Reconviction Rates in Scotland: 2011-12 Offender Cohort

This publication provides analyses of trends in reconviction figures up to the latest cohort of 2011-12.

This document is part of a collection

7 Number and type of previous convictions: 2003-04 to 2011-12 (Table 15 and Table 16)

7.1 This section presents information on previous convictions for the 42,508 individual offenders who were convicted on at least one occasion in 2012-13 (Table 15 and Table 16). These two tables are compiled on a different basis to the remainder of this publication. They are constructed from criminal proceedings data rather than the Scottish Offenders Index (see Section 11.2.1).

7.2 Of the 42,508 individuals convicted at least once in 2012-13 for a crime or relevant offence, 67 per cent had at least one previous conviction in the previous ten years, whilst 14 per cent had over 10 previous convictions.

7.3 Sentencing is influenced by offending history as well as the circumstances of a particular case. Table 15 shows that:

  • first time offenders tend to get fines (41 per cent of first time offenders) or caution/admonition (30 per cent). Community sentences[9] account for 22 per cent and custodial sentences for 7 per cent.
  • sporadic offenders with one or two convictions in the past 10 years tend to get fines (43 per cent), community sentences (28 per cent), or caution/admonition (20 per cent). Custodial sentences account for 9 per cent.
  • those with a several convictions in the past 10 years (between 3 and 10 convictions) are somewhat more likely to get a custodial sentence (21 per cent), although most still get fines (31 per cent) or community sentences (30 per cent).
  • those with more than 10 convictions in the past 10 years tend to get custodial sentences (45 per cent) or community sentences (about 20 per cent).

7.4 The number of prior convictions for serious offences is strongly linked to the likelihood of getting a custodial sentence: about 12 per cent of those with no prior solemn convictions get a custodial sentence, rising to about 39 per cent and 61 per cent for those with 1 or 2 and 3 to 10 solemn convictions respectively.

7.5 Over time there has been very little change in the number of prolific offenders (Table 16). Thirteen per cent of offenders in 2003-04 had over 10 previous convictions in the previous 10 years, and this has fluctuated between 12 and 14 per cent for subsequent years. Fourteen per cent of offenders in 2012-13 had over 10 previous convictions in the previous 10 years.


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