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Reconviction Rates in Scotland: 2010-11 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 2010-11

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4 Main findings: reconviction rates for court disposals

(Tables 1 to 13)

4.1 There were 44,126 offenders discharged from custody or given a non-custodial sentence in 2010-11 (Table 1). In the following year, there were 50.2 reconvictions for every 100 offenders, and the reconviction rate was 28.4 per cent.

4.2 Over the past nine years the number of offenders discharged from custody or given a non-custodial sentence increased from around 44,900 in 2002-03 to 53,300 in 2006-07 but has since declined to around 44,100 in 2010-11. During this period, there has been an overall decline in the one year reconviction frequency rate and one year reconviction rate (Table 1 and Chart 1). One might also note that this reduction is set against the context of a falling number of crimes and offences recorded by the police since 2004-05 (Recorded Crime in Scotland, 2012-13). Crime and victimisation surveys also reveal a similar pattern of falling incidence of crime (Scottish Crime and Justice Survey, 2010-11).

4.3 For the 2002-03 cohort, the reconviction frequency rate was 63.9 and the reconviction rate was 32.9 per cent, this compares with a reconviction frequency rate of 50.2 and a reconviction rate of 28.4 per cent for the 2010-11 cohort. There has been a 21 per cent reduction of nearly 14 reconvictions for every 100 offenders between 2002-03 and 2010-11, and a 14 per cent decrease in the reconviction rate by 4.5 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 for the 2010-11 cohort is 52.1 and 41.2 for males and females respectively, the reconviction rates are 29.6 and 22.8 per cent.

4.5 Those aged under 21 have the highest reconviction frequency rate and the highest reconviction rate (Table 3 and Chart 3). For the 2010-11 cohort the reconviction frequency rate is 59.3, a fall of 7.9 reconvictions for every 100 offenders from the previous year. The reconviction rate for this age group is 34.1 per cent, a fall of 2.5 percentage points since 2009-10.

4.6 For the 1997-98 cohort there was a marked difference in the level of reconviction between those offenders aged under 21, compared to those aged 21 and over. However, for the 2010-11 cohort 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 2010-11 the reconviction frequency rate for the under 21 age group was 59.3 and for those aged over 21 it ranged from 41.1 to 59.8. It appears that this change over time has resulted from 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 2010-11 the reconviction frequency rate is 59.3; a fall of about 34 reconvictions for every 100 offenders over a fourteen year period.

4.7 Over the past nine 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 2010-11 it is 54.0. Overall, for those aged between 21 and 25, this shows that there has been a reduction of nearly 20 reconvictions for every 100 of these offenders.

Chart 3 One year reconviction frequency rates by age: 1997-98 to 2010-11 cohorts

recoviction rates by year

4.8 There has also been a decline in the one year reconviction rate between the 2002-03 and 2010-11 cohorts. 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 2010-11 were 34.1 and 31.1 per cent for the two age groups.

4.9 Males aged under 21 have the highest reconviction frequency rate and the highest reconviction rate (Table 4). The reconviction frequency rate is 62.0 for the 2010-11 cohort, and the reconviction rate for this age group is 35.9 per cent.

4.10 Between the cohorts of 2006-07 and 2010-11 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 43.0 and the 21 to 25 age group declined from 66.0 to 50.3.

Index disposal5

4.11 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 146.9 for the 2010-11 cohort, and the reconviction rate is 64.8 per cent.

4.12 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. For the 2002-03 cohort the one year reconviction frequency rate was 240.6 compared to 146.9 for the 2010-11 cohort. A reduction of nearly 94 reconvictions for every 100 offenders.

Chart 4 One year reconviction frequency rates, females by age: 1997-98 to 2010-11 cohorts

chart 4

Chart 5 One year reconviction frequency rates by disposal: 1997-98 to 2010-11 cohorts

chart 5

4.13 There has also been a decline in reconviction rates for those given DTTOs. The one year reconviction rate for 2002-03 was 75.5 per cent, and the reconviction rate for 2010-11 was 64.8 per cent.

4.14 Community Payback Orders (CPOs) were introduced by the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 and came into effect from 1 February 2011. The CPO replaces provisions for Community Service Orders (CSO), Probation Orders (PO) and Supervised Attendance Orders (SAO). The cohort of offenders 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.

4.15 There were 8,340 offenders given a CPO/legacy community sentence in 2010-11. This cohort has a 31.6 per cent one year reconviction rate and have a reconviction frequency rate of 54.9.

4.16 Those offenders with an index disposal of a custodial sentence in the 2010-11 cohort have a higher reconviction frequency rate than offenders who are given a CPO / legacy community sentence. The reconviction frequency rates for the 2010-11 cohort are 84.0 and 54.9, a difference of 53 per cent.

4.17 The reconviction frequency rate for all disposals show some evidence of a decline since 2002-03. While there is a gradual 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.

4.18 There was a substantial decrease in the number of individuals who were given a monetary disposal in a court in 2010-11 compared to 2007-08 (18,328 offenders compared to 27,492), and this may in part reflect the impact of summary justice reform which was designed to take less serious cases out of the court system (see Section 5). During this period the reconviction frequency rate fell from 46.3 to 39.8, a fall of 6.5 reconvictions for every 100 offenders.

Index crime

4.19 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 reconviction rate compared to other crimes (Table 7). The reconviction frequency rate is 91.7 for offenders who were convicted of crimes of dishonesty in the 2010-11 cohort. The reconviction rate is 42.1 per cent.

4.20 Offenders who committed a sexual crime6 have the lowest reconviction frequency rate and the lowest reconviction rate. The reconviction frequency rate is 15.7 for those who were convicted of a sexual crime in the 2010-11 cohort, and the reconviction rate is 10.7 per cent.

4.21 Offenders from the 2010-11 cohort who committed crimes other than sexual crimes or crimes of dishonesty have a reconviction frequency rate between around 35 and 48. The reconviction rates are between 23 and 29 per cent.

4.22 Reconviction rates by more detailed crime types are also available in Table 13. Offenders in the 2010-11 cohort convicted of shoplifting and housebreaking had the highest one year reconviction rates. Offenders convicted of these crimes had one year reconviction rates of around 55 per cent. Most shoplifters who were reconvicted went onto be convicted of further crimes of dishonesty within a year (about 80 per cent).

Sentence length

4.23 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 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 126.0 for the 2010-11 cohort, and the reconviction rate is 59.8 per cent. On the other hand, those released from sentences of over 6 months to 2 years had a reconviction frequency rate of 63.7 in 2010-11.

4.24 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. For the 2003-04 cohort the reconviction frequency rate was 151.0 and for the 2010-11 cohort it has declined to 126.0. Over the eight year period a reduction of 25 reconvictions for every 100 offenders.

Conviction history

4.25 Once the age, sex and particularly the number of previous convictions of offenders are taken into account, the differences observed in reconviction rates for different types of index disposal are found to be less significant. These factors are all strongly associated with the likelihood of reconviction. Table 97 shows that for all types of disposal, and for all sex and age groups, the groups of offenders with the highest reconviction rates were those with over 10 previous convictions. In other words, the number of previous convictions is the most influential factor in terms of the likelihood of reconviction.

Administrative area

4.26 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 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).

4.27 Table 10 shows the two highest reconviction frequency rates were for offenders whose index conviction was given at courts in the Dundee City area and the Clackmannanshire area, and the lowest rate was for offenders whose index conviction was received at a court in Eilean Siar. These are unadjusted figures which do not take account of underlying differences in population composition, such as offender mix.

4.28 Table 10 also includes measures of the reconviction frequency rate and reconviction rate at the Community Justice Authority (CJA) level for the 2010-11 cohort. It shows that the highest reconviction rate and highest reconviction frequency rate is in Tayside CJA (34.1 per cent and 66.0 respectively). The lowest reconviction frequency rate is in Lanarkshire CJA (44.3), and the lowest reconviction rate is for Lothian and Borders CJA (25.4 per cent).

4.29 Table 11 includes measures of the reconviction frequency rate and reconviction rate at the police force level for the 2010-11 cohort. It shows that the highest reconviction frequency rate is in Tayside Police force (65.6), whereas the lowest is in Northern Police (36.2). The reconviction rate is also highest for Tayside Police (33.9 per cent) and lowest for Northern Police (23.4 per cent).

Two year rates

4.30 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 12). For the 2002-03 cohort the reconviction frequency rate was 118.3 and the reconviction rate was 45.3 per cent whereas for the 2009-10 cohort these were 97.9 and 40.5 per cent respectively. Overall, there has been a reduction of about 20 reconvictions for every 100 offenders between 2002-03 and 2009-10, and a decrease in the reconviction rate by 4.8 percentage points.

Contact

Email: Howard Hooper

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