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.

This document is part of a collection

7 Criminal justice social work reports

(Tables 1 & 6)

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.

The number of CJSWRs submitted (including supplementary reports but excluding letters sent instead of reports) averaged 28,200 over 2017-18 to 2019-20. With the lower volume of cases going through courts during the pandemic, numbers inevitably fell in the following two years to 16,900 and 23,000 respectively. For 2022-23, numbers increased by 15 per cent to 26,400, though this was still slightly lower than the pre-pandemic levels.

The number of full CJSWRs (i.e. excluding supplementary reports) also fell sharply between 2019-20 and 2020-21. Numbers then rose in both 2021-22 and 2022-23, reaching 24,600 in 2022-23. Seven per cent of all reports were supplementary in 2022-23, the lowest in the last ten years.

The vast majority of local authority areas showed an increase in CJSWRs submitted between 2021-22 and 2022-23. Further information is in the additional datasets which are published alongside this publication

In the last five years, just over 30 per cent of CJSWRs were for people aged 31-40 years old. Around one in six CJSWRs were for females.

Preferred sentencing options for criminal justice social work reports (Tables 7 & 8)

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.

Forty-four per cent of CJSWRs in 2022-23 recommended the use of a CPO. Twenty per cent recommended a CPO with supervision but no unpaid work, while 12 per cent recommended unpaid work but no supervision. The proportion for unpaid work but no supervision was back to around the same as the pre-pandemic years. This reflects the fact that there have been less restrictions in 2022-23, making the use of unpaid work requirements less problematic.

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 five per cent of reports. Eighteen per cent suggested some other form of sentence (including a restriction of liberty order or deferment for a drug treatment and testing order assessment). Fourteen per cent of CJSWRs gave no preferred sentencing option.

The main outcome for 41 per cent of CJSWRs in 2022-23 was a CPO. Ten per cent of reports resulted in a CPO with unpaid work but no supervision, and 14 per cent resulted in an order with supervision but no unpaid work. In 18 per cent of cases, the main outcome was a CPO with both supervision and unpaid work.

Custody was the main outcome for 12 per cent of reports in 2022-23. The largest other main outcome categories in 2022-23 were a deferred sentence, a restriction of liberty order and a monetary penalty (11, six and six per cent of the total respectively).


Email: justice_analysts@gov.scot

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