Psychological Pre-Sentence Reports

Psychological Pre-Sentence Reports

A pre-sentence psychological report is a report written by a psychologist to assist the court with understanding the factors which led to the offending behaviour and give an idea about the likelihood of reoffending. The report is to assist with sentencing options and is usually provided to the magistrate or judge just prior to sentencing. The report usually contains sections which discuss the clients social history, education, employment, relationships, mental health, substance abuse, criminal history, the current offence or offences, risk of reoffending and recommendations for treatment or reduction of offending. In order to complete the report the psychologist might engage the client in some assessments which analyse risk of reoffending, treatment needs, personality issues, mental health, substance abuse, cognitive functioning or any other assessments which might be relevant to the client’s circumstances.

Sometimes a presentence report is requested by the court and other times the report can be sort by the client’s solicitor. Clients often wonder about the benefit of obtaining a pre-sentence report and ultimately they should make their decision after obtaining some legal counsel. However after a number of years writing presentence reports it seems clear that the benefit to the court and the client can be immense. For the court they obtain an objective overall picture of the client, their lives and the issues which may have led them to make the choices which culminated in the offending. The benefit to the client is the court has a detailed understanding of the client and as a result is able to sentence them appropriately. The court is also able to hear if the client takes responsibility for their offending behaviour, if they are remorseful, if they have insight into their offences and if they are willing to seek treatment. Sometimes the court will be considering a community based order and they want to obtain some insight into whether the client will respond well to this supervision and engage with the Probation and Parole office in order to reduce their risk of reoffending.

Sometimes the pre-sentence report does not benefit the client, especially when the client does not take responsibility for their actions, blame’s others, justifies their offending or minimises the impact of the offence on the victim or the community. Additionally if the client lacks insight, doesn’t see the need for treatment or has a number of high risk indicators which increase the likelihood of offending the court might consider the client to be a risk to the community and give the appropriate sentence for that determination.

Overall, in the writer’s opinion, in the majority of cases a pre-sentence psychological report is of benefit to both the client and the court and should be considered in cases where the penalty is potentially a community based order or a custodial sentence.

About the author:

Picture of Shelley Jacks

Shelley Jacks

Shelley has been a psychologist for many years and was employed for ten years by Queensland Corrective Services. She has provided treatment and assessment to the highest risk prisoners in Queensland and has experience treating men and women in prison, many of whom had a mental health condition or a cognitive disability. Shelley has also worked as a psychologist for Queensland Health working in the Acute Young Adult Ward at Robina hospital and at the Acquired Brain Injury Rehabilitation unit at the Gold Coast Hospital. For the past seven years Shelley has been running her own psychology private practice and won a tender to Queensland Corrective Services. She has treated clients with many different mental health conditions including ASD and Intellectual Disability. Over this time Shelley has provided a number of assessments, as a psychologist, for clients which have enabled them to access NDIS funding which has improved their lives immensely. Her interest, over time, in the NDIS grew and she researched this service, its processes and what it was offering to clients in great detail. Shelley’s awareness of the support NDIS was able to offer clients and the enormous benefits it could bring to their lives led her to create Magnus Heath. A business where she could, along with a great team, significantly improve the lives of people living with a disability.

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