4 Court-based services and social work reports
4.1 There are various tasks associated with providing information and advice to the court, as well as a throughcare service to individuals and their families at the point when a custodial sentence is made. These include:
- oral/written reports and information at the court's request on specific matters to inform the sentencing process or the decision to remand to custody rather than grant bail
- interviews with individuals and completing a medical mandate where significant medical issues have been highlighted
- diverting people with mental health problems who may be a risk to themselves from a custodial remand, to either hospital or appropriate bail accommodation, where available, for assessment
- interviewing individuals immediately after the court has passed a custodial sentence/remand or a community disposal involving criminal justice social work, in order to further explain the decision of the court and what this means for individuals. Also, establish if any pressing problems should be dealt with immediately, and inform individuals about the availability of relevant social work services
- forwarding relevant information to prisons in the event of a custodial sentence, including details on persons who may pose a risk of harm to themselves and/or others
- representing the local authority criminal justice social work service in the court setting, including, where appropriate, court users' groups and liaising with other professional groups.
4.2 During 2015-16, the courts made 7,300 requests for bail information, the second lowest level in the last seven years and a fifth lower than in 2009-10 ( Table 1). In some cases, this may result in the use of supervised bail rather than remand. A total of 360 bail supervision cases were commenced in 2015-16, by far the lowest level in the last seven years and more than a quarter lower than in 2009-10.
4.3 Same day reports (previously called stand down reports) are either pre-sentence reports or specific sentence reports requested by the court - 3,700 such reports were provided to the courts in 2015-16, similar to the levels of recent years although a quarter higher than in 2011-12 ( Table 5). There were 20,100 post sentence interviews with people remanded into custody or receiving custodial sentences for the first time, with figures having fluctuated between around 18,000 and 20,000 in recent years.
Criminal justice social work reports
4.4 The criminal justice social work report ( CJSWR) in its current format was introduced across Scotland from February 2011 to ensure a consistent provision of information, including the social worker's professional assessment. This report (called a social enquiry report prior to 2011) is intended to assist in the sentencing process and to complement the range of other considerations, such as victim information and narratives from the procurator fiscal. In particular, the CJSWR provides information on social work interventions and how these may prevent or reduce further offending. A CJSWR must be requested:
- before imposing a custodial sentence for the first time or where a person is under 21
- when imposing a community payback order with a supervision requirement or level 2 unpaid work requirement (over 100 hours), community service order or probation order with unpaid work
- when imposing a drug treatment and testing order.
4.5 The number of criminal justice social work reports (including supplementary reports but excluding letters sent in lieu of reports) has fallen each year since 2009-10 with 29,800 submitted in 2015-16, a drop of 27 per cent since 2009-10 ( Table 1). This downward trend is broadly in line with an overall downward trend in court volumes over the period.
4.6 The number of full CJSWRs ( i.e. excluding supplementary reports) increased for the first time in recent years, from 26,600 in 2014-15 to 27,000 in 2015-16 ( Table 6). This reflected a large drop in the number of supplementary reports submitted, which fell by a third over the last year, from 4,200 to 2,900 reports.
4.7 Chart 2 illustrates the patterns of change in full reports since 2009-10. The total number of reports per 10,000 population has fallen by around a quarter since then. Patterns are similar for males and females but there are notable differences between age groups. Numbers have fallen for those aged 30 and under between 2009-10 and 2015-16. By far the largest fall was among the under 18s, again reflecting the marked fall in court volumes for this age group.
Chart 2 Number of
10,000 population by age and gender: 2009-10, 2012-13 &
4.8 The pattern of change varied somewhat across local authorities, with only just over half of councils showing an increase in full reports between 2014-15 and 2015-16. Further information is provided in the additional datasets which accompany this publication.
Preferred sentencing options
4.9 The criminal justice social work report writer is expected to provide a professional assessment as to the suitability of available sentencing options in terms of maximising the opportunity for the individual to change their behaviour and desist from offending. This analysis is based on the individual's attitude to offending and motivation to change, as well as risks and needs identified. While the decision on sentencing is for the court to take, the expectation is that the professional analysis will cover substantive issues such as the need for specialist assessment where significant substance use or mental health problems are indicated. There is also the expectation that the report will include an assessment of the suitability or otherwise of the community payback order, including the individual's motivation to successfully complete the order.
4.10 Almost half of reports (46 per cent) recommended the use of a community payback order in 2015-16 ( Table 7). Nineteen per cent involved a CPO with supervision but not unpaid work, while 15 per cent involved unpaid work but no supervision.
4.11 Thirteen per cent of reports recommended a deferred sentence of 3 months or more and 6 per cent suggested a monetary penalty. Custody was the preferred option in 5 per cent of reports, while 18 per cent of reports suggested some other form of preferred option (including a restriction of liberty order or deferment for a drug treatment and testing order assessment). Twelve per cent of CJSWRs gave no preferred sentencing option.
4.12 The main outcome for 43 per cent of CJSWRs in 2015-16 was a community payback order ( Table 8). Fourteen per cent of reports resulted in a CPO with unpaid work but no supervision, with 13 per cent resulting in an order with supervision but not unpaid work. In 16 per cent of cases, a CPO was given with both supervision and unpaid work.
4.13 Custody was the main outcome for 17 per cent of reports in 2015-16 and this has remained more or less the same over the past five years. The other main outcome categories in 2015-16 were deferred sentences and monetary penalty (8 and 7 per cent respectively).