Thanks to enhanced training and development, the East Lothian Justice Social Work Team are able to offer Structured Deferred Sentences to individuals post-conviction and prior to final sentencing.

East Lothian’s Justice Social Work Services serves the community by supporting people convicted of offences to change their behaviour in order to reintegrate and become valuable members of their communities.

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, and 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.

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. Examples of Structured Deferred Sentences can include engaging with addiction services, providing emotional management support, looking at areas of training or education, and working with other agencies where needed.  Being provided with support to engage with employability services or with tenancy providers could be other examples. The process is designed to be flexible and individualised.

Julie Morton, Service Manager for Justice Social Work Services comments, “Structured Deferred Sentences truly focus on the welfare needs of the individual.  It aims to address the root causes for why individuals offend, identify their underlying risks and needs, and give them the support necessary to make positive change.  As well as providing a personal benefit to the individual, SDS help to avoid short-term sentences, and in the long run, aim to keep people away from the justice system.”

Fiona Wilson, Chief Officer of East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership adds, “We’re really pleased to be introducing this alternative means of structured intervention that puts the care, wellbeing and emotion needs of an individual first.  This pathway has been proven to be of benefit to many individuals across the country.  We hope that by having SDS available as a sentencing offering in East Lothian, it will have a positive impact for our residents who come into contact with the justice system and assist them on their road to recovery.”

Published: Monday, 3rd April 2023