What does the probation service do?

The probation service is the organisation that looks after overseeing offenders released from prison on licence and those on community sentences made by judges and magistrates in the courts. Probation also prepares pre-sentence reports for judges and magistrates in the courts to enable them to choose the most appropriate sentence.

The service works with victims of crimes where the offender has committed a sexual or violent offence and has been given a prison sentence of 12 months or longer, and manage approved premises (hostels) for offenders with a residence requirement on their sentences or licences. You will also find probation staff in the prison, assessing offenders, preparing them for release and running offending behaviour programmes.

In simple terms the probation service has 2 different arms, the private sector and the public sector. This split is new, and hasn’t yet been fully implemented, ie the systems between the 2 arms aren’t connected, and it will take time before it beds properly in. The principle is that the “public” sector deals with the more difficult users, and that the private sector deals with the easier users. The definition of what is a difficult or easy user is blurred, it depends on the nature of the crime committed, the previous criminal activity of the user as well as their behavior whilst on license. As this new area becomes clearer we will update this site with the actual situation.

The Probation services were provided by 35 Probation Trusts across England and Wales, funded by National Offender Management Service (NOMS) to which they are accountable for their performance and delivery. The various trusts were Avon & Somerset, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire & Peterborough, Cheshire, Cumbria, Derbyshire, Devon and Cornwall, Dorset, Durham Tees Valley, Essex, Gloucestershire, Greater Manchester, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Humberside, Kent, Lancashire, Leicestershire Rutland, Lincolnshire, London, Merseyside, Norfolk & Suffolk, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Northumbria, South Yorkshire, Staffordshire & West Midlands, Surrey & Sussex, Thames Valley, Wales, Warwickshire, West Mercia, West Yorkshire, Wiltshire, and York & North Yorkshire Probation Trust.

Your first contact with the National Probation Service is likely to be once you have been convicted of an offense and are awaiting sentence. Before passing sentence, the judge or magistrate will ask probation to arrange for a pre sentence report to be written that will recommend the most appropriate sentence for you. The judge will set the sentence subject to MoJ guidelines and it is aimed at  protection of the public, reduction of crime (preventing you from reoffending) , rehabilitation , punishment and reparation to the person affected by your offence. The court will tell probation how serious they consider your offence to be and whether they are considering custody.

A presentence report is a document that can help a judge to determine the sentence that should be given when someone  convicted of a crime. The pre sentence report notes and give an assessment of  personal information about you, including details of your criminal record if you have one, your mental health and employment/education history. The document should give the judge an reasonable picture of you and the reasons or circumstances which could influence the punishment given to you.

The report can also be used to determine the reasons for your sentence, and it helps decide where you should serve your sentence if a custodial sentence is given. Remember that there many courses and programs available for those who have been convicted of a crime, and the presentence report can help to determine an individual’s eligibility for such programs.

The presentence report is not restricted to current information, and many background details about you are often included, including information about your family. It would also included details of your health, both physical and mental. It may include details about marital status or whether you are a parent.

A recommendation in a presentence report of a non custodial sentence is no guarantee that the courts will agree. The best guidance as to the probable sentence will be given to you by your lawyer, but again there are no guarantees that they are correct!

It can take some time to produce the report, and if you have been remanded in custody the probation officer will visit you in prison. You will be given a copy of the report at your sentencing, as will your defence team, the prosecution and the judge. It will not be read out in court. If you have any problems with the report regarding its factual accuracy you can raise this with the court, and there is a complaints procedure if you feel that you have been unfairly treated by Probation.

If the judge hands you a custodial sentence, your involvement with the probation service will be handled by the officer at your prison, however if you are given a community order sentence you will be expected to deal with your outside probation officer, who may well be a different individual to the one who wrote the presentence report.

How Probation Works

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