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Tuesday, 01 October 2019 14:13

Pre-Sentence Reports - What are they and how can they help?

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If you pleaded guilty to an offence, or were found guilty after trial, the Court may request a pre-sentence report (PSR). This is to give the Court a fuller and more well-balanced picture of who you are (as opposed to focusing purely on your offence) before passing sentence. This may be done as a verbal report, on the day. Alternatively, the Court may adjourn for 3 weeks for a written report. Interviews will be conducted by the Probation Service and will take roughly an hour.

Whilst the delay in your sentencing is understandably frustrating, this report may well be extremely beneficial to you. It is important to remember that it is written by the Probation service, who are completely impartial. They have no association with the police and are not there to try and catch you out. They will ask about your offence, but they will also want to know more about your childhood, employment history, relationships and use of substances. It’s entirely up to you how much you discuss with them, but generally the more information you can provide them with, the better. In turn they can furnish the Court with options for sentence… essentially, it’s in your interest to give the Court as many alternatives to custody as possible!

The following suggestions will help you get the best out of your interview:

Keep your appointment!

The demand for PSR’s are high. If you genuinely cannot make your appointment, then let Probation know well in advance. They will attempt to reschedule before your next Court date; however, slots are limited, and this may not be possible. If you fail to attend an appointment without prior notice, Probation will submit a ‘nil report’ to the Court. This is a far less favourable report, based largely on statistics (e.g. previous convictions). In addition, a failure to attend will cause the Court concern that you might also breach a community sentence, for nonattendance. If the Court feel a report is imperative for sentence, they will adjourn for a further 3 weeks and you will get another interview date.

 

Be polite and engaging

Probation will not just be assessing what you say, but also how you say it. If you can communicate well, are insightful about your offence and can assist the PSR process, the officer may be more likely to believe you would engage with a Probation officer. In this circumstance Probation might be more likely to recommend a community sentence, potentially over a custodial one. 

If you are sorry about the offence, say it!

You will be asked how you feel about the offence now. It is in your interest to express regret and remorse, if that is how you feel. This is your opportunity to convince the Court that you understand the impact your offence had on any victims, and that your likelihood of committing further offences is low.

Be proactive!

If there is time before the interview to make some positive steps, such as join up to a drug agency, do it! Securing work, even if it is voluntary, shows you want to change and are actively moving away from offending behaviour. The Court are less likely to impose a custodial sentence if it means losing any ’protective factors’ that you have put in place.

Take evidence

If you have any medical evidence of mental health issues, medication, psychiatric reports etc this can be extremely useful, particularly if your mental health has been a mitigating factor in your offence.

Here to help!

You will be assessed for an appropriate punishment, given your circumstances, the nature of your offence, risk of reoffending and the likelihood you would comply with the punishment (e.g. unpaid work). However, Probation will also try and identify any areas that you can be supported with that would decrease your likelihood of committing further offences. This support would likely be on addition to your punishment and covers many areas, including drug/alcohol intervention, assistance with education, relationships and anger management.

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