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The importance of pre-sentence reports
Defendants getting a Pre-Sentence Report more likely to complete their court order.

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The impact of pre-sentence reports

Last week (15 June 2023) the Ministry of Justice published new research on the impact of oral and fast delivery pre-sentence reports (PSRs) on the completion of court orders. The research undertaken by Kristina Gray, Rachael Finn, Joanna Gent & Kezia Huttlestone examines the impact of a PSR oral or fast delivery report on the reason that a court order (or sentence) terminated. This analysis specifically looks at adults sentenced to a Community Order or Suspended Sentence Order (with requirements) in England and Wales in 2016. The infographic I have reproduced below shows the cases considered in the research.


The overall results of the research show statistically significant evidence that those who received a PSR oral or PSR fast delivery in 2016 were more likely to successfully complete their court order, compared with a group of similar offenders who did not receive a PSR. The detailed findings were:

  • 80% of those who received a PSR fast delivery in 2016 successfully completed their court order. This is higher than for similar offenders who did not receive any type of PSR (73%).
  • 73% of those who received a PSR oral in 2016 successfully completed their court order. This is higher than for similar offenders who did not receive any type of PSR (68%).

These impacts on completion of court orders are based on estimates of what would happen if instead of receiving a PSR oral or fast delivery, the case had not received a PSR. This analysis includes PSRs prepared for both magistrate and crown courts.

The researchers caution that the results of this analysis should not be directly compared to termination outcomes in other analyses or to figures such as national averages due to the use of a time-bounded sample, and the propensity score matching (PSM) technique used to ensure otherwise dissimilar groups were comparable. In addition, the results for PSR fast delivery and PSR orals should not be directly compared.

Despite some acknowledged limitations to the study, the researchers conclude that their findings increase the evidence on the effectiveness of PSRs.

They therefore recommend that oral and fast delivery reports are requested and delivered to increase successful termination of court orders.


As we have seen, this research focuses specifically on community sentences. Researchers found that PSRs were not completed in 21% cases in 2016 where community orders were made. Standard (full, written) PSRs were produced in just 3% cases. The most common form of report was an oral PSR (49%) with Fast Delivery reports making up the remaining 27%. The parallel figures for cases in which Suspended Sentence Orders with requirements were made were:

Fast Delivery PSRs     44.4%

PSR Oral                       32.7%

NO PSR                        17.7%

Standard (Full) PSR  5.2%

As we can see, full PSRs are made in just 3% of community orders and 5% of SSOs with requirements. This is an important issue. We know, thanks to a recent Freedom of Information Request by Howard Thomas that last year (2022) 86 women were sent to custody on the basis of an oral report with more than one quarter of these (23) sentenced to longer than six months.

Thanks to Andy Aitchison for kind permission to use the header image in this post. You can see Andy’s work here

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Centre for Justice Innovation finds that a 22% drop in the use of PSRs has resulted into a big fall in the number of community sentences.

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