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Pre-Sentence Reports

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 18 Sep 2020 |
 
Pre-sentence Report Probation Sentence

If you’ve pleaded guilty to a criminal offence, the judge or your defence lawyer may request a pre-sentence report. This is essentially an impartial report that gives the sentencing judge (or magistrates) an idea of your background and the most suitable punishment for the offence that you have committed. It is written with the seriousness of the offence in mind, as well as your suitability to carry out particular types of sentences (e.g. types of community sentences.)

The Interview

If a pre-sentence report is ordered in your case, you will have an interview with a probation officer who then writes the report on you. For obvious reasons it is important to cooperate with the preparation of the report as otherwise this can have a negative impact on the sentence you are given. Some courts actually make it a condition of post-conviction bail that you cooperate with the probation service in ensuring that the report is written. If you do not turn up to the appointment, you can sometimes rearrange if there are extenuating circumstances, while in other cases you may have to be sentenced without the report.

What Is A Pre-Sentence Report For?

A pre-sentence report is intended to give the sentencing court some understanding as to why you committed the offence, how you feel about it now, and what your background, family and work circumstances are. Using this information, the court will decide the most appropriate sentence to give you. It is important to note that the court does not have to go along with the recommendation in the report, and the probation officer’s opinion is not binding on the type of sentence you get. This means, for example, that if you have committed a serious offence and the report recommends a lot of community punishment, you could still be sent to prison.

In practice, however, if you are sentenced in the magistrates’ court the bench will nearly always go along with the recommendation in the report. It is quite common, though, for judges in the crown court to take absolutely no notice of the pre-sentence report and to pass a completely different sentence instead. In some cases, this may be a totally different type of sentence. For example, a pre-sentence report that recommends a Community Punishment Order of 240 hours may be ignored by a judge who imposes a six month period of imprisonment suspended for two years.

Who Sees The Report?

The people who see the report are: you, your solicitor, your barrister (if you have one), the prosecution, the judge or magistrates, the court clerk and probation officers. You will be allowed an opportunity to read through your report before the sentencing hearing. If there is anything within the report that you disagree with you should let your lawyer know before you get into court so that the issue can be raised. The report will not be read out in court, but the prosecution, defence or judge can make reference to it or ask questions about it.

What If Prison Is Unavoidable?

In some cases, a pre-sentence report can be asked for even if a lengthy sentence of imprisonment is inevitable. This is because the report could affect the length of, or later management of, the sentence. It could also help to explain, for example, the fact that there has been a long period of time between previous convictions and the current offence.

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Hello again, Lee. I should have added that the whole point of speaking to a probation officer is to assess the degree of risk that an offender poses. And, to be honest, even with a caution (which doesn't exist, at the moment) and with representation and without replying to the probation officer's questions, the probation officer could still come to the view that the offender poses the maximum risk. This isnt like a court trial. There isn't a prosecution and a defence. The probation officer can write whatever he or she feels is correct in the report. There is no jury. When and if ever you do write to the charity that I mentioned, you might like to ask them to consider whether or not your legal advice had been sufficient. If it has been, there is always the possibility (however unpalatable for you that it may be) that the judge and the probation officer were right.
Social Issues - 18-Sep-20 @ 9:03 AM
Hello, Lee. When you speak to a probation officer you are not under oath or under caution. One is to signify that you won't lie to the court and the other is to appraise you of your rights (mainly to silence.) Incidently, if you believe that the Probation Service should also be bound by law to caution offenders before interviewing them, it would require a change in the law. But, it's a fascinating idea. You should write to the charity the Howard League about it. I work with them sometimes. It would require something of a campaign to achieve. Unfortunately, I don't know anything about you or your crime. So, I don't know whether the judge or the probation officer made correct choices. If you're going to mount a campaign, you'll need a sympathetic subject to form the basis of it. (You can still be the brains behind the project even if you aren't the public face of the campaign. It's one for you to think about and to be honest with yourself about.) In respect of your direct question: Yes. A probation officer can ask you anything and write anything about you in a report. And, no. Unlike in the pre-trial phase of a criminal investigation, where everybody has a right to counsel, there is no automatic right to be represented at a probation meeting. You do raise a fascinating issue. Unfortunately, I'm a criminal justice campaigner and not a prison rights campaigner. So, I shan't be taking this case up. But, you can.
Social Issues - 18-Sep-20 @ 8:33 AM
Hi I have recently pleaded guilty in magistrates court (as advised by the judge himself) and was hoping to receive just a fine. However the judge ordered I do a probation interview prior to sentencing which I did and fully cooperated. In the interview the officer asked me to describe my version of events for the crime and I quickly did. I assumed this was just an overview and the details improvised were incorrect as I never realised this would be pitched in court to me. in the sentencing afterwards the judge used the comments in that interview to say I said different things to the case file. I didn't know that I was under oath or arrest that I had to explain in full detail then he sentenced me with a more severe sentence because my version of events in the probation interview were different to the case. How can that be correct. Is this allowed? This was not explained to me and this is my first ever experience of a court proceeding so have no idea. I'm guessing there is nothing I can do but I need to know for peace of mind if this is how the law system works. If it is I feel for people who have to deal with this. It's poor system.
Lee - 17-Sep-20 @ 8:31 AM
Hamish, the website prisonersfamilies.org has current information about how courts are remanding either into custody or on bail, during the pandemic. As far as I can tell, the decision, from the look of that website, is not logically any different from the one to be made before the pandemic. Or put differently, current, publicly available information doesn't seem to be suggesting that the pandemic is making it easier to get bail.
Social Issues - 30-Aug-20 @ 10:03 AM
Hamish, you seem to have provided the answer to your own question, or most of it. What you've asked is essentially: Will I be given a community sentence, if I do not qualify for one? Nobody here will know. But, from what you've said it looks as if you've kept your difficulties away from your legal aid lawyer. Obviously, defence lawyers are there to help defendants. They have a legal obligation to do so. I expect that what happens to you now is up to the court. But, I think that you already know that.
Social Issues - 30-Aug-20 @ 9:34 AM
KT, what you're asking for is straightforward legal advice. Plenty of law firms give free legal advice. If I were you I would search for one of them.
Social Issues - 30-Aug-20 @ 9:25 AM
I'm 2 days past deadline to provide suitable address for community detention, my preferred address is awaiting auckland level 2 before they're fully committ, second adrress not as ideal, not helping legal aid lawyer not answering anything. Covid obviously unprecedented times would anyone no if I'd have grounds to further remand sentencing. ??
Hamish - 26-Aug-20 @ 6:01 AM
My daughter has been sent to prison after being found guilty. The judge did not get pre sentencing report. We are devastated as this was not expected. My daughter is afraid that if she appeals and fails she will serve even longer.
Kt 70 - 23-Aug-20 @ 8:05 PM
Hello, there appear to be a couple of issues with your question. What you appear to be saying is that your fiance has pleaded guilty and has been remanded before sentencing. If I were someone close to this case, I'd prepare myself for a disappointment. I'm sorry not to be able to make a more hopeful comment.
Social Issues - 28-Jul-20 @ 10:31 PM
My fiancé has peeled guilty to petty crime affences and is now on judges remand he’s been in there over a month now we’ll. Will a pre sentencing report help he’s sent acing? He suffers from mental health and fiscal disabilities and has had the worst life ever.
Mon - 28-Jul-20 @ 6:48 PM
Hello Star I'm not a legal representative. But, I am a criminal justice campaigner. Anybody can write to the National Probation Service, giving any details that they wish to give. Whether or not the Probation Service, as a whole, acts on it is another matter entirely. I suspect that you were given an investigating officer, when your ex committed his offence. If this had happened to me, I would contact the investigating officer again and explain that I did not feel sufficiently protected by the current injunctions, because they had been breached a number of times. I'm afraid that I didn't understand what you meant by working with solicitors or getting away with convictions. However, what seems to be clear from your message is that you don't feel safe. I'd also contact womensaid.org.uk I'm sure an advisor from there can help you to make take the right steps.
Social Issues - 10-Jul-20 @ 6:51 PM
My ex partner has breached a non mol order and has pleaded guilty. He has been released on bail and is due back in court for a pre sentence. He has got away with convictions in the past as he works with solicitors and gets character refrences and i am worried he will also do the same now.Can i contact the probation team and make them aware of this.
star - 1-Jul-20 @ 4:43 PM
Possession charges, 2 prior DUI’s (over 15 years ago) contributing to delinquency of a minor and reckless driving charge (2 years ago) are all going to be in a pre-sentence report for a man who was recently convicted of two DWI’s (the same day) along with reckless driving and failure to report an accident. With Heroine and cocaine in his system he hit a girl head on. Was charged with MAIMING but not convicted. In your opinion, what type of punishment is this guy facing?
maiming101 - 16-Mar-20 @ 3:15 AM
If a person is on his 3rd conviction ( criminal damage to my daughters mobile phone and harassment ) his 3rd now for the unprevoked common assault on my daughters boyfriend for which the rwport is needed. Will the judge / probation officer be made aware of his history, will it have any impact on the officers recommendation. And knowing the ex's narcissistic behaviour with the caff caffcass officer during the family court who did seem to side with him, will he be able to manipulate the situation to his advantage again now his freedom may be at risk. He will cry he's concerned about his nearly 2 year old daughter but in all honestyhe only uses her as a way to still attemptto control my daughter. Bladey2020 - 11-Mar-20 @ 8:13 PM Hello Bladey2020 I'm not convinced that this website is answering queries any more. It would be a shame if they stopped, because I found the service hugely interesting and quite unlike anything that I've ever seen before. I'm a social campaigner. I'm not a legal professional. But, there are some points in your question that are of general public interest. The judge does of course have direct access to a defendant's criminal record. The Probation Service does too. Neither of them will have access to the defendant's previous attitude. They won't know what he's said to people or what people have said to him, unless it's a matter of public record. If there are previous reports, the Probation Service can read those. But, these are all people who are very experienced in dealing with criminals, especially repeat offenders. One of the obvious questions for anybody, you (don't need to be a judge), when it comes to dealing with a repeat offender is: Why did being arrested and punished last time not put an end to this person's offending behaviour? And, I'm pretty sure that the probation officer will ask him that, directly.
Social Issues - 13-Mar-20 @ 9:05 AM
If a person is on his 3rd conviction ( criminal damage to my daughters mobile phone and harassment ) his 3rd now for the unprevoked common assault on my daughters boyfriend for which the rwport is needed. Will the judge / probation officer be made aware of his history, will it have any impact on the officers recommendation. And knowing the ex's narcissistic behaviour with the caff caffcass officer during the family court who did seem to side with him, will he be able to manipulate the situation to his advantage again now his freedom may be at risk. He will cry he's concerned about his nearly 2 year old daughter but in all honestyhe only uses her as a way to still attemptto control my daughter.
Bladey2020 - 11-Mar-20 @ 8:13 PM
Can a pre sentence be bad for you? How likely are you to avoid jail from a pre sentence report? Does the whole of probation decide on recommendations or just one probation officer that works with you? Also if the judge ordered a pre sentence report that was initially going to sentence you to jail on that day but then asked for a pre sentence report and to xine back on another date to decide is this more likely to mean avoiding jail or a lesser sentence, and what gets put in your your pre sentence report?thanks
Flower543 - 26-Feb-20 @ 7:55 PM
In response to my own comment, there is a judge, Stephen Ashurst, QC, at Teeside Crown Court, who is currently reported in the Hartlepool Mail, to be giving a public master class on this process. The judge is concerned that a convict, Philip Metcalf, might not be suitable to be returned to his family. A restraining order against him has been lifted. The judge, fearing that Metcalf's partner may be in need of the court's protection, has instructed the police and the Probation Service to examine the family's circumstances and prepare reports for the court so that decisions can be made. I'm going to keep copies of the article. So, next time (and there will be a next time) I read about a convicted wifebeater returning from prison and mangling the self-same woman once again, I will be able to reasonably object that this situation should never have been allowed to happen in the first place.
Social Issues - 22-Nov-19 @ 9:33 AM
This section the "who sees this report" is incorrect, I have had a pre sentencing report from the probation service, neither my solicitor or myself where given a copy of it before the trial, so we could not object to anything in it as being incorrect. The report was also read out in court by the probation officer who compiled it so again the information you are giving is incorrect. I was given an indication of what sentence the probation service were recommending by word of mouth but that is all.
Rufus - 19-Nov-19 @ 12:06 PM
Why are wifebeating convicts not managed properly by the Probation Service? Take Mark Power, from Birmingham, who was imprisoned for DV, released and went home and threw the self-same girlfriend downstairs, breaking her back. Almost identically, Damian Hudson, from Hartlepool was severally accused, but not convicted of DV, until his girlfriend jumped out of a window to escape. That time he was convicted and imprisoned. (He is in prison now.) The same girlfriend is widely reported, in local news, to want to live with him upon his prison release (similar to the case above.) Objective, independent readers might speculate about the great benefits to be gained from living entirely separately from serial violent domestic offenders. But, be that as it may, why did the Probation Service and the police not prevent Mark Power from throwing his girlfriend down stairs? He was already a known violent convict. And, she and Damian's girlfriend were already known vulnerable victims. And, why are the two services not planning right now, to prevent Damien Hudson from throwing his girlfriend out of another window, as soon as he is released from prison? Because, that is precisely what he will do.
Social Issues - 10-Nov-19 @ 9:59 AM
My ex partner is due to have a pre sentencing report done. He is still dping the crime which he was arrested for (drug dealing) all of this happened 10 months ago and i have only just found out. He has asked for a copy of my daughters birth certificate to prove he is her father. He doesnt see her. He doesnt pay for her but i know that he is trying to use her as a get out of jail card. He has also said the reason he had the amount on him is that he has artheritus. He does have metal work in one of his legs but not been diagnosed with this condition. He is just lying to get his way out of it all. I need to no if i can contact the probation team to make them aware of all of this.
Minnie9090 - 29-Oct-19 @ 12:44 PM
My 38 year old son is awaiting sentencing for GBH (section 18) pending probation reports. I believe his behaviour is partly due to a mental health issue. He was in a serious car accident some years ago and suffered a brain injury but other than that his condition is undiagnosed, and he may appear normal. Is there any way I can draw attention to his need for psychiatric help?
nags - 31-Jan-19 @ 11:39 AM
I was given a probation order in 1984 is there any way I can obtain the report?
Pixie - 31-Jul-18 @ 11:53 AM
I did a pre sentence report in 2015, it was a horrid report as I didn't want to work with anyone. I have done my sentence and worked with probation. Unfortunately now I cannot get a house as they see this report and turn away straight away. The report is misleading to my sentence. Why can some organisation see this report and should probation change or amend this report now I have come out the negative situation I was in. I could do with some help as this report is the only thing that is not letting me move on in life.
Kumar - 9-May-18 @ 2:13 AM
mars- Your Question:
Hi I have pleaded guilty to6 counts of stealing from employer charges which was stock that was $2000 which I paid off straight away and the judge has ordered a pre sentence report does this mean that I will be facing probation or community service charges only or is there any chance my lawyer will have any luck getting me a section 10 I have cooperated with the probation officer and I have a clean criminal and driving record I am currently studying nursing is there any chance any good will come from this conviction

Our Response:
As outlined int he article, a pre-sentence report is intended to give the sentencing court some understanding as to why you committed the offence, how you feel about it now, and what your background, family and work circumstances are. Using this information, the court will decide the most appropriate sentence to give you. It is important to note that the court does not have to go along with the recommendation in the report, and the probation officer’s opinion is not binding on the type of sentence you get. Therefore, it is impossible to anticipate what sentence you may receive.
CourtroomAdvice - 20-Mar-18 @ 11:11 AM
hi i have pleaded guilty to6 counts of stealing from employer charges which was stock that was $2000 which i paid off straight away and the judge has ordered a pre sentence report does this mean that i will be facing probation or community service charges only or is there any chance my lawyer will have any luck getting me a section 10 i have cooperated with the probation officer and i have a clean criminal and driving record i am currently studying nursing is there any chance any good will come from this conviction
mars - 19-Mar-18 @ 12:25 PM
Houghton - Your Question:
I was found guilty of conspiring to blackmail in dec 2017 but judge adjourned sentancing til feb 2018. Does this mean instant prison even tho we were found guilty. last time I was in trouble was 1995. please help my 2 kids are worried as is my wife

Our Response:
Your solicitor or legal representative can give you a better indication regarding whether you are likely to get a prison sentence and what that sentence might be.
CourtroomAdvice - 23-Jan-18 @ 12:53 PM
I was found guilty of conspiring to blackmail in dec 2017 but judge adjourned sentancing til feb 2018. Does this mean instant prison even tho we were found guilty . last time i was in trouble was 1995 . please help my 2 kids are worried as is my wife
Houghton - 22-Jan-18 @ 10:25 PM
SoKi - Your Question:
I have been for my pre sentencing report & they have recommended I do not go to jail. I also have a mental health assessment that says suicide risk is high with a prison sentence but low without a prison sentence, what are the chances I will go to jail ? I am very scared and have 3 children who need me, please can I have some advice my solicitor wont tell me what may happen, they just say they will ask for a suspended as I have no pervious, no convictions/arrests etc since this incident, nothing at all before this.

Our Response:
We cannot predict what a court may decide. Neither can your solicitor predict what may happen. He/she is hoping that your sentence will be suspended, but much depends upon the decision made in court on the day.
CourtroomAdvice - 21-Nov-17 @ 2:26 PM
I have been for my pre sentencing report & they have recommended I do not go to jail. I also have a mental health assessment that says suicide risk is high with a prison sentence but low without a prison sentence, what are the chances I will go to jail ? I am very scared and have 3 children who need me, please can I have some advice my solicitor wont tell me what may happen, they just say they will ask for a suspended as I have no pervious, no convictions/arrests etc since this incident, nothing at all before this.
SoKi - 21-Nov-17 @ 2:01 AM
I have issue person how made false accusations that made against myself and the person changed there story so many times I lost count and this be case now from at less 4 mouths now and awake the person did accepted money for do this then pulled out of accept money but not sure if still fraud happen but I am aware for this false accusations happen and the person changes their mind about it often This person as seriously disability teenager son so I be very aware for prison sentence as be really effort him so I just look for some kind of sentence scale in Scottish law for this crimes take place against myself for possible of fraud atm or in past and false accusations/perjury. Wee put of background to the stroy I was working with the teenager how parent is acting how behind this criminal behaviour at swimming club and I have Cerebral Palsy and mild Autism and as outcome from this I had very high anxiety to stage were have got on train to try run away from it all at my lows point. I have tried to sort this with person make this false accusations about myself but meet with zero respect from it all and still continue. I feel in my mind this person need face justice of actions but don’t really what them go to prison of it as effort there teenager son badly and known I feel bad for that be the case mainly at times like Christmas if known patient is in prison.
Coach89 - 19-Nov-17 @ 9:38 PM
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