Criminal Justice Social Work

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Criminal justice social workers help people who have come into contact with the criminal justice system. They can help people to understand the criminal justice system, provide support and advice, and work with people to reduce the risk of reoffending.

The following information provides an overview of the different ways you might come into contact with criminal justice social work.

They conduct assessments and write reports

Criminal justice social work reports provide the court with information and advice to work out the most appropriate sentence

Parole Home Background and Home Leave Reports assess the level of risk an individual might pose in the community and how that risk can be managed safely

Progress and Completion reports might be carried out as a part of a community sentence

Suitability Reports are carried out in relation to drug treatment and testing orders, diversion from prosecution, fiscal work orders and restriction of liberty orders.

They supervise community-based sentences

Community Payback Orders can include:

  • Compensation
  • Offender supervision
  • Unpaid work or other activity
  • Programme
  • Mental health treatment
  • Drug treatment
  • Alcohol treatment
  • Residence
  • Conduct

Diversion from prosecution is when the individual is referred to social work rather than being prosecuted.

Drug Treatment and Testing Orders (DTTO) are intended to tackle the drug problem that is directly leading to the offending behaviour.

Bail Supervision is carried out when an individual is released “on bail” as opposed to being kept in custody.

Restriction of liberty orders restrict where a person must be and when.  This involves electronic monitoring. 

A Structured Deferred Sentence is when the court defers sentencing until after a person has carried out a piece of intensive support provided by social work. If the individual complies with the support, the court may take it into account when sentencing them. 

They assist people who are leaving prison and returning to the community (sometimes known as throughcare and aftercare)

Supervised Release Order can be used when a person is sentenced to less than 4 years in prison.  If the court believes they are likely to pose a risk of harm to the community, they can be compulsorily supervised for up to 1 year. 

Short Term Sex Offender Licence involves the compulsory supervision of a person convicted of a sexual offence, and sentenced to between 6 months and 4 years in prison, from the date of their release until the end of their sentence.

Extended Sentences involve the supervision of an individual following their custodial sentence. This can be up to 5 years if sentenced in the Sheriff Court and 10 years if sentenced in the High Court.

Parole Licence and Non-Parole Licence apply when a person is sentenced to imprisonment for 4 years or more. At the half-way point of their sentence they will become eligible for parole and, if the parole board agree, they can be released on parole licence.  If they have served two-thirds of their sentence, then they will be released on non-parole licence.  Both of these licences can have conditions attached.

Life Licence only applies at the discretion of the parole board.  A life prisoner’s case is considered after the punishment part of the sentence has expired and they will only be released on life licence if the parole board feels they no longer pose a threat to public safety.

Order of Lifelong Restriction involves the lifelong supervision of people considered to be high-risk violent offenders and sexual offenders. 

Voluntary Throughcare - it is possible to request throughcare even if it is not ordered by the court. Each prisoner and their family are entitled to support until 1 year after they are released. 

They facilitate programmes with a focus on inclusion and reducing re-offending

Each local authority area will have its own programmes; some examples include:

  • Drug and Alcohol Intervention Services aimed at breaking the cycle of repeat offending
  • Offending Awareness Programme, run by Action for Children, focusing on raising an individual’s awareness of the consequences of their offending and to help them to develop skills to better manage their behaviour and understand the victim’s perspective
  • Employability Services, delivered in many areas by Apex Scotland, help people to progress towards employment.
  • Caledonian System is a programme to address men’s domestic abuse and to improve the lives of women, children and men. 

They help to manage people who are considered to be high-risk offenders

Criminal justice social work have a key role to play in the Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) that apply to people convicted of a sexual offence, people who may cause serious harm to the public and Restricted Patients (sometimes referred to as Mentally Disordered Offenders).

Making a complaint about criminal justice social work

If you are unhappy with the service you or someone else has received from criminal justice social work, you may want to make a complaint. You may want to complain about:

  • Failure or refusal to provide a service
  • Inadequate quality or standard of service
  • Unhappiness at how the service is provided because of how it affects you
  • Services and actions not matching what the local council website says it will do
  • Incompetence in communicating with you, for example not calling back or writing when staff said they would
  • Delays in providing something
  • How a member of staff talks to you or treats you

Source: Citizens Advice Scotland

Citizens Advice Scotland are an excellent source of support, should you need to make a complaint about social work.  Their website clearly explains:

It is important to note that you cannot complain if you are taking legal action about the same issue.  

A table with examples of appropriate language use
A table showing the notification periods for the various sentence types. Prison sentence of 30 months or more (including life), Indefinite. Order for lifelong restriction, Indefinite. Admission to a hospital subject to a restriction order, Indefinite. Prison sentence of more than 6 months but less than 30 months, 10 years. Prison sentence of 6 months or less, 7 years. Admission to a hospital without a restriction order, 7 years. Community payback order with an offender supervision requirement, The length of the offender supervision requirement. Any other sentence (e.g. a fine or admonition), 5 years.
Last updated:
February 24, 2024
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