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Structured Deferred Sentence (SDS)

Last updated: 27th June 2024

Programme Name:

Problem Solving Structured Deferred Sentence


Holistic approach to addressing offending aiming to prevent an escalation in offending with the focus on young people and women with a range of complex needs. To provide support and assistance in an effort to prevent further offending. This process also allows for other matters to be included in the Court Reviews. Available to Summary Courts within Aberdeen Sheriff Court. Aims to reduce the use of short custodial sentences and reduce reoffending by combining the authority of the court with support and rehabilitative opportunities to address the underlying causes of offending. Those admitted into the Problem Solving Approach have their sentence deferred while they engage with service providers for a specified period of time, during which they must return to court for regular judicial reviews with a dedicated sheriff. The use of the Problem Solving Structured Deferred Sentence allows a degree of flexibility in working with individuals with complex needs, behavioural problems and chaotic lives. The emphasis is on earlier and more intensive intervention when a pattern of offending is becoming evident in order to ‘disrupt’ the pattern, ‘down-tariff’ and prevent custody at a later stage. A Problem Solving SDS is neither low tariff nor low intensity. It is a high intensity intervention from a criminal justice social work perspective, reflective of the complex needs of participants. Typically, it is “front loaded” with input from Social Worker, Support Worker and other agencies (including Venture Trust); up to 5 days per week; assertive outreach; includes monthly Progress Reports and Social Work attendance at Progress Reviews in Court.

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