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Short prison sentences still dominate, figures say

3 June 2008

The number of people prosecuted in the courts rose by 5% in the year to the end of March 2007.

Statistics just published by the Scottish Government, Criminal Proceedings in Scottish Courts 2006-07, show that last year the number of prosecutions was the highest since 1997-98, and the number of custodial sentences imposed the highest in 10 years. There were more custodial sentences than community sentences, and more than 80% were for six months or less.

But the figures also show that 15% of all offences were committed by someone on bail for another offence.

Prison overcrowding

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said too many people were being sent to prison for minor offences, contributing to prison overcrowding and meaning that serious criminals were not being given the rehabilitation help they needed.

He commented: "I remain convinced that community penalties can play an increasing part in our progressive penal policy. There is strong evidence to suggest that reoffending levels are much lower for those who carry out community penalties as opposed to short prison sentences. However I accept that there is still much work to be done in terms of improving the effectiveness of community penalties.

"That is why our action plan on community penalties is being taken forward as a matter of urgency and will allow courts to use them with confidence in a wider range of cases in future.”

He added that prisons remained the right place for serious and dangerous offenders, and the drive to improve alternatives to custody would not compromise public safety.