Structured Deferred Sentences

Structured Deferred Sentences (SDS) are aimed at individuals (over 18 years) who have been assessed as presenting a low or medium risk of reoffending.  An SDS provides a short period of focused intervention with the aim of meeting the assessed criminogenic and non-criminogenic needs of the individual. 

To meet the eligibility criteria, the individual must have

  • a less entrenched pattern of offending
  • are at a lower risk of custody
  • have identified needs relating to offending behaviour
  • are not subject to a statutory order. 

The aim of a SDS is to build the individual’s motivation and capacity for positive change, reducing the frequency or seriousness of their offending behaviour, and where possible, avoid premature or unnecessary intensive periods of supervision in the community.

The rollout of Structured Deferred Sentences have been trialled in other areas including Falkirk, Ayrshire, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Perth.  Research from these trials has shown that by providing support and intervention at an earlier stage, individuals are more likely to make changes in their behaviour and address the identified risk and need factors which can subsequently lead to a reduced risk of re-offending[i].  If effectively managed, cases have demonstrated that the Structured Deferred Sentence has the potential to divert individuals away from the Criminal Justice System.

What do Structured Deferred Sentences involve?

Structured Deferred Sentences can be used to undertake a specific piece of work with an individual focused on areas of intervention need.   These are discussed with the individual and an Action Plan is co-produced to target their specific areas of risk and needs.  The process is designed to be flexible and individualised.

Examples of Structured Deferred Sentences can include:

  • engaging with addiction services
  • providing emotional management support
  • looking at areas of training or education
  • working with other agencies where needed 
  • being provided with support to engage with employability services
  • providing support to talk to tenancy providers


For more information contact the Justice Social Work Service

Justice Social Work Service

Brunton Hall, Ladywell Way, Musselburgh, EH21 6AF

Telephone: 01620 827939 / 01620 827763