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Glasgow Alcohol Court marks first anniversary

19 February 2019

The special court at Glasgow Sheriff Court for offenders whose criminal behaviour has a significant alcohol connection, marks its first anniversary today.

The latest "problem solving" court established in Glasgow following the creation of the successful Drug Court in 2001, the Alcohol Court was launched as a pilot in February 2018 and became a permanent fixture within six 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.

Initially targeted at offenders aged under 35 with two or more such previous convictions and resident in Glasgow, the age limit was relaxed as the court bedded in so that it now also accepts offenders in their 40s and 50s, where it is felt that they might benefit from the problem solving approach.

In the first 12 months, a total of 128 offenders have been referred to the court, of whom 61% have been made the subject of an Alcohol Court order, together with the rigorous monitoring that accompanies this. A total of 51 community payback orders and 27 structured deferred sentences were imposed in the first year. Only three orders have been revoked for non-compliance.

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 the 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; since October 2018, due to business volume, Sheriff Joan Kerr has also been presiding.

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, the court has not dealt with domestic abuse offenders, but standing its success to date and recognising the part alcohol can play in domestic abuse, when the Caledonian System is introduced 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.

The court recognises the invaluable support it has received from the outset from Glasgow Health & Social Care Partnership’s social work department.


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