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Review of the Glasgow and Fife Drug Courts: Report

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ANNEX B: RECONVICTION AMONG DRUG COURT PARTICIPANTS

When the original process and outcome evaluation of the pilot Drug Courts in Glasgow and Fife was undertaken (McIvor et al., 2006), the courts had not been operational for a sufficiently long period of time to enable a reasonably robust analysis of reconviction. The present analysis was able to focus on a larger sample of cases in respect of whom more complete reconviction data were available. In assessing overall reconviction rates, the analysis focuses first upon those given Drug Court Orders in Glasgow between November 2001 and October 2005 and those given Drug Court Order in Fife between September 2002 and August 2006.

The key question, however, is how Drug Court reconviction rates compare with reconviction rates among similar offenders who are dealt with as they would have been if the Drug Courts did not exist. The comparison of reconviction rates of Drug Court participants poses particular challenges because the very nature of the Drug Court process means that cases dealt with it are highly selected through a rigorous process of assessment of suitability for drug treatment and the Drug Court regime.

The comparative analysis of recidivism therefore focuses on those given DTTOs on the assumption that similar types of case would be likely to receive DTTOs in other Sheriff Courts. In particular, the analysis compares reconviction among Drug Court participants who received DTTOs with 1) reconviction among offenders given DTTOs in Glasgow and Fife in the 2 year period immediately before the Drug Courts were introduced and 2) offenders given DTTOs across Scotland as a whole between 1 Sep 2002 and 31 Aug 2006.

Drug Court reconviction

Across the two Drug Courts, 70% of offenders had been reconvicted within twelve months and 82% within two years. The reconviction rates were almost identical in Fife and Glasgow (Table 1) and were slightly, but not significantly, higher following a DTTO than a Probation Order (Table 2).

Table 1: Reconviction by court

Follow-up period

Fife

Glasgow

Total

12 months

71% (192/271)

69% (212/308)

70% (404/579)

24 months

82% (221/270)

82% (251/308)

82% (472/578)

Table 2: Reconviction and type of Order

Follow-up period

DTTO

Probation

Total

12 months

70% (344/491)

66% (55/83)

70% (399/574)

24 months

82% (402/490)

78% (65/83)

82% (467/573)

The reconviction rate did, however, vary according to the outcome of the Drug Court Order: 12-month and two-year reconviction rates were significantly lower 2 among those who completed their Orders or whose Orders were discharged early and higher among offenders whose Orders were breached or revoked (Table 3). It is encouraging that those who had an early discharge, or who had completed their Order, had a lower reconviction rate compared to those who had breached or been revoked. This appears to suggest that those with the resolve to complete their Order, also committed less subsequent crimes

Table 3: Reconviction by outcome of Order3

Follow-up period

Early discharge

Breach

Revocation

Completion

12 months

59% (41/70)

79% (112/141)

76% (103/135)

64% (128/201)

24 months

76% (53/70)

89% (126/141)

90% (120/134)

74% (148/201)

Reconviction among offenders given DTTOs in Glasgow and Fife

To determine how the reconviction rates among Drug Court cases compared with those of similar offenders dealt with in other ways, reconviction rates among offenders given DTTOs in Glasgow and Fife prior to the introduction of the Drug Courts were calculated. The relevant data are summarised in Table 4. These data suggest that Drug Court reconviction rates (82% after two years: see Table 2) were very similar to those following DTTOs imposed prior to the introduction of the Drug Courts in Glasgow and Fife (80% after 2 years: see Table 4). This small difference in reconviction is not statistically significant 4.

Table 4: Reconviction rates for pre-Drug Court DTTOs

Follow-up period

Fife

Glasgow

Total

12 months

67% (77/115)

64% (44/69)

66% (121/184)

24 months

84% (96/115)

75% (52/69)

80% (148/184)

Reconviction among offenders given DTTOs in Scotland

Another point of comparison is reconviction among DTTOs imposed in Scotland as a whole. The relevant data are summarised in Table 5, with separate figures presented for DTTOs imposed under Summary and Solemn proceedings 5. The reconviction rates at 12 months and 24 months following DTTOs imposed under Summary proceedings were almost identical to those for offenders given DTTOs in the Drug Courts ( i.e. 82% were reconvicted within 2 years)

Table 5: Reconviction following DTTOs in Scotland

Follow-up period

Summary

Solemn

Total Summary and Solemn

12 months

72% (992/1383)

61% (100/164)

71% (1092/1547)

24 months

82% (1138/1383)

77% (126/164)

82% (1264/1547)

Frequency of reconviction

The reconviction rate is a relatively crude measure: it simply indicates whether or not an individual has been reconvicted but fails to reflect more nuanced changes in behaviour such as changes in the frequency of conviction. As Table 6 indicates, the frequency of reconviction among Drug Court participants given DTTOs was similar to the frequency of reconviction among offenders given DTTOs under Summary proceedings in Scotland as a whole. In Glasgow, the frequency of reconviction was slightly higher among the Drug Court sample than the earlier DTTO sample (3.3 in the Drug Court compared to 2.6 pre Drug Court) while in Fife the reverse was true, with the frequency of reconviction lower among Drug Court participants than among those previously sentenced to DTTOs (3.6 in the Drug Court compared to 4.5 pre Drug Court). Neither of these differences was, however, statistically significant 6.

Table 6: Mean number of new convictions per DTTO sample

Follow-up period

Fife Drug Court

Glasgow Drug Court

Fife pre DCDTTO

Glasgow pre DCDTTO

Scotland Summary DTTO

12 months

2.2

2.0

2.6

1.4

2.1

24 months

3.6

3.3

4.5

2.6

3.3

Despite the rate and frequency of reconviction being broadly similar among the Drug Court and comparison samples, there was a marked difference in the criminal histories of the samples (Table 7). More specifically, the Drug Court cases had, on average, fewer previous convictions than those given DTTOs in the other samples, with the differences between the samples in this respect being statistically significant 7. Given the strong association between criminal history and reconviction, if all else were equal the Drug Court cases would have been expected to demonstrate a lower frequency and rate of reconviction than the comparison cases. The reason for the relatively low number of previous convictions among the Drug Court cases is unclear but it may have arisen through recent 'old' convictions being 'rolled up' more quickly in the Drug Court with the result that in some instances what are actually previous convictions are identified from the Scottish Offender Index as 'new' convictions 8. This would also have the effect of inflating the rate and frequency of reconviction among Drug Court cases, making them misleadingly high.

Table 7: Mean number of previous convictions per DTTO sample

Fife Drug Court

Glasgow Drug Court

Fife pre DCDTTO

Glasgow pre DCDTTO

Scotland Summary DTTO

3.7

3.4

11.3

9.9

14.9

Profile of offenders before and after conviction in the Drug Courts.

Information was also gathered on the previous crime types and reconviction crime types for the Drug Court offenders. Prior to appearing in the Drug Court, the offender profile in Figure 1 shows that 73.1% of the previous crimes were for crimes of dishonesty (which includes theft by housebreaking, theft from a motor vehicle, in a building with intent to steal, shoplifting and other theft, fraud and forgery). Only approximately 2% of crimes were violent and less than 0.1% were sexual. A further breakdown of the individual crime types, and in particular the dishonesty category, shows that 38.4% of previous crimes were for shoplifting, 10.6% for other theft, and 8.8% for housebreaking. Clearly crimes of theft predominate in funding the drug habit.

Subsequent to appearing in the Drug Court the offender profile changes slightly. Crimes of dishonesty have decreased from 73.1% to 66.5% (with shoplifting decreasing slightly to 36.7%) and there has been a proportionate increase in drug offences (from 2.7% to 5.2%) and breaches of the peace.

The decrease in shoplifting would be consistent with the Drug Court objectives to decrease the incidence of drug-related acquisitive crime. While the increase in drug offences might on face value appear to run counter to the aims of the Drug Court, it might be attributable to increased police attention over time towards known drug offenders alongside continued use by Drug Court participants of illicit drugs such as cannabis. The increase in public order offences might be linked to an increase in alcohol misuse among some Drug Court participants - a phenomenon that was alluded to in interviews by some offenders and Drug Court staff (McIvor et al., 2006).

Figure 1: Proportion of crimes in Glasgow and Fife Drug Court
(Glasgow cohort Nov01-Oct05, Fife cohort Sept02-Aug06)

Figure 1: Proportion of crimes in Glasgow and Fife Drug Court