The Probation Service Reporting for Duty: Court Reports and Social Justic

Published 17/12/2008
Type Article
Author(s) Philip Whitehead
Corresponding Authors Philip Whitehead, Lecturer, University of Teesside/Probation Officer


The probation service provides criminal courts with information on people who offend, before they are sentenced, by utilising three report formats. Firstly a comprehensively written pre-sentence report can take up to three weeks to prepare. Secondly a briefer document completed within five days, known as the fast delivery report, predominantly relies on a tick box format. The third category is oral feedback. Significantly the criminal justice system is being encouraged to call upon the services of the two briefer formats, primarily because of the time and costs involved in preparing a full report. The central
concern of this paper is to explore this shift of emphasis, particularly within magistrates’ courts, which militates against the probation service undertaking a detailed analysis of the social circumstances of offenders. This has potentially serious implications for criminal and social justice.