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

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

APPENDIX I: THE DUNSCORE

The Dunscore, developed by Dundee University in 1992, is a method of calculating the risk of custody facing an offender when he or she appears at court. Based on a statistical analysis of data collected in research sites in Scotland it gives a numerical weighting to 6 key variables found to be significantly associated with custodial outcomes. The variables and weightings are:-

  • High Court (2);
  • solemn procedure (2);
  • remanded in custody or in custody for other offences (3);
  • offence gravity (1-5);
  • previous custody (2);
  • previous Community Service or Probation Order in last year (2).

The offence gravity score is arrived at using a table which allocates a weighting of between 1-5 for the principal offence. Using these variables and weightings, the SER author can arrive at a "Dunscore" for each case.

Assessing the Risk of Custody

The risk of custody is divided into 4 categories - low, medium, serious and very serious. The authors suggest that a score of 4 or more is an indication that the court is likely to be considering a custodial sentence. However, it is necessary to analyse a retrospective sample of social enquiry reports and sentencing outcomes at each unit to establish where the risk of custody begins to bite.

Guidance on how to use the Dunscore was issued by Dundee University in 1994 and the Scottish Office funded a national training programme. It is some time now since the statistical variables and weightings were calculated and they may not now be as reliable as they were, due to changes in legislation and sentencing practice.