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National Objectives for Social Work Services in the Criminal Justice System: Standards Social Enquiry Reports and associated Court Services


National Objectives for Social Work Services in the Criminal Justice System: Standards - Social Enquiry Reports and associated Court Services


8.1There are a range of tasks associated with providing information and advice to the court and a throughcare service for offenders and their families which court based social work staff must carry out. These include:

8.1.1dealing with requests for reports, making them available to the court, and presenting them in court when necessary;

8.1.2providing oral and stand down reports for the court;

8.1.3interviewing offenders immediately after the court has asked for a report;

8.1.4interviewing offenders/accused persons immediately after the court has passed a custodial sentence or remand;

8.1.5interviewing offenders immediately after the court has made a disposal involving social work;

8.1.6forwarding relevant information to the receiving prison in the event of a custodial sentence;

8.1.7representing the social work authority in the court setting including where appropriate, court user groups and liaising with other professional groups.

8.1.8helping to divert persons suffering from mental disorder who may be at risk to themselves from a custodial remand, either to hospital (in conjunction with local medical and psychiatric services) or to appropriate bail accommodation where available, for assessment (Section 200 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995). In this context, it is important to establish good liaison procedures with local mental health services and to draw appropriately on the skills of staff qualified as Designated Mental Health Officers.

Dealing with Requests for Reports, Making Them Available, and Speaking to Them in Court When Necessary

8.2Social work authority staff are responsible for:

8.2.1making arrangements with the clerk of court for court social work staff to be notified promptly about the details of all social enquiry reports requested and provided with the information outlined at para 2.1.

8.2.2notifying the relevant social work office following a request for a social enquiry or other report. This must be done within one working day of the request having been made. The notification should include all the information listed at para 2.1.

8.2.3receiving social enquiry reports and other reports for the court from report writers and making sure they reach the clerk of court in the timescale laid down in the standards (see para 6.7).

8.2.4speaking in court to social enquiry reports and other social work reports where necessary. It is not practical or cost effective for writers of reports to be present every time to speak to their reports so court social work staff must be available to do this for them when required. They must therefore be able to liaise with social enquiry report writers at short notice.

8.2.5clarifying issues raised in social enquiry reports or other reports to the court. If necessary they should contact the social enquiry report writer to:

iclarify a particular issue;

iifollow up any query raised by the court in connection with a social enquiry report or other report;

iiinotify authors of social enquiry reports and other reports of the outcome of the case and pass on any relevant comments from the bench. This must wherever possible be done within one working day of the court decision.

Stand Down Interviews and Oral Reports

8.3Court social work staff are best placed to provide stand down interviews and oral reports to the court in accordance with the standards outlined at paragraphs 7.2 - 7.9.

Interviewing Offenders Immediately After The Court Has Requested A Report

8.4Court social work staff must, wherever possible, interview all offenders whose cases are continued for a social enquiry or other social work report before they leave the court precincts in order to:

8.4.1make sure the offender has understood the court's decision and its implications;

8.4.2confirm the offender's address and telephone number and availability for interview;

8.4.3give the offender the address and telephone number of the social work office to which the request will be sent;

8.4.4give the offender a leaflet which explains the nature and purpose of reports.

Interviews Immediately After The Court Has Remanded The Offender In Custody Or Passed A Custodial Sentence

8.5A custodial remand or sentence may be distressing for the person concerned. In addition they may have no time to deal with practical matters which require attention. It is therefore important to offer an immediate interview which aims to:

8.5.1clarify if necessary the decision of the court;

8.5.2establish whether any pressing problems should be dealt with immediately e.g. arrangements for child care, prescribed drug requirements etc.

8.5.3inform the offender/accused person about the social work services available in prison and how they can be accessed;

8.6Court social work staff should therefore, wherever possible and practicable, seek to provide persons remanded in or sentenced to custody with an opportunity to see a social worker before they are transferred to prison. They must make the necessary arrangements with the police to obtain access to prisoners for this purpose.

Risk of Self-Harm

8.7Where social work staff at court become aware of information about the possible risk of self harm which requires to be sent on to the receiving prison they should:

8.7.1record the essential information on the SPS Suicide Risk Identification Court Form which will be distributed by SPS (copy at Appendix IV). The information should state as clearly as possible what the concerns are and any other supporting information e.g. a copy of a social enquiry or medical report should be attached to the form where relevant. When completing the form, social work staff at court should consider themselves to be the "notifying person or agency". However, the information provided should include, either on the form in the section headed "information" or as part of the supporting information, details of how to contact any person other than the social worker at court who may have registered a concern about the prisoner and who may have a closer knowledge of the individual. This information would make it possible for the receiving prison to ask that person for more information or to invite them to take part in any case conference which may be called to discuss how best to handle the situation. In outlining this procedure, it is recognised that, in some instances, third parties who have registered their concern may not wish to be identified. In such situations, social work staff at court should explain the reasons why this information may be helpful but should respect the wishes of the person registering concern;

8.7.2when completed, give the form and any supporting information to the responsible police officer to be attached to the warrant which accompanies the prisoner to the receiving prison.

8.8Where for any reason these arrangements cannot be implemented or where social work staff at court are concerned that the arrangements do not work efficiently, they should telephone the prison duty manager and follow this up with a faxed copy of the information (the relevant telephone and fax numbers are included at Appendix V).

8.9It is the responsibility of the prison to pass on the information they have received from social work staff at court to the social work staff working in prisons so that they can contribute to the service response.

8.10It is possible that social work staff at court may make contact with the wrong prison because plans for accommodating the prisoner are not clear or have changed at short notice. In these circumstances it is the responsibility of the SPS, through the prison duty manager who has been contacted, to find out where the prisoner has been accommodated and pass on the information as quickly as possible.

Priorities for Interview

8.11The volume of cases in some courts may mean that it is impossible to interview every offender remanded in or sentenced to custody. Where this is so, all offenders under the age of 18 not accompanied by a social worker should wherever possible be seen. In addition the following priorities for interview should be taken into account:

8.11.1offenders/accused persons likely to be at risk to themselves or others;

8.11.2offenders/accused persons for whom custody may be particularly distressing;

8.11.3offenders receiving life sentences;

8.11.4offenders convicted of crimes against children;

8.11.5single parents;

8.11.6offenders/accused persons facing their first experience of custody;

8.11.7offenders/accused persons who are known to be HIV positive or to suffer from AIDS or hepatitis C.

Follow Up

8.12Where appropriate, court social work staff should follow up these interviews by informing family members of the court's decision, particularly where custody was not anticipated and where prompt action may be required. It may also be necessary to contact the relevant local social work office.

Interviews Immediately Following Court Disposals Involving Social Work

8.13Court social work staff should interview all offenders given a disposal involving social work before they leave the court precinct. These disposals include:

8.13.1Probation Orders;

8.13.2Community Service Orders;

8.13.3Deferred Sentences with any condition involving social work services;

8.13.4Supervised Attendance Orders;

8.13.5Supervision and Treatment Orders;

8.13.6 Restriction of Liberty Orders;

8.13.6 Drug Treatment and Testing Orders.

8.14The purposes of these interviews will include:-

8.14.1checking that the offender understands the decision of the court;

8.14.2checking the offender's current address and availability for contact;

8.14.3confirming, wherever possible, arrangements for the first appointment with a Supervising Officer;

8.14.4reinforcing the importance attached to the requirements of an order;

8.14.5dealing with any issues requiring immediate attention before the first appointment with a Supervising Officer.

8.15Any immediate concerns or unusual reactions noted during or after the court appearance must be passed on to the social worker who will be dealing with the case.

Court Based Social Work Assistance

8.16There are a number of other tasks which court based social work staff may undertake associated with offering a social work service to the wide range of people who attend the busier courts. The services include:

8.16.1providing information and advice to the families and friends of offenders and accused persons. They frequently attend court and are often under stress as well as being distressed by the outcome of court proceedings. Social work staff should try to be accessible and responsive to their needs. While the scope of on-the-spot services may be limited, social work staff must be well informed and able to provide relevant information and to refer on to other offices or agencies where appropriate;

8.16.2the providing of information, advice and support to witnesses/victims of crime where no witness support service is available. Victims/witnesses appearing in court may be under severe stress. Court social workers should provide immediate assistance wherever possible as well as making appropriate referrals to victim services.

8.16.3crisis intervention. Their place in the court setting means that court social work staff are in a good position to identify particular problems or crises faced by offenders and their families. They may make referrals to agencies dealing with financial and housing problems, and with alcohol and drug misuse.