The Pre-sentence Report; how does it work?
Pre-sentence reports are an important tool to help Judges and Magistrates when it comes to sentencing. In some cases, a court must order a pre-sentence report (s 156 Criminal Justice Act 2003). A report will be appropriate in many instances when it is not a legal requirement.
The primary purpose of a report is to:
‘…assist the court in determining the most suitable method of dealing with an offender’.
How are they prepared?
The pre-sentence report is prepared by a probation officer. The probation officer will meet with the defendant, either face-to-face if they are on bail or if they are in custody then the meeting will usually take place by video-link.
During the meeting, the probation officer will ask about what happened and why, and assess the defendant’s attitude to the offence. They will also want to know more about the defendant’s background and to establish if there are any particular issues in their life. These could be drug or alcohol problems, problems with accommodation, employment or relationships, any mental health issues, or anything that might have caused the person to offend.
Our view is that clients need to be fully prepared for the report process.
Why is preparation essential?
The report is an opportunity for defendants to advance significant mitigation well in advance of their advocate standing up to mitigate formally on their behalf.
Reports are often (although not always) supplied in advance to sentencing magistrates and Judges. Therefore, it is an early opportunity to try and positively influence the sentencing outcome.
A Judge will always be looking for signs of regret and remorse, not just because the defendant was brought to justice, but because they have genuine victim empathy and regret their actions.
Report writers will be looking for evidence of insight into offending. That often provides compelling evidence of an individual’s willingness and ability to change behaviour. Such positive signs might weigh heavily in a decision to impose a community penalty as opposed to custody.
In cases where a person does not wish to show remorse, for example because they are maintaining their innocence, it will generally be better to say nothing than suggest that they do not care.
It is also vital not to implicate yourself in criminality more severe than for which you were convicted.
The author of the pre-sentence report will recommend what they think is the appropriate sentence. However, the final decision is always with the Judge or Magistrates. They do not have to follow the recommendation of the report.
How we can assist
As you can see, we take sentencing reports seriously. We will offer you detailed guidance to ensure that all opportunities to secure the most favourable sentencing outcome are taken.
If you need specialist advice in relation to any criminal investigation or prosecution, from the initial investigation through to court proceedings, please get in touch. Call John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us help.
Please note that the information contained in this article was correct at the time of writing. There may have been updates to the law since the article was written, which may affect the information and advice given therein.