Pre-Sentence Reports

Legal Guidance

This Guidance was last updated 14th November 2007


Pre-Sentence Reports

The definition of a pre-sentence report is contained in s. 158 Criminal Justice Act 2003

158 Meaning of "pre-sentence report"

(1) In this Part "pre-sentence report" means a report which:

(a) with a view to assisting the court in determining the most suitable method of dealing with an offender, is made or submitted by an appropriate officer, and

(b) contains information as to such matters, presented in such manner, as may be prescribed by rules made by the Secretary of State.

The court is required to obtain a Pre-Sentence Report (PSR), or a Specific Sentence Report (SSR) prepared by the Probation Service or the Youth Offending Team before imposing a custodial or community sentence: s.156 Criminal Justice Act 2003

The PSR should include an assessment of the nature and seriousness of the offence, and its impact on the victim.

The PSR must be disclosed to the offender or his legal representative: s.159(2)(a) Criminal Justice Act 2003

The PSR must also be disclosed to the prosecutor, if the prosecutor is a Crown Prosecutor, or represents the CPS, Revenue and Customs prosecutors, the DSS or the SFO. If the prosecutor is not of a description prescribed by order of the Secretary of State (e.g. Local Authority), a copy of the report need not be given to the prosecutor if the court considers it would be inappropriate to do so: s.159(2)(c) Criminal Justice Act 2003

If the offender is under 18, the court must give a copy of the report to his parent or guardian, even though a copy may also have been given to the offender or his legal representative: s.159(2)(b) Criminal Justice Act 2003

The National Standard

The Crown Prosecution Service has agreed to provide information to the Probation Service to enable them to make this assessment. The current agreement is set out in a National Standard which came into effect on 1 January 2002 (National Standard agreed by the National Probation Directorate (NPD) and the Youth Justice Board (YJB) and the Crown Prosecution Service for the provision by the Crown Prosecution Service of Pre-Sentence Report information to Probation Services).

The prosecution should see the Probation Report in order to guard against unfairly critical comments about prosecution witnesses in mitigation or any other inaccuracies which we ought to correct.



The CPS will provide access to information to the Probation Service in all cases of which the CPS has conduct, and in which the court requires a PSR. In order to reduce delay, the police and CPS will provide information on cases where it is anticipated that the court will require a PSR. The term Pre Sentence Report includes Specific Sentence Reports

The National Standard provides for what information will be supplied and when - it deals with:

  • the time at which the information will be supplied;
  • details of what information should be provided.

The National Standard also provides guidance on other issues relating to the supply of information.

Dangerous Offenders

In assessing dangerousness, the court will need the benefit of a pre-sentence report. Probation officers have been carefully trained to include an assessment of the risk in the report, but will need the CPS to provide them with not only the usual PSR information package, but also with the facts of previous relevant convictions and the information relevant to a pattern of behaviour. Such information should be provided by the police with the case file on Form MG16, and should normally be provided to the Probation Service with the PSR information package. When accepting pleas to lesser offences or on a less serious basis, prosecutors should notify the probation service so that the new basis of sentencing can be factored in to the risk assessment by the probation officer.

Ensuring compliance with the National Standard

Local agreements may assist in ensuring levels of performance. Any such agreements should incorporate the National Standard.

Monitoring of performance may be undertaken jointly on a "snap-shot" and local basis when any party is dissatisfied with performance and an attempt has been made to rectify the position. Information about joint performance monitoring, together with a sample monitoring form is annexed to the National Standard.