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Drop in number of social work reports credited to fewer court cases

THE NUMBER of social work reports compiled on people who have admitted criminal offences halved last year as fewer cases were heard at Lerwick Sheriff Court.

A report from interim chief social work officer Denise Morgan to councillors this week revealed that in 2018/19 62 criminal justice social work reports were prepared compared to 132 the previous year.

Morgan said this reflected a decrease in cases being heard at Lerwick Sheriff Court, although the number of orders given out as sentences which include punishments like unpaid work and supervision is more consistent.

Criminal justice social work reports are ordered by the sheriff to provide extra background to assist sentencing.

“The number of community payback orders made as a result of the court reports remains high and this reflects the recommendations of report writers,” Morgan said.

Her report added that service is seeing an “increase in intensive programme work such a sexual offending and domestic violence, which, hopefully, will lead to changes in individual behaviour”.

“Managing complex behaviour and need whilst supporting community safety is common practice and good work is undertaken to ensure individuals are supported to build more positive lifestyles,” she said.

Figures from Scottish Courts show that 216 summary complaints – which involve less serious charges – were brought to Lerwick Sheriff Court in 2018/19 compared to 245 in the previous year.

In 2016/17 that figure stood at 319 and in 2015/16 a total of 410 summary complaints were registered.

There was, however, a slight increase in the number of solemn complaints – more serious matters – brought to Lerwick Sheriff Court in 2018/19.

There were 24 petitions registered compared to 22 the previous year, and 19 indictments compared to 12 in 2017/18.