Publication - Statistics

Scottish Crime and Justice Survey 2017-2018: main findings

Published: 26 Mar 2019
Directorate:
Justice Directorate
Part of:
Law and order, Statistics
ISBN:
9781787816695

Main findings from the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey 2017-2018 and the self-completion findings covering the period 2016-2017 to 2017-2018.

186 page PDF

7.8 MB

186 page PDF

7.8 MB

Contents
Scottish Crime and Justice Survey 2017-2018: main findings
6. Public perceptions of the police and the justice system

186 page PDF

7.8 MB

6. Public perceptions of the police and the justice system

This chapter reports on public confidence in and attitudes towards the police in the local area, both in 2017/18 and over time where possible. It then explores knowledge of and attitudes towards the criminal justice system in Scotland more generally.

Perceptions of the police – other sources and findings available

SCJS time trends in this report typically assess if and how results in 2017/18 differed from 2008/09 and 2016/17. However, the last SCJS prior to the formation of Police Scotland was in 2012/13, so in presenting findings on policing this chapter also examines some key changes which have occurred between 2012/13 and 2017/18, where any are detected[60].

As well as national level results, this chapter provides key findings broken down for demographic and area characteristics (including deprivation and urban/rural status).

Results at Police Division level and other geographies

SCJS results provided to Police Division level are available biennially (as they have been since 2012/13), with two sweeps of data combined to increase the sample size and precision around results with effect from 2016/17. Therefore, key results at Police Division level covering the period 2016/17 – 2017/18 have also been released alongside this report. Findings released include perceptions of the police, as well as wider SCJS results such as victimisation rates, within each Division. They are most easily accessed in the recently launched SCJS interactive data tool which has been developed to present these results in a user-friendly manner. This enables divisional results to be compared over time, as well as against each other and the national average for each sweep[61][62]. Further information on the SCJS reporting structure is available on the SCJS website.

The results presented in this chapter are based only on SCJS data from 2008/09 to 2017/18. However, data on confidence in the ability of the police also formed part of the Scottish Surveys Core Questions (SSCQ) between 2012 and 2017, which combines selected data from the three Scottish Government population surveys to offer larger sample sizes to facilitate further analysis for lower geographies and population sub-groups. Further details about the SSCQ, and some experimental analysis using the 2014 SSCQ police confidence data, are available on the Scottish Government website.

Understanding and measuring confidence in the police

The SCJS includes a range of questions to capture perceptions on different aspects of policing.

Overall views on confidence in the police can be examined using a single measure asking people how they would rate the performance of their local police, with confidence itself being driven by perceptions and experiences of particular aspects of policing. Particularly promiment factors influencing confidence overall have been shown to be perceptions of:

  • the ability or effectiveness of the police,
  • their level of community engagement, and
  • how fair the police are when carrying out duties.

The approach to presenting findings on these factors has been updated for the 2017/18 report. As in previous years, it continues with the initial focus on the overall confidence measure and confidence in the effectiveness of the police, but also includes a more prominent focus on perceptions of aspects of community engagement and fairness than previous reports to recognise their importance in driving wider confidence.

What did the public think about the overall performance of the police?

Most people remained positive about the work of their local police in 2017/18, but the proportion providing a favourable view has fallen a little since 2012/13.

The majority of adults in Scotland (57%) believed the police in their local area were doing an ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ job in 2017/18. This proportion is unchanged from 2016/17 (the apparent fall from 58% is not significant) but is lower than the 61% who felt this way in 2012/13[63] as shown in Figure 6.1. Closer analysis shows that this percentage fell between 2012/13 and 2014/15, but has remained stable since. Just under one-third (31%) thought the police were doing a ‘fair’ job in 2017/18.

Figure 6.1: Views on the overall performance of the police in the local area

Figure 6.1: Views on the overall performance of the police in the local area

Base: All adults (5,480); Variable: QRATPOL. Note: unrounded figures sum to 100%

Victims of crime were less likely than non-victims to say the police were doing a good or excellent job (50% compared with 58% respectively). Likewise, a smaller proportion of those living in the 15% most deprived areas of Scotland described the local police’s performance as good or excellent compared to adults in the rest of Scotland (53% compared with 58% respectively). Views did not differ on this measure between urban and rural areas in 2017/18.

Since 2009/10, SCJS respondents have also been asked to what extent they agree that ‘people in their area have a lot of confidence in the police’. 45% of adults agreed with this statement in 2017/18, unchanged from 2009/10 but down from a peak of 49% in 2012/13 and stable since 2014/15 – mirroring the trend in the overall police rating measure in the last five years. It is notable that in general people were more likely to personally say the police were doing an excellent or good job, than think that others in their local area would be confident in the police.

How confident were people in the ability of the police?

Overall, the public were confident in the ability of the police to perform key functions and confidence has increased since 2008/09.

As noted above, this section considers public perceptions in the effectiveness of the police, by asking respondents how confident they were in the ability of the police in their local areas to undertake six particular components of work:

  • Prevent crime
  • Investigate incidents after they occur
  • Respond quickly to appropriate calls and information from the public
  • Solve crimes
  • Deal with incidents as they occur
  • Catch criminals

These results are often referred to as ‘effectiveness’ measures for convenience below.

Most adults in Scotland were confident in the ability of the police across the range of effectiveness measures in 2017/18, as shown in Figure 6.2, with more than three-fifths (60%) saying they were very or fairly confident for five of the indicators.

Whilst confidence in the police to carry out the six aspects of police work in 2017/18 was strong in absolute terms, it has also increased since the SCJS first collected these data in 2008/09, as shown below. However, it is also notable that confidence was lower in 2017/18 compared to 2012/13 on four of the measures (with no change in the measures on solving crime and catching criminals).

Figure 6.2: Proportion of adults who were confident in the ability of the local police to carry out various aspects of police work

Figure 6.2: Proportion of adults who were confident in the ability of the local police to carry out various aspects of police work

Base: All adults (5,480); Variables: QPOLCONF_01 – QPOLCONF_06

Views on the effectiveness of the police worsened marginally between 2012/13 and 2014/15, but have stabilised and in 2017/18 remained above the 2008/09 baseline.

Looking more closely at the trends over time for each indicator reveals that generally confidence in the ability of the police:

  • Increased in the years between 2008/09 and 2012/13;
  • Decreased marginally across some measures between 2012/13 and 2014/15 (but remained above the 2008/09 baseline);
  • Has since stabilised or fluctuated a little around the 2014/15 level.

Overall the SCJS shows that the public are confident in the ability of the police and views in recent years have been consistently more positive than the position in 2008/09 despite shorter-term fluctuations since police reform in 2013.

The only measure to show any change between 2016/17 and 2017/18 was confidence in the ability of the police to prevent crime, which fell from 56% to 53%. This aspect of policing has consistently shown the lowest level of confidence across the six measures over the years. That said, it is worth noting that the other measures all showed non-significant apprarent decreases in the last year. As such, it will be important to monitor these findings into the future to assess whether views have stabilised around the current level and we are seeing minor fluctuations in survey estimates or the apparent falls continue to build over time to create a new trend.

Did the public feel the police were engaged with their community and conducted their work fairly?

In 2017/18 adults in Scotland were generally positive about the way the police in their local area carried out their work and engaged with the public.

As well as looking at confidence in the ability of the police, the SCJS explores whether individuals believe the police treat people fairly and with respect, and whether the service is focused on the issues which matter to particular communities.

Respondents were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with a series of statements about the police in their area, with respondents mostly providing positive responses or saying they did not have a strong view, as shown in Figure 6.3 below. These have been grouped into measures which can be considered to be related to perceptions of how engaged the police are with the community and how fair the police are when carrying out duties respectively (hereafter generally referred to as ‘community engagement’ and ‘fairness’). Overall, these findings suggest that largely people hold favourable views on the approach of their local police, and this is in line with the finding that confidence in the police overall is strong and views on the effectiveness of the police are generally positive.

Figure 6.3: Attitudes towards the police in 2017/18

Figure 6.3: Attitudes towards the police in 2017/18

Base: Adults who are not a serving police officer, married to or living with serving police officer (5,360); Variables: POLOPREL – POLOPCOM

That said, almost a quarter of adults (24%) thought community relations with the police in their area were poor, and a fifth (20%) believed that the police were not dealing with the important issues in their community. These findings are particularly notable given that only 10% disagreed with the statement that ‘the police in this area listen to the concerns of local people’ – suggesting that views on different aspects of community engagement can be varied and complex.

Views on how engaged and fair the police are have generally improved since 2009/10, although perceptions on some elements of community engagement have worsened a little since 2012/13.

Compared to 2009/10 (when these questions were first included in the survey) the public held more positive views in 2017/18 across most of the above measures which examine perceptions of community engagement and fairness. Looking more closely shows improvements generally occurred between 2009/10 and 2012/13, with more stability and short-term fluctuation shown in the years since then. Taken together, the SCJS therefore finds that in 2017/18 adults in Scotland were more likely to believe that their local police treat individuals fairly and with respect, listen to communities in Scotland and focus on issues of importance to them than they were in 2009/10. These results can be seen in full in Annex table A1.21.

However, since 2012/13 the proportion of adults thinking the police listen to the concerns of local people has fallen from 54% to 50%, and this figure is now back in line with the 2009/10 baseline. Similarly, there has been a small increase in the percentage who agree that community relations with the police are poor (from 22% to 24%), although this remains more positive than the baseline position. This suggests that some aspects of community engagement should continue to be monitored into the future, although like the other measures of perceptions of the police, the picture remains positive in the wider and longer-term context. There has also been a small improvement in views on whether the police are dealing with issues which matter to the community since 2012/13, with the proportion thinking that this is not the case falling from 25% to 20%.

Views on the two fairness measures have both improved since 2009/10, with the proportion agreeing that the police would treat you with respect up since 2012/13 too (from 86% to 88%).

All indicators on community engagement and aspects of fairness showed no change between 2016/17 and 2017/18.

How did perceptions of the police vary amongst the population?

Whilst the majority of adults generally held favourable views on the police across the range of indicators, those in deprived areas and victims of crime were less positive across a range of measures.

The SCJS enables us to examine how views on the ability of the police, their level of community engagement and fairness in their approach varied across the population according to demographic and geographic characteristics, as well as whether individuals had experienced crime or not in 2017/18. The section below explores results for selected breakdowns, with key results and additional breakdowns presented in more detail in the Annex tables (for effectiveness measures) and online data tables.

Overall, in line with the national average, views on the police were fairly positive amongst population sub-groups in 2017/18 across the range of effectiveness, community engagement and fairness measures. For example, when looking at the confidence in the ability of the police, most adults (i.e. more than 50%) in each group were confident across each the six measures. The one notable outlier was the measure looking at views on the ability of the police to prevent crime, where less than half of the people in several groups said they were very or fairly confident. This included victims of crime (of whom 47% were confident) and those in the most deprived areas (49%).

However, notwithstanding the overall positive perceptions of the police, views in 2017/18 did vary between comparator groups. For example, adults in the most deprived areas of Scotland (compared to those living elsewhere) and victims of crime in 2017/18 (compared to non-victims) held less positive opinions on the police across a selection of the metrics looking at effectiveness, community engagement and fairness. Significant differences are outlined in Figure 6.4 below, with all other measures showing no difference between these comparator groups.

It is notable that confidence in the ability of the police amongst those living in the 15% most deprived area (who were more likely to have experienced crime in 2017/18) was lower in relation to the prevention of crime in particular, although there was no difference detected in views on the other effectiveness measures.

Figure 6.4: Variation in perceptions of the police by victim status and deprivation

Figure 6.4: Variation in perceptions of the police by victim status and deprivation

Base: Effectiveness: Victims (620); Non-victims (4,850); 15% most deprived areas (790); Rest of Scotland (4,680). Community engagement/fairness: Victims (600); Non-victims (4,860); 15% most deprived areas (780); Rest of Scotland (4,580). Variables: QPOLCONF_01 – QPOLCONF_06; POLOPREL – POLOPCOM

There was a less clear pattern in views when looking at results by rurality and gender.

Looking at perceptions amongst those in urban and rural areas reveals a mixed picture. Whilst views across many indicators were fairly similar, those in urban areas had more confidence in the ability of the police to deal with incidents and solve crimes, whereas views on particular aspects of fairness and community relations were more positive in rural areas. Figure 6.5 below shows measures where views differed significantly.

Figure 6.5: Variation in perceptions of the police by rurality

Figure 6.5: Variation in perceptions of the police by rurality

Base: Effectiveness: Urban (4,410); Rural (1,060). Community engagement/fairness: Urban (4,330); Rural (1,030). Variables: QPOLCONF_01 – QPOLCONF_06; POLOPREL – POLOPCOM

In 2017/18 females were more likely than males to be confident across four measures exploring the perceived effectiveness of the police (respond quickly, deal with incidents, investigate incidents and solve crimes). On the other hand, men were more likely to think the police treat everyone fairly and were less likely to agree that community relations with the police were poor.

Perceptions of the police have improved amongst many population groups over the last decade.

Whilst differences persist amongst population sub-categories, looking at trends over time the SCJS finds that perceptions have improved since 2008/09 (or 2009/10 where relevant) for many key groups in the population.

For instance, the proportion of adults who felt very or fairly confident in the ability of the police to take forward each of the six components of police work asked about in the effectiveness measures was higher in 2017/18 compared to 2008/09 amongst: both men and women; those living in the most deprived areas of Scotland and adults living elsewhere; victims of crime and those who had not experienced crime. These results are shown in full in Annex Tables A1.15 to A1.20[64]. Statistically significant changes since 2016/17 have been less common, although the Annex tables also highlight where these have been detected for each group.

By way of example, Figure 6.6 outlines how confidence in the ability of the police in the most deprived areas of Scotland has increased over time.

Figure 6.6: Proportion of adults who were very/fairly confident in the ability of the police in the 15% most deprived areas of Scotland, 2008/09 - 2017/18

Figure 6.6: Proportion of adults who were very/fairly confident in the ability of the police in the 15% most deprived areas of Scotland, 2008/09 - 2017/18

Base: Adults living in 15% most deprived areas (2008/09: 2,440; 2017/18: 790); Variables: QPOLCONF_01 – QPOLCONF_06

Meaures looking at perceptions of community engagement and fairness have also generally shown significant improvements in the most deprived areas of Scotland since 2009/10[65].

Confidence in the ability of the police in rural areas has not shown the same improvement as in urban areas since 2008/09.

Whilst the majority of people in rural areas were fairly positive about the police in 2017/18, perceptions in urban and rural areas have shown differing trends over the longer term – with views generally improving in urban areas, but showing more stability in rural locations.

For example, while we see some fluctuations in interim years between 2008/09 and 2016/17, Table 6.1 outlines how public confidence in the ability the police amongst those in urban and rural areas in 2017/18 compared to 2008/09. It shows that in rural areas only two measures have improved compared to the 2008/09 baseline. In contrast, and in line with the national average, amongst adults living in urban areas confidence in the ability of the police has increased across all six effectiveness measures since 2008/09.

The full time-series showing fluctuations from year to year in results for urban and rural areas are shown in Annex tables A1.15 to A1.20.

Table 6.1: Confidence in the ability of the police in urban and rural areas.

Urban Rural
Proportion of adults who were very or fairly confident in the police to: 2017/18 Change since 2008/09 2017/18 Change since 2008/09
Prevent crime 53% ↑ from 45% 53% ↑ from 48%
Respond quickly to appropriate calls and information from the public 63% ↑ from 54% 61% ↑ from 56%
Deal with incidents as they occur 66% ↑ from 57% 62% No change
Investigate incidents after they occur 70% ↑ from 63% 68% No change
Solve crimes 65% ↑ from 56% 61% No change
Catch criminals 62% ↑ from 54% 59% No change
Number of respondents 4,410 12,420 1,060 3,580

Variables: QPOLCONF_01 – QPOLCONF_06

A similar variation in trend between urban and rural areas was seen across the community engagement and fairness metrics. There were improvements between 2009/10 and 2017/18 across all measures in urban areas but one (agreement that the police listen to local concerns which showed no change); whilst in rural areas the only measure to show improvement was a fall in the proportion thinking the police were not dealing with the issues that matter to their community. All measures on perceptions of community engagement and fairness in both urban and rural areas were unchanged between 2016/17 and 2017/18.

However, it is worth noting that people in rural areas were just as likely as those in urban areas to think the police were doing a good or excellent job in 2017/18 (57% and 58% respectively), as highlighted earlier.

What did the public think about the level of police presence locally?

The SCJS includes a series of questions which explore the public’s views on the importance and awareness of police patrolling respondents’ local area[66].

The proportion of adults aware of the police regularly patrolling their area continued to fall in 2017/18.

Whilst the vast majority (93%) of adults in 2017/18 considered it very or fairly important to have local police officers who know and patrol their local area, the proportion who said they were aware that their area was regularly patrolled[67] fell to 40% in 2017/18. This figure is down from a peak of 56% in 2012/13 and 43% in 2016/17.

Figure 6.7: Proportion of adults aware of regular police patrol in their area

Figure 6.7: Proportion of adults aware of regular police patrol in their area

Base: Adults who are not a serving police officer, married to or living with serving police officer (2009/10: 3,890; 2010/11: 3,180; 2012/13: 11,520; 2014/15: 11,180; 2016/17: 5,420; 2017/18: 5,360); Variable: POLPATR

As in previous years, Table 6.2 shows that those living in the 15% most deprived areas were more likely than adults in the rest of Scotland to report being aware of their area being patrolled regularly. This could in part be related to the finding that people in the most deprived areas were more likely to be victims of both property and violent crime in 2017/18 than those living in elsewhere, and therefore reflect police operational decisions.

Table 6.2: Public awareness of police patrolling in the local area

Percentage of respondents aware of police patrol (inlcuding how patrolled) 15% most deprived areas Rest of Scotland Scotland
Yes 50% 39% 40%
On foot 25% 11% 13%
By bicycle 9% 3% 4%
By car 45% 35% 37%
No 43% 53% 51%
Number of respondents 780 4,580 5,360

Base: Adults who are not a serving police officer, married to or living with serving police officer; Variable: POLPATR

There was no difference between urban and rural areas in the proportion of adults reporting awareness of regular police patrols.

At a national level, amongst those aware of the police patrolling their area by foot or bike, just under a third (32%) reported noticing such activity at least every couple of days, if not daily. Around a further fifth (22%) said they had seen the police at least once a week.

The population continues to be divided about whether the police presence in their area is sufficient.

Over the last few sweeps of the SCJS the population has consistently been fairly evenly divided between those who believe the local police presence is ‘about right’ (44% in 2017/18) or ‘not enough’ (50% in 2017/18). Very few respondents in each sweep have felt there is ‘too much’ of a police presence - for example, 0.3% in 2017/18.

The proportion of adults believing the level of police presence is insufficient fell from 56% in 2009/10 to 46% in 2012/13, but has increased again in recent years whilst remaining below the 2009/10 baseline.

Those living in the 15% most deprived areas of Scotland were less likely to believe that the police presence in their local area was ‘about right’ in 2017/18, with 39% feeling this way compared to 44% in the rest of Scotland. Likewise, victims of crime were less likely to be positive about the current level of presence (39% compared to 44% of non-victims).

Despite there being no difference in the level of awareness of regular police patrols between urban and rural areas, those in rural locations were more likely to feel that the level of police presence was ‘about right’ (51% compared to 42% in urban areas). This may suggest that rural communities have different experiences and expectations of local policing.

Opinions on the level of police presence are most commonly informed by personal experience of seeing the police, underlying perceptions of what patrolling should involve and views on the prevalence of crime.

At a national level, the most frequently cited reasons mentioned by those who thought that the level of police presence was insufficient were related to respondents not personally seeing the police, believing that there should be (and possibly previously were) more police around, and that they should patrol more regularly particularly by foot rather than just by car. In contrast, the most common reasons for saying the level of police presence was ‘about right’ related to a (perceived) lack of crime in the area, with others also feeling reassured by seeing the police at the current regularity and being content with seeing them in cars.

How do people reflect on their interactions with the police?

The majority of people who have come into contact with the police in recent years reflect positively on their experience.

The SCJS explores experiences of contact respondents have had with the police in the last year. Follow-up questions to understand how individuals feel they were treated during their engagement are asked of respondents whose most recent contact with the police involved reporting a crime; complaining or providing feedback; reporting to a police station; being stopped (in the street or car) and questioned or searched; or arrested or charged. As with general attitudes towards the police, the quality of any contact with the police and individuals’ perceptions of whether they have been treated appropriately are factors which are likely to influence the level of confidence held in the police.

In 2017/18, the majority of people were fairly positive about their engagement with the police in relation to their most recent contact with the service. For example:

  • 95% said they were dealt with in a very or fairly polite manner[68];
  • 86% felt they were treated fairly;
  • 69% believed the police showed as much interest as they should have in what respondents had to say; and
  • 66% were very or quite satisfied with the way the police handled the matter.

Perceptions of the criminal justice system

The SCJS also collects information on public knowledge of and attitudes towards the criminal justice system in Scotland, as well as contact with different organisations operating within the system.

What did the public think about the criminal justice system in Scotland?

Consistent with previous years, the majority of adults in 2017/18 knew little about the criminal justice system but were fairly confident about its operation.

Consistent with previous sweeps of the SCJS, in 2017/18 around three-quarters (76%) of adults said they did not know very much or anything at all about the criminal justice system. By contrast, only 3% said they knew a lot.

Regardless of their self-reported knowledge, respondents were asked about their confidence in the criminal justice system as a whole through a range of statements about the operation and performance of the system. As shown in Figure 6.8 below, the majority of people were either very or fairly confident about the delivery of the criminal justice system across a range of considerations.

For example, more than three-quarters of adults (77%) were confident that the system allows all those accused of crimes to get a fair trial, whilst three-quarters (75%) had confidence that everyone is able to access the justive system if required. However, less than half of the population were confident about the efficiency of the system (44% confident) and that appropriate sentences[69] are given which fit the crime (38% confident).

Notwithstanding wording changes in the latter measure, it is important to note that confidence on both these indicators have increased since they were first included in the survey:

  • In 2008/09, 35% were confident the system deals with cases promptly and efficiently, compared to 44% in 2017/18;
  • In 2012/13, 32% were confident that the system gives punishments which fit the crime, compared to 39% in 2016/17. When the wording was changed to ‘sentences’ in 2017/18 the proportion of adults who were confident was 38%.

Figure 6.8: Confidence in the operation of the criminal justice system in 2017/18

Figure 6.8: Confidence in the operation of the criminal justice system in 2017/18

Base: All adults (5,480); Variables: QDCONF_01 – QDCONF_15

Full-time series results for these attitudinal measures are shown in Annex table A1.22. As with the two examples outlined above, it shows that generally confidence in the criminal justice system was stronger across the range of measures in 2017/18 than it was the first time each question was asked[70].

It is also worth noting that the proportion of adults who were very or fairly confident that the system makes sure everyone has access to the justice system if they need it increased from 70% in 2008/09 to 75% in 2017/18. With effect from 2018, this measure has been adopted as a National Indicator in the Scottish Government’s refreshed National Performance Framework. Since the last SCJS in 2016/17, all measures showed no change.

Older adults and those living in the most deprived areas of Scotland were generally less confident in the justice system.

For most of these measures, younger adults (those aged 16-24) were more likely to be confident than those aged 60 and over; whilst across about half of the measures, those living in the 15% most deprived areas of Scotland (compared to those living elsewhere) were less likely to be confident. For instance:

  • 68% of those aged 16-24 were confident that the system is not different depending on where you live, in comparison to 57% of those aged 60 and over; and
  • 71% of adults living in the 15% most deprived areas were confident that everyone has access to the justice system if they need it compared to 76% of those living elsewhere.

There was little variation in confidence in the justice system between victims and non-victims in 2017/18.

In previous years, the SCJS has detected lower confidence in the criminal justice system amongst victims of crime compared to non-victims. However, in 2017/18, only one measure showed a statistically significant difference between these groups – 56% of victims were confident that the system is effective in bringing people who commit crimes to justice, compared to 63% of non-victims. The lack of difference between the two groups in 2017/18 is influenced by a number of non-significant apparent increases in confidence amongst victims, coupled with non-significant apparent decreases across some measures for non-victims.

How did the public view the prison system and community sentences?

The SCJS also gathers information on attitudes towards prisons and community sentences to understand what the public thinks about processes to sentence and rehabilitate offenders. The specific wording used over time has changed in a number of the questions on this topic, limiting the ability to examine some trends over time[71]. In addition, it is important to note that questions on attitudes towards prisons and community sentences are asked without reference to specific crime circumstances or offender backgrounds which may influence opinions about what constitutes a suitable sentence or approach.

The public generally thought that prisons should provide support to help prisoners address problem behaviours and integrate with the community.

The SCJS has previously sought to understand the public’s confidence in the effectiveness of prisons, however these questions were updated in 2017/18 to now explore attitudes about what adults in Scotland believe prisons should do.

Table 6.3 shows that the vast majority of adults agreed that prisons should provide support to prisoners to help them address any underlying issues, reduce re-offending and help them fit back into the community. Just over half (53%) agreed that only those who commit the most serious crimes should be put in prison.

Table 6.3: Attitudes towards the role of prisons

Proportion of adults Strongly/Slightly agree Neither agree nor disagree Strongly/Slightly Disagree Don’t Know / Refused
Only those who have committed the most serious crimes should be put in prison 53% 11% 34% 1%
Prisons should help prisoners change their behaviour rather than just punish them 90% 5% 4% 1%
Prisons should provide support in order to prevent people committing more crime 92% 3% 3% 2%
Prisons should work with other organisations in the community to help prisoners fit back into the community 89% 6% 4% 1%
Homeless prisoners should be helped to find a place to live after they leave prison 87% 6% 5% 1%

Base: All adults (1,350); Variables: QPRIS3_01 – QPRIS3_05

Relatively few people were aware of unpaid work placements being carried out in their local area as part of community sentences.

Respondents were also asked about their awareness and perceptions of unpaid work placements which can be completed as part of a community sentence. Just over a tenth (13%) of adults who had heard of community payback orders were aware of unpaid work placements being carried out in their area, although amongst those who were aware of them, 69% agreed that their area had benefitted.

Adults were generally supportive of community sentences, although almost a quarter believed that they put the public at risk of crime.

Figure 6.9 provides the results to a series of statements which respondents were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with in relation to community sentences. Like the questions on attitudes towards prisons, these were newly developed in 2017/18.

Whilst the majority of people (84%) believed that people helping their community as part of a community sentence is an appropriate response for a minor offence rather than a short prison sentence, around a quarter (23%) thought that community sentences put the public at risk of crime. That said, almost four-in-five (78%) agreed that people who do not comply with the terms of their community sentence will be held to account.

Figure 6.9: Proportion of adults agreeing with statements on community sentences

Figure 6.9: Proportion of adults agreeing with statements on community sentences

Base: All adults (1,350); Variables: QCOMSENT_01 – QCOMSENT_04


Contact

Email: scjs@gov.scot