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Court report writing

Probation officers may be asked to prepare a Social Enquiry Report on an offender prior to sentence by the summary courts (Magistrates and High Bailiff’s) or at the Court of General Gaol Delivery (similar to the UK’s Crown Court).

The probation officer interviews the defendant and, whilst considering their background, provides an analysis of the offence(s) committed, the offender’s employment situation, any drug or alcohol abuse and other factors before writing a report explaining the defendant’s circumstances.

The aim is to consider areas of risk, for instance the risk of re-offending and the risk to the public.

To risk assess offenders using appropriate tools, a risk of harm assessment is used in conjunction with a risk of re-offending tool which is the List of Standard Index – Revised (LSI-R) accredited risk assessment process. LSI-R is the standard risk assessment tool and contains 54 questions that build up a predictive figure relating to risk of likelihood of re-offending.

The 54 questions cover a variety of different areas relating to the offender which may have a noticeable effect on their likelihood to re-offend. The different areas that are considered are education, employment, finances, alcohol and drugs, criminal history, accommodation, family, marital relationships and personal attitude. 

It is recognised that the risk of re-offending and the likelihood of future harm being caused by an offender are different but connected assessments. The risk of harm (through the risk analysis form), and the risk of re-offending, (through the LSI-R) needs to be routinely assessed every quarter throughout the period of contact with the service, and are subject to managerial oversight where the risk of harm is assessed as high.

In addition, probation officers use a number of other specific assessment tools depending on the offending behaviour involved. These include SARA and ODARA, which are both tools that assess offenders charged with domestic violence offences, and the Matrix 2000 tool which is designed to assess sex offenders.

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