Standard of Pre-Sentence Reports praised by Inspectorate

The high quality of pre-sentence reports prepared by the Probation Board for Northern Ireland (PBNI) has been recognised in the latest report published today (Wednesday 22 June 2011) by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI).

The aims of the inspection were to consider how the PBNI assures quality control of pre-sentence reports, maintains continuous improvement and meets the demands of those using the reports.

“Whilst, the supervision and resettlement of offenders is rightly seen as the major role of the Probation Board, pre-sentence reports have a major impact on the outcomes for the offender post sentence as well as for the public at large,” said Brendan McGuigan, Deputy Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland.
“Each year around 6,000 pre-sentence reports are provided to the court. These reports give an assessment of the nature and causes of defendants’ offending, the likelihood of re-offending, the risk of harm to the public, information on the range of appropriate disposals, areas to be addressed and additional measures,” he said.  
"These reports provide valuable information for judges to decide in what environment, whether in custody or in the community, interventions may be applied to best effect for each person appearing in court," added the Deputy Chief Inspector.
The overall conclusion of the inspection was that clear arrangements were in place for the quality control of pre-sentence reports. 
However, Inspectors have recommended that with the demand for pre-sentence reports increasing, the Probation Board should expand its use of shorter specific sentence reports when certain sentences or disposals are under consideration by the court.
"A specific sentence report requires less information from the report writer. If 10% of pre-sentence reports currently being requested could be substituted with specific sentence report, it would allow Probation Officers to spend time on other work such as offender supervision," said Mr McGuigan.
In conclusion, Mr McGuigan said: "Inspectors found the Probation Board to provide high quality and timely pre-sentence reports. The quality control systems are of a high standard, internal management is focused and relevant and training is comprehensive and adds value.

"The widening group of users indicates the increasing value of pre-sentence reports in offender management and the positive response to sentencer surveys carried out by the Probation Board demonstrates their importance within the sentencing system,” he said.