Criminal court proceedings have fallen to their lowest level since comparable records began in 1970, according to the Criminal Proceedings in Scotland bulletin for 2016-17.
The figures reveal an 8% reduction over the last year in both the number of people proceeded against in court (107,338), and those subsequently convicted (92,334).
While falling crime has been accompanied by fewer prison sentences (16,762 in 2007-08 and 12,690 in 2016-17), the proportion of all offenders jailed has apparently remained steady – 14% in 2016-17 compared to 13% in 2007-08 – while the average length of prison sentences, excluding life sentences, is 26% higher than a decade ago.
The proportion of people sentenced to serve a community sentence has risen over the last decade, from 13% of all those convicted to 20%, notably with the imposition of community payback orders that can both support individuals to reduce the likelihood of their re-offending, and also benefit local communities with unpaid work.
“Scotland’s courts continue to sentence those who pose significant risks to public safety to imprisonment, with more than a third (37%) of those convicted of sexual offences last year being jailed compared to just under a quarter (24%) in 2007-08,” commented Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson.
“The Scottish Prison Service works every hour of every day to support the rehabilitation of those serving long-term sentences in custody – helping to reduce their likelihood of reoffending and so contributing to keeping crime down and communities safe,” he added. “We can help hard-working prison staff to do that most effectively by enabling the use of more robust community sentences for other men and women who might otherwise be given short and very often ineffective periods in custody.”
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