who committed a crime of dishonesty have the highest reconviction frequency rate and the highest reconviction rate compared to those who committed other crimes (Table 7). The reconviction frequency rate is 93.4 for offenders who committed crimes of dishonesty in 2009-10, and the reconviction rate is 43.4 per cent.

4.19 Offenders who committed a sexual crime have the lowest reconviction frequency rate and the lowest reconviction rate compared to those who committed other crimes. The reconviction frequency rate is 14.6 for those who committed a sexual crime in 2009-10, and the reconviction rate is 10.1 per cent.

4.20 Offenders who committed crimes other than sexual crimes or crimes of dishonesty in 2009-10 have a reconviction frequency rate between around 40 and 60. The reconviction rates are between 24 and 32 per cent.

4.21 Reconviction rates by crime type are also available at a more detailed level in Table 16. Offenders in the 2009-10 cohort who were convicted of prostitution, shoplifting and housebreaking had the highest one year reconviction rates. Those convicted of these crimes had one year reconviction rates of 71, 58 and 53 per cent respectively. Forty four per cent of offenders who were convicted of shoplifting in 2009-10 were reconvicted of at least one other crime of dishonesty within a year.

Sentence length

4.22 Offenders who were released from a custodial sentence of 3 months or less have the highest reconviction frequency rate and the highest reconviction rate compared to those who were released from longer sentences (Table 8). As mentioned above, this is not surprising given that offenders committing relatively low level but high volume crimes will be more likely to get short prison sentences. For those on these short sentences the reconviction frequency rate is 129.1 in 2009-10, and the reconviction rate is 58.4 per cent. On the other hand, those released from sentences of over 6 months to 2 years had a reconviction frequency rate of 74.2 in 2009-10.

4.23 In recent years there is some evidence of a reduction in the reconviction frequency rate for offenders who were released from a custodial sentence of 3 months or less. In 2003-04 the reconviction frequency rate was 151.2 and in 2009-10 it has declined to 129.1. In six years, a reduction of nearly 22 reconvictions for every 100 offenders.

Conviction history

4.24 Offenders with a history of convictions have the highest reconviction frequency rate and the highest reconviction rate (Tables 9 to 11, and Chart 6). Those offenders with over 10 previous convictions in 2009-10 had a reconviction frequency rate of 120.3. The reconviction rate is 56.8 per cent for this cohort in 2009-10.

Chart 6 One year reconviction frequency rates by previous convictions: 1997-98 to 2009-10 cohorts

Chart 6 One year reconviction frequency rates by previous convictions: 1997-98 to 2009-10 cohorts

4.25 Over time there is some evidence of a reduction in the reconviction frequency rate for offenders who had over 10 previous convictions. In 1997-98 the reconviction frequency rate was 156.0, and in 2009-10 this has declined to 120.3. In 12 years, a reduction of nearly 36 reconvictions for every 100 of these prolific offenders.

4.26 The reconviction frequency rate declines as the number of previous convictions decline. Offenders who had no previous convictions have the lowest reconviction frequency rate and the lowest reconviction rate. The reconviction frequency rate is 18.5 in 2009-10, and the reconviction rate was 12.7 per cent.

Administrative area

4.27 Reconviction rates vary across administrative areas (based on court location). However, it is important to note that an offender may not always be supervised in the area in which they are convicted and, additionally, subsequent reconvictions may have occurred in different areas. The characteristics of offenders are also likely to vary across these areas, therefore such comparisons between areas should be treated with caution, and it is suggested that a method which takes this into account should be employed (see Section 6).

4.28 Table 13 shows the two highest reconviction frequency rates and reconviction rates were for offenders whose index conviction was given at courts in the Dundee City area and the Angus area (both in Tayside CJA), and the lowest rates was for offenders whose index conviction was received at a court in Shetland and West Lothian. These are unadjusted figures which do not take account of underlying differences in population composition, such as offender mix.

4.29 Table 13 also includes measures of the reconviction frequency rate and reconviction rate at the CJA level for the 2009-10 cohort. It shows that the highest reconviction frequency rate is in Tayside CJA (66.4), whereas the lowest is in Lothian and Borders CJA (48.7). The reconviction rate is also highest for Tayside CJA (33.7 per cent) and lowest for Lothian and Borders CJA (27.1 per cent).

4.30 Table 14 includes measures of the reconviction frequency rate and reconviction rate at the police force level for the 2009-10 cohort. It shows that the highest reconviction frequency rate is in Tayside Police force (66.1), whereas the lowest is in Northern Police (43.3). The reconviction rate is also highest for Tayside Police (33.6 per cent) and lowest for Northern Police (26.7 per cent).

Two year rates

4.31 Historically reconviction rates in Scotland have been reported with a two year follow-up period. However, in future publications more focus will be provided on the one year reconviction frequency rates and one year reconviction rates (see Section 11). The reason for changing this is due to timeliness and a shorter lead time

4.32 Since 2002-03 there has been a decline in the two year reconviction rate and generally a corresponding decline in the two year reconviction frequency rate (Table 15). In 2002-03 the reconviction frequency rate was 118.4 and the reconviction rate was 45.3 per cent whereas in 2008-09 these were 105.9 and 42.2 per cent respectively. Overall, this shows that there has been a reduction of nearly 13 reconvictions for every 100 offenders between 2002-03 and 2008-09, and a decrease in offender reconviction by 3.1 percentage points.

Contact

Email: Howard Hooper

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