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A holistic approach to rehabilitation with Structured Deferred Sentences in Fife

BLOGS | 10th July 2024
Headshot of Ryan McCallum

Fife Justice Social Work’s Service Manager (Operations) Ryan McCallum explains how the service is addressing individuals’ needs by supporting them in the community

We’re continuing to showcase our commitment to innovation and community engagement at Fife Justice Social Work.

At the forefront of our progressive approach is the development and promotion of Structured Deferred Sentences.

A Structured Deferred Sentence (SDS) allows a court to defer sentencing after a conviction for a specified period and under certain conditions.

It’s available for individuals aged 16 and over to provide structured intervention post-conviction but pre-sentence. It is generally reserved for young people, but can be applied to other ages who have complex needs, which may be addressed through social work or other interventions.

We think one of the key factors contributing to our success in Fife Justice Social Work service is our proactive engagement with individuals in their homes and communities. By bringing justice professionals directly into the heart of people’s lives, we have established a foundation for meaningful change. This approach not only fosters a deeper understanding of individuals’ circumstances but also facilitates the tailoring of interventions to address specific needs.

A Holistic Approach

Structured Deferred Sentences implemented by Fife are a testament to our service’s commitment to balancing welfare needs with offence-focused work. Our innovative approach acknowledges that rehabilitation is not a one-size-fits-all solution and requires a nuanced understanding of the root causes of offending behaviour.

The TURN group, organised by Fife Social Work Justice Service, offers support, the opportunity to learn new skills and information about further education.

Tailored Programmes

Here in Fife, we have developed a range of specialised programmes tailored to the short-term nature of Structured Deferred Sentences. These programmes address diverse offences and aim to guide individuals toward rehabilitation.

These include:

  • Road Traffic Programmes

Created in collaboration with Fife’s Safer Communities Team, this initiative addresses traffic-related offences. By combining education with practical interventions, the programme aims to instil responsible driving behaviour.

  • Healthy Relationships Programme

Formulated by Fife’s Justice Groupwork Services Team, this programme specifically targets domestic abuse offences. Its focus is on promoting healthy relationship dynamics, providing individuals with the tools to break the cycle of abuse.

  • Child and Adult Risk Programme

For offences involving child neglect or assault, in Fife we have implemented a comprehensive risk management programme. This initiative underscores our commitment to safeguarding vulnerable individuals within the community.

  • Anger Management Programme

Recognising the importance of addressing underlying issues, here in Fife we’re currently developing an anger management programme. This initiative aims to equip individuals with the skills to manage and redirect their emotions constructively.

  • Holistic Therapies and Psychological Interventions

Fife has invested in an in-house holistic therapies and psychological interventions practitioner. Due to the short timescale nature of Structured Deferred Sentences, therapies and interventions can be difficult to access in time usually. But by providing readily available access in-house, individuals can learn techniques to improve emotional regulation and address negative behaviours quickly whilst subject to a 3-6 month Structured Deferred Sentence. This often means a further period of supervision, or a further disposal is not required.

Achieving Milestones

Our dedication to the promotion of Structured Deferred Sentences in Fife has yielded tangible results. As of now, Fife boasts the second-highest number of Structured Deferred Sentences in Scotland. This achievement is a testament to the effectiveness of the approach and the commitment of both the justice social work service and the Sheriff Courts in Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline and the work done to promote and keep Structured Deferred Sentences at the centre of decision making when recommending disposals.

We attend regular court user group meetings chaired by Sheriff Clerks for everyone involved in the daily running of the courts from Sheriffs to procurator fiscals, solicitors, victim support services, Police Scotland and justice social work. We discuss court matters, but it also provides a platform to discuss sentencing disposals, such as Structured Deferred Sentences and the various available programmes. This has given Sheriffs confidence in Structured Deferred Sentences as a credible disposal. It was noted that in 2022-2023 of the 115 Structured Deferred Sentences more than 50% of cases ended with an admonition. That’s a judicial warning, where a conviction is recorded, but beyond that there is no substantive penalty, with the accused then free to go and the case ended.

Community Collaboration

Working with others has contributed to the success of our initiatives here in Fife. Collaboration with various community partners, including the Fife Safer Communities Team and Justice Groupwork Services Team, has been instrumental in creating targeted programmes that address the unique needs of the Fife population.

The development and promotion of Structured Deferred Sentences in Fife, coupled with tailored intervention programmes, exemplify a holistic and nuanced approach to rehabilitation. As we continue to evolve our initiatives here at Fife Justice Social Work, it is hoped we can serve as an inspiration for other regions to adopt proactive, community-focused strategies in the pursuit of justice and social welfare.