Review of the Aberdeen Problem Solving Approach: report

Review of the Aberdeen Sheriff’s Court’s Problem Solving Approach for prolific female and young male offenders.

1 Introduction and aims of the Review

1.1 The Aberdeen Problem-Solving Approach

The Aberdeen Problem-Solving Approach ( PSA) has been running in Aberdeen Sheriff Court since November 2015 (for women) and since August 2016 (for young men). It aims to reduce the use of short custodial sentences and reduce reoffending by combining the authority of the court with support and rehabilitative opportunities to address the underlying causes of offending. Unlike traditional problem-solving courts, which target a specific crime ( e.g. domestic abuse) or problem ( e.g. drug use), the Aberdeen PSA's 'specialisation' is people with a history of frequent low-level offending with multiple and complex needs. Those admitted into the PSA have their sentence deferred while they engage with service providers for a specified period of time, during which they must return to court for regular judicial reviews with a dedicated sheriff.

The PSA is a partnership project, funded by Scottish Government, involving the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service, Aberdeen City Council Criminal Justice Social Work ( CJSW), the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, and Police Scotland. Support services for participants are provided by a range of different organisations including Aberdeen Women's Centre and the Venture Trust.

1.2 Aims of the Review

In August 2017, the Scottish Government's Justice Analytical Services Division commissioned Ipsos MORI Scotland and the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research ( SCCJR)/University of Stirling to conduct a Review of the PSA. The aims of the Review were to:

  • Provide useful evidence about how the PSA is delivered and what (if anything) distinguishes it from normal sentencing procedures
  • Identify areas for improvement, lessons learned and good practice that other areas could learn from
  • Explore and describe the experiences of people with convictions who have been admitted to the PSA and, where possible, identify any emerging outcomes for PSA participants and the courts.

This report sets out the findings of that Review. The report is intended to provide feedback on the Aberdeen PSA to policy makers and the Aberdeen Court Service, and to give insights that will be useful to Community Justice Partners in other areas of Scotland who are considering using problem-solving approaches in summary courts.

The next section describes the methods used in the Review. Section 3 provides background information on the concept of problem-solving justice, the Aberdeen pilot's aims, and the target group. In Section 4 we describe the different stages of the PSA process. The emerging outcomes are discussed in Section 5. Throughout the report, we identify issues for local partners in Aberdeen to consider (in blue shaded boxes) and highlight key messages for other areas considering setting up a PSA (in peach shaded boxes), all of which are collated in Section 6.

Four anonymised case studies (on Jillian's Story, Craig’s Story, Kelly’s Story and Angela’s Story) illustrate the different experiences of PSA participants.


Email: Ella Edginton

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