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Probation reoffending rate down again

MoJ stats for the year to April 2015 reveal that probation reoffending rates have fallen again in the last period under the fully public probation system.

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Adult reoffending rates down again

Last week (26 January 2017) the MoJ published the latest proven reoffending statistics for both adult and juvenile offenders, including both those released from custody, and those who received a community sentence for the year between April 2014 and March 2015.

The figures aren’t published until almost two years later because a re-offence is defined as any offence committed in a one year follow-up period from either release from prison or the making of a non-custodial sentence plus a further six month waiting period to allow the offence to be proven in court and officially recorded.

Key findings

The MoJ has started to publish the figures in a more user-friendly format with the main points highlighted on the front page of the bulletin as reproduced below:

Before looking at the statistics in more detail, it’s important to note that these figures predate the split of the probation service into public (high risk offenders) and private (low & medium risk) in the Transforming Rehabilitation initiative. (Although the split took place in June 2014, private providers did not start operating Community Rehabilitation Companies until February 2015, so only a small number of offenders started supervision under the new arrangements.)

Adult offenders

Around 107,000 of the 440,ooo adult offenders in this year were proven to have committed a reoffence within a year, giving a proven reoffending rate of 24.3% which represents a small decrease of 0.9 percentage points compared to the previous 12 months and a fall of 1.2 percentage points since 2004. This rate has been fairly flat since 2004 fluctuating between 24.3% and 25.4%.

Around 345,000 proven reoffences were committed by adults over the one year follow-up period. Those that reoffended committed on average 3.22 reoffences each.
Generally, offenders with a large number of previous offences have a higher rate of proven reoffending than those with fewer previous offences. In the cohort, the proven reoffending rates for adults ranged from 7.5% for offenders with no previous offences to 44.7% for offenders with 11 or more previous offences. Adult offenders with 11 or more previous offences represented just under a third of all adult offenders in the cohort, but committed over two thirds of all adult proven reoffences.

The proven reoffending rate for adult offenders starting a court order (Community sentence or Suspended Sentence Order) was 32.0%, a fall of 5.4 percentage points since 2004, and a fall of 1.9 percentage points compared to the previous 12 months.

The proven reoffending rate for adult offenders released from custody between April 2014 and March 2015 was 44.7%. This represents a fall of 1.1 percentage points compared to
the previous 12 months and a fall of 3.9 percentage points since 2004. Since 2004, the overall rate for those released from custody has remained relatively stable at around 45%
to 49%. The rate for those released from short sentences has been consistently higher compared to those released from longer sentences.

Adults who served sentences of less than 12 months reoffended at a rate of 59.7%, compared to 32.2% for those who served determinate sentences of 12 months or more. The trends for those released from short and long sentences have both remained broadly flat since 2005 and are consistent with the overall trend.

Juvenile offenders

Around 36,000 juvenile offenders were cautioned, convicted or released from custody in the April 2014 to March 2015 cohort and around 14,000 of them committed a reoffence.
This gives a proven reoffending rate of 37.9%, which is broadly the same as the previous 12 months and an increase of 4.3 percentage points since 2004. However, the cohort has fallen by around 76% since 2004.

Around 45,000 proven reoffences were committed by juveniles over the one year follow-up period. Those that reoffended committed on average 3.30 reoffences each. Juvenile
offenders with 11 or more previous offences have a higher reoffending rate than those with no previous offences –74.5% compared to 24.6%. The highest reoffending rate by age group is 39.0%, for offenders aged 10 to 14. However, the number of offenders in this age group has fallen by around 84% since 2004. The reoffending rate for this age group overtook offenders aged 15 to 17 in 2013/14, who previously had a consistently higher reoffending rate but are now second highest.


The continued fall of adult reoffending rates has been a trend over the last year. Whether this trend will continue is debatable as we will soon start to see the reoffending rates of people supervised by the new National Probation Service and the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies.

The MoJ also published interim reoffending rates for the CRC and NPS last week; these are not yet definitive for two reasons:

  1. They are based on provisional data
  2. The figures haven’t been adjusted for the mix of offenders in each area’s cohort (so it’s not possible to compare these reoffending rates with previous ones.)

This means that we can’t compare performance either between CRCs or between local CRCs and their counterpart NPS areas.

One point of interest is that the MoJ says that CRCs are managing offenders who are less likely to reoffend compared to the baseline year of 2011.

In order to properly assess performance, we shall have to wait for the proven reoffending figures, the first batch of which will be available in October 2017.

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4 Responses

  1. So on these measures the performance of prisons and probation improve just as these services fall apart! I am more and more sceptical that small variations in re-offending rates are more than either statistical noise (short term fluctuations) or changes in society (long term). For example there’s a fall in respect of the discharge as well – no-one ‘did’ that! The besetting delusion of government is to think you control finely tuned devices for altering society. Government does – and the track record shows that. Sure, big changes do occur, but really we usually dont know why – why, for example, crime halved between 1995 and 2010, having risen without interruption since 1945 or earlier? We just dont know and admitting as much would be the start of wisdom.

  2. Thanks for your usual dose of plain speaking, Julian.
    I would agree. Tom Gash is perhaps the best mainstream commentator who is clear that crime is about neither intrinsic evil, nor deprivation and that we often biggest influences are not the criminal justice system.

  3. This data is rendered more or less meaningless because there is no attempt to take account of the effect of variations in the intake. A higher proportion of relatively young offenders with many preconvictions will produce a greater reconviction rate than say an older population with less preconvictions. Prior to 2011 the published reconviction data had a table which showed actual versus the predicted reconviction rate. This table gave the best indication of whether prison and probation were actually having any impact on reoffending. The coalition Government abandoned this, which had the advantage for them that any deterioration in performance as a result of austerity would be less obvious.

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