The purpose of a Social Enquiry Report is to assist the Court with sentencing by providing an impartial and professional assessment of the nature and causes of a defendant’s relevant background, offending behaviour, the risk of reoffending and the interventions necessary to reduce that risk.
The SER Process
As well as 2 -3 interviews with the client at the Probation office, the Probation officer will have had sight of Police Case Summaries and list of previous convictions. They will also try to independently verify any information given by the client (with the consent of the client), for example by speaking with Doctors or school teachers. Where the client is a child, their parent or guardian will also be interviewed.
A number of assessment tools will be used to help the Probation officer make their assessment: LSI-R or Youth LSI on all clients – this examines any areas of criminogenic need and likelihood of reconviction Matrix 2000 for clients who sexually offend SARA for male clients who have perpetrated offences of domestic violence In addition assessments of literacy and numeracy are undertaken on all eligible clients. Community Service assessments are completed on all clients who are eligible to receive a custodial sentence. In the SER, the officer will discuss the offender’s background and current lifestyle. They will look at the offender’s offending behaviour (both for previous offences and for the current offence). The SER will include an assessment of the defendant’s attitude to the offences, in particular the offender’s awareness of the consequences for the victim. If the defendant expresses remorse, guilt or desire to make amends this is included in the report. In reports prepared on children the SER will also indicate the attitudes and response of the parent /guardian to the young person’s offending. In concluding the report, the officer will consider risk of reoffending and will take this into consideration when recommending a sentence to the courts. The Probation Officer will give reasons for their assessment and discuss the criminogenic risk factors that are amenable for change (dynamic factors). The offender’s motivation and ability to change the offending behaviour will be discussed. Should a Probation recommendation be made, the officer will also develop a work plan with the defendant, which will be followed should a sentence of probation be imposed. Defendants will be given an opportunity to read the SER or have it read to them. This will also apply to parents of children on whom a SER has been prepared. Once prepared, a copy of the SER is given to the Magistrate and a copy is provided to the defendant’s advocate.