Evaluation of South Lanarkshire structured deferred sentencing for young people: end of project report September 2019

Johanne Miller, Blane Abercrombie, Gillian McLellan

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This report presents findings from a structured deferred sentencing (SDS) pilot that ran in South Lanarkshire between March 2018 and March 2019. The purpose of the pilot was to improve sentencing outcomes for young people between the ages of 16-21 years old. It was expected that by deferring sentencing and regular engagement with an intensive social work support package, young people who engaged on the pilot would reduce (re) offending rates, improve their employability and achieve community integration.

The pilot was executed in two summary courts: Lanark and Hamilton. The support package provided was delivered with the needs of the young person at the forefront and could include: housing, mental health, drug and alcohol, employability, relationship and social supports. The sentencing outcomes, re-offending rates and social improvements for young people were overwhelmingly positive.

The methods used to carry out the evaluation included three longitudinal interviews with three young people, one focus group, paired and individual interviews with fourteen young people. Focus groups and interviews were conducted with practitioners including the social work team, the sheriffs and the partner organisations. A documentary analysis of screening documents, update reports and court referral sheets and diaries kept by two practitioners and one young person.

It was determined that a welfare led focus by the social work team and the court team was at the heart of its success. This welfare led focus acted as a bridge between the Children’s Hearing System and the adult criminal justice system.

Completion, re-offending and sentencing rates for the pilot were very good compared with other community disposals, resulting in the recommendation that SDS be the first consideration for young people. 84% of young people completed SDS, which compares well against 77% for deferred sentencing and 40% for community payback orders for under 18s.

The re-offending rates were low with 91% of the cohort not re-offending in South Lanarkshire during their engagement with the pilot. Twenty out of twenty–five young people who completed SDS were given admonition. This indicates improved outcomes for young people and highlights the potential that a community based disposal such as SDS can have.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherUniversity of the West of Scotland
Number of pages55
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019


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