Probation Circular

To notify Probation Areas of the need to provide sentencers with information on the progress and completion of community sentences. REFERENCE NO: 78/2005 ISSUE DATE: 20 October 2005 IMPLEMENTATION DATE: Immediate EXPIRY DATE: October 2010 TO: Chairs of Probation Boards Chief Officers of Probation Secretaries of Probation Boards CC: Board Treasurers Regional Managers AUTHORISED BY: Roger McGarva, Head of Regions and Performance ATTACHED: Annex A: Example Individual Completion Report (included in Word document)

Chief Officers should review the contents of this Circular and ensure that the appropriate arrangements are in place as soon as possible.

Although Pre-Sentence Report writers recommend Community Orders in many cases, there is no consistent way for sentencers to gauge the effectiveness of these sentences when they are imposed. Sentencers only tend to see those cases which have broken down, and this can give a false impression of the effectiveness of community sentences and how successful Probation are in dealing with the majority of those they supervise in the community. Some members of the Judiciary have suggested that supplying reports on the progress and completion of community sentences would help them to gain better insight into the effectiveness of community sentences. The NOMS Chief Executive has asked NOMS to carry forward this work. Recognising that submitting completion/progress reports for every case would be too onerous, we propose that Judges and Recorders should be provided with completion and/or progress reports on individual cases when one is specifically requested (as happens in a number of Areas currently). Magistrates will also be able to request these reports, in exceptional cases. To provide an overview, Probation Areas are asked to present all sentencers in their Area with quarterly statistics on community sentences completed or not completed in their Area. Areas already routinely submit statistics on completions to RDS as part of the Probation Listings (formerly Form 20), so there should be no substantial resource issues. When they are in place, the new sentencer liaison arrangements outlined in PC73/2005, which will provide liaison between probation and sentencers, will provide the ideal forum in which to communicate these statistics. If these have not yet been set up existing sentencer liaison arrangements should be used.


Oliver Dean, 020 7035 1765,

National Probation Directorate
Horseferry House, Dean Ryle Street, London, SW1P 2AW

Background 1. 2. Community Orders are often recommended to sentencers by Probation Officers in Pre-Sentence Reports, and Probation statistics1 show that the majority of community sentences are completed by the offender. However, there is currently no information available for sentencers on the effectiveness of community sentences sentencers tend to only see the results of cases which have broken down. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this negative viewpoint can lead to a lack of confidence in community sentences as a sentencing option. Some members of the Judiciary have suggested that sentencers should receive information on progress and completions from the Probation Service, to help them to gauge the effectiveness of community sentences, and the Chief Executive of NOMS has asked us to act upon these suggestions. Information on successfully completed sentences and those that have been revoked early2 will raise awareness about the Probation Service’s many successes. We have identified a need for two discrete types of completion report (those on individual cases and summaries of completions by Area) and for the provision of progress reports.


Provision of individual completion and progress reports 4. Occasionally, Judges may request a report on an individual offender, at various intervals during the commission of a Community Sentence and/ or following the completion or termination of their sentence. While there is no legislative requirement for Probation staff to submit these reports, we understand that informal arrangements already exist in a number of Areas for the provision of this type of report. We also understand that when they have been submitted, Judges have found these reports to be beneficial. Individual completion and progress reports should therefore be provided to Judges or Recorders on request. Individual completion and progress reports should also be provided to magistrates. We are aware that these have very rarely been provided in the past but following consultation with the Magistrates’ Association (MA) we have agreed that there would be great benefit in providing these reports to magistrates in exceptional cases. We have agreed with the MA that suitable requests for reports should come from amongst those cases where the bench had considered custody (as indicated by their initial seriousness level) but after detailed consideration decided on a community order. A report might also be requested in exceptional cases where the magistrates have a special interest in the outcome of the case because of the particular circumstances and could give specific reasons for their interest in open court. The MA have agreed that completion and progress reports should not be requested routinely to establish whether the sentencer made the right sentencing decision or used as a mechanism for an out of court review of cases. We are not introducing a national template to allow for local flexibility. This type of report should be literally no more than one or two short paragraphs; it should attach the original pre-sentence report and might include the following: • • • • • • offender details; details of the offence; details of the order; sentencer and court details whether all Requirements have been met; assessment of whether supervision has been effective;



An example of what a completion report might look like is set out at Annex A. 7. These reports will be completed by the offender manager. In the Crown Court cases, reports should be sent directly to the Judges who requested them. Consequently, when a completion or progress report is requested Probation Court Staff will need to note the name of the Judge and put this on the file which goes to the Offender Manager. In the magistrates’ courts we are aware that Court Staff may not know the names of the bench. Therefore when requesting a report, magistrates should say to whom they want it sent and Probation Court Staff should note this and put it on the file which goes to the Offender Manager. Once completed, the reports should be sent, with


Home Office Offender Management Statistics, 2003, Table 5.1. See SS10.5, Probation National Standards - revocation should be kept under consideration throughout the sentence where it seems likely to motivate offender compliance


PC78/2005 – Community Order Completion and Progress Reports to Court


details of the relevant magistrate(s) clearly marked, to the justices' clerks for the local Court’s Admin Office to distribute. 9. The Council of Circuit Judges will write to their members advising them on the availability of completion/progress reports, the circumstances in which they can be requested and the arrangements for getting completed reports back to sentencers. The Magistrates’ Association will also publicise these arrangements. In the communication from the Council of Circuit Judges it will be suggested that sentencers may want to respond to these reports with any comments they may have. These comments can prove very useful to both the Offender and Offender Manager, particularly where they reflect appreciation for solid achievement. Importantly, both organisations will also stress the significant impact large numbers of report requests would have on Probation resources and the need to consider this carefully before requesting a report. As with all areas of court work it is essential that there are good channels of communication between sentencers and Probation Court Staff to ensure that these report requests do not become overwhelming and to tackle quickly any problems which may arise.


Provision of area summary completion reports 11. Another method of communicating the effectiveness of community sentences would be the provision of area summary completion reports. It would be relatively straightforward for each Probation Area to provide an overview of completions and non-completions for Judges and magistrates. Local Probation Areas already collect this information, and submit it to RDS as part of their Probation Listings (formerly Form 20). This data could also be submitted to sentencers on a quarterly basis, without incurring any substantial additional resourcing costs. The Area summary completion report should utilise existing data on completions, and provide a breakdown of completions and terminations by type of Community Sentence/ Order. Areas should submit quarterly combined figures for male and female offenders – there is no need for a breakdown by gender unless one is requested. The new sentencer liaison arrangements outlined in PC 73/ 2005 will provide the ideal forum in which to communicate these statistics. If these have not yet been set up Areas should utilise existing sentencer liaison arrangements to submit their summary completion reports.



Timescales 14. Chief Officers are asked to implement local procedures for the completion of individual completion reports immediately. It is anticipated that the initial area quarterly summary completion reports will be submitted in December 2005.

PC78/2005 – Community Order Completion and Progress Reports to Court


Annex A: Example Individual Completion Report

Courts Team, Anytown Probation Service, 5 Any Street, Anytown, AN5 4XT Individual Community Order Completion/Progress Report
Offender, Offence and Sentencer Details Offender Name: Community Order Details: Court: Offender Manager Completion/Progress Report Judge/ Recorder/Magistrate(s): Telephone number: Offence(s):

PC78/2005 – Community Order Completion and Progress Reports to Court