Justice Social Work Statistics in Scotland: 2021-22

This publication presents national-level information on justice social work activity in Scotland. It includes data on justice social work services and social work orders, as well as characteristics of the individuals involved.

This document is part of a collection

4 Court-based services and social work reports

(Tables 1 & 5 to 7)

4.1 There are various tasks associated with providing information and advice to the court. These include:

  • oral/written reports and information at the court's request on specific matters. These inform the sentencing process or the decision to remand to custody rather than grant bail
  • diverting people with mental health difficulties who may be a risk to themselves from remand in custody. This diversion would be either to hospital or to appropriate bail accommodation, where available, for assessment
  • interviewing individuals immediately after the court has passed a disposal involving justice social work. Such interviews further explain the decision of the court and what this means for individuals. They also establish if there are any pressing issues which need dealt with immediately, and they inform individuals about the availability of relevant social work or other services
  • offering advice and practical assistance to family or friends of those appearing on the day of court, when appropriate
  • forwarding relevant information to prisons in the event of a custodial sentence. This would include details on people who may pose a risk of harm to themselves and/or others
  • representing the local authority justice social work service in the court setting (including, where appropriate, court users' groups) and liaising with other professional groups

4.2 Detailed information on bail supervision services can be found in the National guidance on bail supervision. This has recently been updated and published on the Scottish Government website.

4.3 During 2021-22, the courts made 3,800 requests for bail information. This was 11 per cent higher than in 2020-21 but still the second lowest in the last ten years. In some cases, bail information requests may result in the use of supervised bail rather than remand. A total of 570 bail supervision cases commenced in 2021-22, the highest in the last ten years. Numbers had increased sharply in each of 2018-19 and 2019-20. They then fell by 48 per cent in 2020-21, reflecting the fact that a number of courts were closed for long periods due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

4.4 Same day reports are either pre-sentence reports or specific sentence reports requested by the court. There were 1,100 such reports provided to the courts in 2021-22. This was down 22 per cent on 2020-21 and the lowest in the last decade. In 2021-22, there were 7,700 post sentence interviews with people remanded into custody or receiving custodial sentences for the first time. This was higher than the COVID-affected total of 4,100 in 2020-21 but still only around half of the number in 2019-20.

Criminal justice social work reports

(Tables 1 & 5)

4.5 The criminal justice social work report (CJSWR) in its current format was introduced across Scotland from February 2011. The CJSWR ensures a consistent provision of information is provided, including the social worker's professional assessment. This report helps 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 court must request a CJSWR:

  • before imposing a custodial sentence for the first time or where a person is under 21
  • when imposing a community payback order (CPO) with a supervision requirement or a level 2 (over 100 hours) unpaid work or other activity requirement
  • when imposing a drug treatment and testing order
  • when the person is already subject to statutory supervision.

4.6 The number of CJSWRs submitted (including supplementary reports but excluding letters sent instead of reports) have averaged 28,200 over 2017-18 to 2019-20. With the lower volume of cases going through courts in 2020-21, numbers inevitably fell to 16,900. Numbers increased by 36 per cent to 23,000 in 2021-22, though this was still lower than the levels of previous years.

4.7 The number of full CJSWRs (i.e. excluding supplementary reports) also fell, by 41 per cent between 2019-20 and 2020-21, to 15,100. Numbers then rose by 39 per cent to 21,000 in 2021-22. Nine per cent of all reports were supplementary in 2021-22, slightly down on the previous six years, when it was around 10 to 11 per cent.

4.8 The increase in CJSWRs in 2021-22, was reflected throughout all 32 local authority areas. Further information is in the additional datasets which are published alongside this publication

4.9 In the last five years, around 30 per cent of CJSWRs were for people aged 31-40 years old. One in six CJSWRs were for females.

Preferred sentencing options for criminal justice social work reports

(Tables 6 & 7)

4.10 The criminal justice social work report writer provides a professional assessment on the suitability of available sentencing options. This assessment should highlight the individual's attitude to offending and motivation to change, as well as any risks and identified needs. It should also attempt to maximise the opportunity for the individual to change their behaviour and desist from offending. 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 there are significant difficulties around substance use or mental health. There is also the expectation that the report will include an assessment of the suitability or otherwise of a CPO. This should include the individual's motivation to successfully complete the order.

4.11 Forty-five per cent of CJSWRs in 2021-22 recommended the use of a CPO. Twenty-one per cent recommended a CPO with supervision but no unpaid work, while 11 per cent recommended unpaid work but no supervision. The proportion for unpaid work but no supervision was higher than in 2020-21 but still lower than earlier years. This is likely to reflect awareness of the impact of necessary public health measures relating to the coronavirus pandemic on the delivery of unpaid work. This included the suspension of face to face delivery of unpaid work for periods, and lower capacity at other times.

4.12 In addition, 12 per cent of reports recommended either a structured deferred sentence or a deferred sentence of three months or more. A further six per cent suggested a monetary penalty. Custody was the preferred option in six per cent of reports. Twenty per cent suggested some other form of sentence (including a restriction of liberty order or deferment for a drug treatment and testing order assessment). Eleven per cent of CJSWRs gave no preferred sentencing option.

4.13 The main outcome for 42 per cent of CJSWRs in 2021-22 was a CPO. Eight per cent of reports resulted in a CPO with unpaid work but no supervision, and 16 per cent resulted in an order with supervision but no unpaid work. In 17 per cent of cases, the main outcome was a CPO with both supervision and unpaid work.

4.14 Custody was the main outcome for 13 per cent of reports in 2021-22. The largest other main outcome categories in 2021-22 were a deferred sentence and a monetary penalty (nine and seven per cent of the total respectively).


Email: justice_analysts@gov.scot

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