3.1 The underlying principle of measuring recidivism is that someone who has received some form of criminal justice sanction (such as a community sentence or a fine) goes on to commit another offence within a set time period. In this case, the cohort of interest consists of offenders who have been released from a custodial sentence or received a non-custodial sentence during the period (see Section 12.2 for more details).
3.2 Scotland's criminal justice system is complex and many different outcomes and interventions are possible at each stage of the offender's journey. The complexity of this system is summarised in the Audit Scotland report (An Overview of Scotland's criminal justice system) and is shown in Chart 2. It illustrates that not all offences reported to the police result in a conviction, and reoffending (as measured at the start of the process) is not the same thing as reconviction (produced right at the end of the criminal justice process). The latter can be affected by many different variables that are not necessarily related to the incidence of crime (see National Audit Office 2012 Report Comparing International Criminal Justice Systems).
3.3 This bulletin provides more detailed analysis of reconvictions by also reporting the complementary measure of frequency of reconviction. While the reconviction rate provides an indication of progress in tackling offender recidivism at a global level, it may not be sensitive enough to detect individual-level progress as a result of interventions and programmes in the criminal justice system; such programmes may have been successful in reducing the frequency of reconviction, but not in completely desisting from crime.
3.4 The reconviction frequency rate is presented here as the average number of reconvictions within a specified follow up period from the date of the index conviction per 100 offenders. For example, for the 2010-11 cohort the one year reconviction frequency rate is 50.2 (Table 1) and this means that there was an average of 50.2 reconvictions for every 100 offenders in the year following their conviction or release from a custodial sentence in 2010-11.
3.5 The reconviction rate is presented here as the percentage of offenders with index convictions in the cohort who were reconvicted one or more times within a specified follow up period from the date of the index conviction. For example, the 2010-11 one year reconviction rate is 28.4 per cent (Table 1) and this means that just over a quarter of offenders were reconvicted in the year following their conviction or release from a custodial sentence in 2010-11. The definitions in Section 12.2.1 provide more details about the terminology used in this publication.
3.6 The Community Payback Order (CPO) was implemented during 2011. This order replaced provisions for Community Service, Probation and Supervised Attendance Orders for offences committed after 1 February 2011. The cohort of offenders released from a custodial sentence or receiving a non-custodial disposal in 2010-11 will therefore include a relatively small number of offenders with a CPO. In order to avoid potential bias due to differing offender characteristics between the two groups, results for this group will not be reported separately from offenders receiving legacy community sentences.
(Source: Audit Scotland 2012 An overview of Scotland's criminal justice system)
Email: Howard Hooper
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