4. Number and type of previous convictions: 2007-08 to 2016-17
This section presents information on previous convictions for those offenders who were convicted on at least one occasion in 2016-17 (Table 19) or in previous years (Table 20). These two tables are compiled on a different basis to the rest of this publication. They look at the number of offenders convicted at least once in a year and then count the numbers of convictions they had over the previous ten years. If an offender had more than one conviction in the year, then the most recent conviction was counted as the reference conviction, and the earlier convictions were counted as previous convictions. In contrast, the reconviction tables in rest of this publication focus on those with an index conviction a year and then count how many were reconvicted in a year follow up period after that conviction. Note that convictions counted in Table 19 and Table 20 are only those that are counted for reconvictions, which are all crimes in groups 1 to 5 and some offences in group 6 (see Annex B1, Annex B3, and Annex Table A2 for more details), and non-court disposals are not included.
Of the 41,612 individuals convicted at least once in 2016-17 for a crime or relevant offence, 65% had at least one prior conviction in the previous ten years, whilst 13% had over ten previous convictions (Table 20).
Consistent with the findings of previous Reconviction Rates in Scotland publications, sentencing is influenced by offending history as well as the circumstances of a particular case. Table 19 and Chart 12 show that:
- First time offenders tend to get fines (39 per cent of first time offenders) or caution/admonition (32 per cent). Community sentences account for 23 per cent and custodial sentences for 6 per cent of sentences for first time offenders.
- Sporadic offenders with one or two convictions in the past 10 years tend to get fines (39 per cent), community sentences (31 per cent), or caution/admonition (22 per cent). Custodial sentences account for 8 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 (20 per cent) than those with fewer previous convictions, although most get community sentences (32 per cent) or fines (28 per cent).
- Those with more than 10 convictions in the past 10 years tend to get custodial sentences (42 per cent).
The number of prior convictions for serious offences is strongly linked to the likelihood of getting a custodial sentence: 10% of those with no prior solemn convictions (i.e. in the high or sheriff solemn court) get a custodial sentence, rising to 36 % for those with 1 or 2 solemn convictions and 62% for those with 3 to 10 solemn convictions.
Over the past 10 years there has been very little change in the number of prolific offenders (Table 20). Twelve per cent of offenders in 2007-08 had over 10 previous convictions in the previous ten years and the figure has fluctuated between 12 and 14 per cent over the last decade, with 13 per cent of offenders in 2016-17 having over ten previous convictions in the previous ten years.
Chart 12: Number of individuals convicted in 2016-17, by last disposal in 2016-17 and the number of previous convictions since 2007-08