First Anniversary Alcohol Court Glasgow

The Glasgow Sheriff Court Alcohol Court marks its first anniversary today.

This is the latest “problem-solving court” established in Glasgow following the creation of the successful Drug Court in 2001.

The Court, which deals with those whose offending is significantly contributed to by alcohol, was launched as a pilot in February last year, and became a permanent fixture in the Glasgow court programme within 6 months.

It deals with offenders who plead guilty to, or are convicted of, charges involving violence or dishonesty; public order offences; or drink driving offences, in circumstances where the offender accepts, or it appears to the court, that alcohol abuse significantly contributed to the offending.

The initial criteria for admission to the Court were that the offender was resident in Glasgow; aged under 35; and had two or more previous convictions for offences involving violence or dishonesty; public order offences; or drink driving. As the Court bedded in, the age limit was relaxed and the Court now also accepts offenders in their forties and fifties, where it is felt that they might benefit from the problem solving approach.

Referrals to the Court are made by all the sheriffs in Glasgow. If the Sheriff hearing a case forms the view that an offender might be suitable for the Alcohol Court, they will request an Alcohol Court Assessment Report from Glasgow Health & Social Care Partnership’s social work department, and defer sentence to the next suitable Alcohol Court date when the presiding sheriff will decide if the offender should be admitted to the Court. Initially, all sittings were presided over by Sheriff Iain Fleming until, due to business volume, Sheriff Joan Kerr also began presiding over cases in October 2018.

In the first 12 months, a total of 128 offenders have been referred to the Court. To date, 61% of those referred to the Court have been made the subject of an Alcohol Court order, together with the rigorous monitoring that accompanies them. A total of 51 Community Payback Orders and 27 Structured Deferred Sentences were imposed in the first year. Only three of the orders made have been revoked for non-compliance.

The Court aims to deliver sentences which are tailored to influence an individual’s behaviour and hold them accountable, with progress rigorously monitored by the same sheriff. Progress is measured by an offender’s commitment to stop their criminal behaviour and undertake educational and counselling programmes designed to assist them in reducing, or in some cases eliminating, their consumption of alcohol.

An order is regarded a success if the offender controls their consumption of alcohol such that they no longer offend. For many the only way for this to be achieved is by completely eliminating alcohol from their lives.

To date, those convicted of domestic abuse offences have not been admitted to the Alcohol Court, however, standing the success of the Court and recognising the part alcohol can play in domestic abuse, in conjunction with the introduction of the Caledonian System to Glasgow at the end of this month, the Alcohol Court will consider accepting domestic abuse cases in which the social work department recommend a referral as a disposal.

From the outset and throughout its first year, the Alcohol Court has received invaluable support from Glasgow Health & Social Care Partnership’s social work department.

Contact judicialcomms@scotcourts.gov.uk / 0131 240 6679

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