Crest Advisory has published a report evaluating the impact of the presumption against short sentences (PASS) on Scotland's reoffending rates and prison population. It also considers whether similar reforms should be replicated in England and Wales.
The report noted that data analysis suggests PASS has met its principle aim of reducing reoffending; reoffending rates declined from 29.6% to 27% between 2011/12 and 2015/16, with the number of reconvictions per offender dropping from 0.55 to 0.47. However, Crest found that the decline is a continuation of a longer-term trend and that reconviction rates have been declining consistently since 2004/5. Similarly, while there has been a 31% decrease in the use of prison sentences of three months or less since 2011/12, this decrease began before the presumption was introduced.
The research argued that while it was likely that the presumption played a small role in the falling prison population, it was unclear to what extent this fall may be attributed to PASS as opposed to broader elements in, and reforms to, the criminal justice system itself. Crest concluded that while they could not say the presumption had had no effect, these other changes were likely to have had the greater impact.
Crest also noted differences in the operation of the criminal justice system in Scotland that influenced the applicability of lessons regarding whether PASS should be introduced in England and Wales; including the widespread presence of problem-solving courts and the commitment to community justice in Scotland. They concluded that while there was some indication that the introduction of PASS in England and Wales could help to reduce the reoffending rate, further work was necessary to account for identified differences in the two systems.
This supports the MA position that introducing PASS would be unnecessary and ineffective.