If you are in court for a criminal offence and you either plead guilty or are found guilty, the judge can ask for a probation report before a decision is made about how to deal with your case.
There are two types of assessment reports:
- Pre-sanction reports (also known as probation reports) and
- Community Service reports where you will be assessed to see if you are suitable to do unpaid work in the community instead of going to prison. Community Service will be explained in a separate leaflet.
The judge can ask for one, or both, of these reports and will adjourn the case for the report to be prepared. Generally speaking, assessment reports will be completed within eight weeks for adults, and within four weeks for young people.
If the judge has asked the Probation Officer to complete a Pre-sanction report on you, expect the following:
- You will get a letter in the post with an appointment for you to call to the probation office where you will meet your Probation Officer, who will explain in detail what is involved. It is very important for you to keep this appointment.
- You can expect to meet your Probation Officer a number of times, usually three times, before the report will be completed. One of these meetings might be in your own home.
- Your Probation Officer may ask you to sign a form giving permission for other people to be contacted to get information for your report. For instance, if you are attending a drug service, it may be necessary for the Probation Officer to talk to the drugs’ worker to get confirmation of your attendance.
- Your Probation Officer will complete an assessment with you, which will identify what’s going on in your life that could affect the chances of you reoffending; knowing this will help you to stay out of trouble. When completing your assessment report the Probation Officer will consider: the seriousness of the offence; your attitude to the offence; your attitude to the victim; the supports available to you. S/he will agree a plan to help you avoid reoffending
- Your report to court will give the court a summary of all the information gathered. You will be informed of the content of this report before it goes to court.
- If the report is recommending probation supervision it will contain conditions for the supervision, for example, it might be a condition of your supervision that you live in a particular place and/or that you attend a drug treatment service or other services. These conditions will be agreed with you in advance.
- If you are placed on supervision it will be for a specified period of time, eg. 12 months.
Being referred to the Probation Service is a chance for you to identify the issues in your life that affect your offending, coming to the notice of the Gardai and coming before the courts. It is a good opportunity for you to get the support and guidance you need to address these issues.
The Probation Service believes that if you take the opportunity offered it will help you, your family and your community to feel happier and safer.
Please remember that while the Probation Officer may make a recommendation to the Court, it will ultimately be up to the Judge to decide on the appropriate sanction.
Probation Officers also have a very important duty to consider public safety. This means that they have to consider the possibility of any harm that may be caused should you re-offend. Officers can only consider recommending a community sanction where they believe you can be supervised in a community setting without placing the community at risk by re-offending.
After the assessment report has been submitted to the Court, the Judge will have a range of sentencing options available to him/her. Further details on the types of community based supervision options open to the Courts and of what to expect if you are placed on supervision are available in the Supervision section.