Alternative Delivery Model
Yesterday (19 May 2021), the Ministry of Justice published details of a pre-sentence report pilot scheme currently taking place in 15 magistrates’ courts. The Sentencing White Paper, published in September 2020, highlighted that there has been a significant decrease in the number of PSR’s being requested by the Judiciary over the last decade. The PSR pilot was launched in response to this. My animated chart below shows how the volume of PSRs has changed over recent years and the move away from standard to fast delivery reports as well as the trend towards the oral format.
The Ministry of Justice, HMCTS and the Probation Service has developed an Alternative Delivery Model designed to improve the quality of information presented to court at each of the pilot sites. The pilot will evaluate whether this alternative approach will improve offender outcomes, Judicial confidence and the administration of justice. The pilot launched on 22 March 2021 and was rolled out across 15 magistrates’ courts in 4 phases over 8 weeks. It is now live in all 15 magistrates’ courts.
In the Sentencing White Paper, the Lord Chancellor committed to ensuring that probation staff are supported to produce a high standard of reports and to increase the amount of court disposals which benefit from a PSR.
This aligns with the ambition set out in the Probation Target Operating Model: to provide expert pre-sentence insights to the Judiciary, contribute to efficient court processes and arrangements for enabling successful sentence commencement.
The Alternative Delivery Model
The Alternative Delivery Model comprises three components;
- Encouraging and monitoring a before plea PSR process (set out in the nationally available PSR before plea protocol) – seeking to identify defendants earlier in the criminal justice system
- Maximising the capability of the National Probation Service to deliver higher quality reports on the day through targeted training and development
- Delivery of short format written reports for three priority cohorts that are understood to have more complex needs. These are:
- Female offenders
- Young adult offenders (between 18-24 years of age)
- Offenders who are deemed to be at risk of custody
The priority cohorts were identified as commonly having complex needs, and therefore require a more comprehensive, written PSR rather than an oral report. It is important to note that Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic populations generally show an over-representation in the offender population and the evaluation will be analysing this data to identify if it is possible to discern any impacts for people from ethnic minority communities.
The pilot has also created a new learning and development package for probation court teams in pilot sites. This package is split between online learning and virtual workshops which include a focus on building communications and advocacy skills, tackling racial disparities in the criminal justice system and learning how to become trauma informed and responsive to better support offenders.
The MoJ press release says that “early insights” from the pilot will be collected after 6 months, and a fuller evaluation will be undertaken after 12 months. A further evaluation exercise will also look at longer-term outcomes of offenders throughout the year after sentence.
Thanks to Andy Aitchison for kind permission to use the header image in this post. You can see Andy’s work here.