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 people 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 2018-19, the courts made 6,000 requests for bail information, slightly up on 2017-18 but still historically low and 30 per cent lower than the level of 8,700 in 2012-13 (Table 1). In some cases, bail information requests may result in the use of supervised bail rather than remand. A total of 340 bail supervision cases were commenced in 2018-19, the first rise in numbers since 2013-14 and a 26 per cent increase on 2017-18. More detailed information on bail supervision services can be found in the National guidance on bail supervision.
4.3 Same day reports are either pre-sentence reports or specific sentence reports requested by the court. There were 4,600 such reports provided to the courts in 2018-19, up 10 per cent on 2017-18 and the highest level in the last five years (Table 6). This was as a result of a substantial increase (33 per cent) in oral reports between 2017-18 and 2018-19. In 2018-19, there were 16,900 post sentence interviews with people remanded into custody or receiving custodial sentences for the first time. This was a seven per cent drop on 2017-18 and the lowest level in the last five 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 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 or other activity requirement (over 100 hours)
- when imposing a drug treatment and testing order.
4.5 The number of criminal justice social work reports submitted (including supplementary reports but excluding letters sent in lieu of reports) fell by five per cent between 2017-18 and 2018-19 to 27,300 (Table 1). This is part of an overall drop of 16 per cent since 2012-13 and is broadly in line with an overall fall in court volumes over recent years.
4.6 The number of full CJSWRs (i.e. excluding supplementary reports) also fell in 2018-19, by five per cent to 24,500 (Table 7). Since 2012-13, numbers have fallen by 13 per cent (Table 1). The number of supplementary reports submitted continued to be low, at 2,800 in 2018-19.
4.7 Chart 2 illustrates the patterns of change in full reports since 2012-13. Between 2012-13 and 2015-16, the overall fall in the total number of reports per 10,000 population was driven by the drop for those aged 30 and under. Over that period, numbers rose for the over 30s. However, between 2015-16 and 2018-19, numbers per 10,000 population fell for all age groups. The largest overall fall between 2012-13 and 2018-19 was among the under 18s, reflecting the marked fall in court volumes for this age group. There has also been a sharper fall for women than for men.
Chart 2 Number of criminal justice social work reports per 10,000 population by age and gender: 2012-13, 2015-16 & 2018-19
Note : Population aged 16 to 70.
4.8 In 2018-19, there were around 71 CJSWRs (including supplementaries) submitted per 10,000 population (Table 3). This was highest for those living in Dundee City (117), East Ayrshire (114) and Clackmannanshire (109) and lowest for those living in East Lothian (31), East Dunbartonshire (33), Na h-Eileanan Siar (34) and Aberdeenshire (36). The proportion for City of Edinburgh (42) was lower than for any of the other city council areas and just over half the rate for Scotland.
4.9 Between 2017-18 and 2018-19, the total number of reports submitted varied a little across local authorities, with around two-thirds showing a decrease in reports submitted and one-third showing an increase. Further information is provided in the additional datasets which accompany this publication.
Preferred sentencing options
4.10 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 identified needs. 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.
4.11 Forty-six per cent of CJSWRs in 2018-19 recommended the use of a community payback order (Table 8). Nineteen per cent recommended a CPO with supervision but not unpaid work, while 14 per cent recommended unpaid work but no supervision.
4.12 In addition, 11 per cent of reports recommended a deferred sentence of three months or more and five per cent suggested a monetary penalty. Custody was the preferred option in six per cent of reports, while 19 per cent suggested some other form of sentence (including a restriction of liberty order or deferment for a drug treatment and testing order assessment). Thirteen per cent of CJSWRs gave no preferred sentencing option.
4.13 The main outcome for 41 per cent of CJSWRs in 2018-19 was a community payback order (Table 9). Twelve 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 no unpaid work. In 16 per cent of cases, a CPO was given with both supervision and unpaid work.
4.14 Custody was the main outcome for 17 per cent of reports in 2018-19. The largest other main outcome categories in 2018-19 were deferred sentence and monetary penalty (9 and 6 per cent of the total respectively).