Justice Social Work Statistics In Scotland: 2022-23

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.

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Annex B Definitions

The following section provides a brief description of the main types of justice social work orders and services. More information on social work orders and the operation of the justice system is in the Criminal Proceedings in Scotland publications. Details on court services is in commensurate justice social work practice guidance. In addition to social work orders issued by the courts, the procurator fiscal can offer work orders as an alternative to summary court proceedings when appropriate.

Diversion from prosecution is one of several alternatives to prosecution available to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) upon receipt from the police of a report of alleged offending. Diversion is the process by which COPFS refers an accused person to local authority justice social work (or a partner agency) for support, treatment or other action as a means of addressing the underlying causes of the alleged offending and preventing further offending. Diversion from prosecution will be considered in any case where the person reported to COPFS has an identifiable need that has contributed to the offending and where it is assessed there is a sufficiency of evidence and that diversion is the most appropriate outcome in the public interest.

Bail information services assist courts through the verification of information in cases where bail might otherwise have been opposed or refused. In a proportion of cases, this will result in a period of supervised bail. Bail supervision is a social work or third sector service that supports people to comply with the conditions of their bail. Updated national bail supervision guidance was published in May 2022.

An electronic monitoring order can be issued by courts as part of a bail order. It can therefore be imposed alongside, and run in parallel with, a bail supervision case. The electronic monitoring order is an option where a specific condition may need to be in place (e.g. a curfew period or a condition to stay away from a specific location such as a witness' address).

Local authority justice social work assess people for suitability for bail supervision and electronic monitoring. This is based on case marking information provided by COPFS (e.g. where cases are marked as ‘bail opposed’) or as a result of a specific instruction from the court.

A court may ask for a same day oral or written report from a court-based worker during the court proceedings and adjourn a case until later in the day for this to be completed. A same day report will be a brief report and not a full criminal justice social work report. Same day reports tend to deal with issues specific to the case to inform decision-making. The information may be relevant to decisions about bail or custodial remand, the need for a full report or the need to defer a case to a future date and final sentence.

The community payback order (CPO) was introduced by the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010. The CPO replaced provisions for community service, probation and supervised attendance orders for offences committed from 1 February 2011 onwards. It is available to all courts, with some restrictions applying to justice of the peace courts in relation to treatment and programme requirements. For the period covered by this publication, there were up to ten different requirements which could be issued at the initial imposition of a CPO. This included the restricted movement requirement which could be issued at initial imposition of an order from 16th May 2022. The most common requirements issued as part of a CPO are unpaid work and supervision. Courts may not impose unpaid work on someone under 16 years old. Supervision must be imposed for someone aged under 18. More information on the CPO is in the most recent community payback order practice guidance .

The community payback order practice guidance contains many principles of best practice, including:

  • the first direct contact should take place on the same day as the order is imposed, or the next working day
  • where a supervision requirement has been imposed, the appointed case manager should arrange to meet the individual within five working days of the date of imposition of the order
  • where an unpaid work requirement has been imposed, arrangements should be made for the individual to begin the induction process within five working days of the date of imposition of the order
  • where an unpaid work requirement is imposed, the work placement should begin within seven working days of the order being imposed.

The drug treatment and testing order (DTTO) is a high tariff disposal for people with more serious substance use related to their offending, who might otherwise receive a custodial sentence. This order includes the need for regular reviews by the court and for the person to consent to frequent random drug tests throughout the lifetime of the order. On the basis of these regular reviews, the judiciary may, among other courses of action, vary the conditions of the order. This may include varying the frequency of testing, varying the type of treatment or the frequency of attendance at treatment, revoking the order on the basis that satisfactory progress has been made or, in the event of non-compliance, revoking the order and re-sentencing the person for the original offence.

DTTOs were rolled out across Scotland in phases between 1999 and 2002. They are available to all courts apart from justice of the peace courts. In addition, the less intensive DTTO II was introduced in the Lothian areas (apart from West Lothian) in June 2008 for people committing lower tariff offences at a relatively early stage in their lives. The DTTO II is also available from justice of the peace courts and can additionally be issued in the Highland area.

For several months during 2022 and 2023, the DTTO service in Edinburgh was suspended to new assessments/ orders. This led to an overall decrease in the numbers imposed during the year 2022-23. More details are provided in in section 9.

Fiscal work orders allow fiscals to offer unpaid work orders as an alternative to prosecution, where:

  • There is enough evidence to prosecute a summary offence,
  • A financial penalty or other direct measure is not deemed appropriate.

These orders were introduced nationally on 1 April 2015. They can be for a minimum of ten and a maximum of 50 hours and should be completed within six months.

Restriction of liberty orders have been available to courts (excluding justice of the peace courts) since May 2002. This order can be imposed for periods of up to one year. It involves restricting an individual to a specified place for up to 12 hours per day and/or from a specified place for up to 24 hours. The number of people receiving a restriction of liberty order is reported in the Criminal Proceedings in Scotland publications. G4S provide the electronic monitoring service in Scotland, under Scottish Government contract. This includes the monitoring of restriction of liberty orders. Some additional management data will be available from G4S.

Structured deferred sentences (SDS) offer courts the option to provide a short period of intensive supervision to individuals post-conviction but before final sentencing. They are designed to help individuals address their underlying issues, improve their employment prospects and build a sense of routine and self-esteem, allowing them to move away from offending. SDS are not a statutory order and as such are not used by every local authority. Areas with SDS schemes may utilise it as part of an early intervention approach, as an alternative or precursor to a community sentence or as an alternative to a short period of custody, depending on the needs of the local area. The Scottish Government published National guidance on structured deferred sentences in Scotland in February 2021.

Throughcare is the provision of a range of social work and associated services to people serving a prison sentence and their families. These services are available from the point of sentence or remand, during the period of imprisonment and following release into the community. People serving more than four years are released under statutory supervision. Those serving less than four years who are short-term sex offenders under Section 15 of the Management of Offenders Etc. (Scotland) Act 2005, or who are subject to an extended sentence or supervised release order, are also supervised on release. The aim of throughcare services is public protection, as well as assisting individuals to prepare for release and supporting community reintegration and rehabilitation.

Voluntary throughcare is available to those who are not subject to statutory throughcare, but who request support from local authorities while in custody or within 12 months of release.


Email: justice_analysts@gov.scot

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