Audit Committee publishes overview report on criminal justice system

The success or value for money of services to reduce reoffending in Scotland cannot be determined based on the data currently gathered by the Government, says a parliamentary report published today.

While the committee welcomes the reduction in reoffending rates to 42.4 percent, it is “not convinced” that services for offenders are being effectively targeted given that a national picture of services provided by the Scottish Prison Service or by Community Justice Authorities has only recently been undertaken.

Convener of the Public Audit Committee Iain Gray MSP said: “Our committee makes a number of recommendations regarding the Scottish Government’s progress towards reducing reoffending and welcomes the reduction in reoffending rate to 42.4 percent.  We believe there is scope for further improvement which builds on the progress already made.

“The committee is however concerned about the lack of information on the range, capacity and effectiveness of those offender services aimed at reducing reoffending which are provided in prison and in the community.

“This is in addition to our concerns about the poor performance monitoring of Criminal Justice Authorities (CJAs) undertaken at a national level in relation to the outcomes they should deliver from the public funds they receive.

“Our committee has requested information from the Scottish Government on its plans to address these concerns.”

Mr Gray added: “The committee has also suggested a number of areas for Audit Scotland to consider including in its future performance audit report on reducing reoffending, including the effectiveness of short-term prison sentences in reducing reoffending when compared with community justice programmes.”

Female offenders

The committee was particularly interested in what action was being taken to address female reoffending.  The committee heard that the number of women receiving custodial sentences is increasing (from 200 in 1998 to more than 500 in 2011) with Audit Scotland’s report noting that 47 percent of women returned to prison within two years of being released.

However the two-year reconviction rate for women has reduced from 37 percent in 2006-07 to 35.2 percent in 2007-08.

Whilst CJAs had access to information on gender reconviction rates by CJA area, they did not have any specific target for reducing reoffending amongst women. More recently the Scottish Government had provided each CJA with £100,000 (in 2010-11 and 2011-12) to specifically invest in reducing women reoffending.

The Public Audit Committee report states that it would welcome further information from the Scottish Government on how:

    the draft outcome framework will specifically improve data collection on the causes of women’s offending
    it proposes to monitor the effectiveness of services targeted to reduce reoffending by women offenders.


Audit Scotland estimated that in 2009-10 around £81 million was spent by the main criminal justice bodies (excluding police) directly on services to reduce reoffending although this is likely to be an underestimate.

In 2007 the Scottish Government set a target of reducing the overall two-year reconviction rate by two percent by 2011.

The most recent Statistical Bulletin on reconviction rates in Scotland confirms that the two-year reconviction rate for the 2007-08 cohort of offenders was 42.4 percent (down from 44.1 percent in the 2006-07 cohort) although the AGS indicated that since the 1990s this rate has hovered around or gone slightly above 42 percent.