Problem-solving in Scotland: New developments

Since Glasgow Drug Court opened its doors in 2001, problem-solving has become a recognised part of the Scottish justice system. But the Angiolini commission’s 2012 support for the approach, has launched a new wave of problem-solving courts which adapt models to meet local challenges.


The briefing explores the history of three of Scotland’s newest problem-solving courts: The Aberdeen Problem-Solving Approach, Forfar Problem-Solving Court and Edinburgh Alcohol Problem-Solving Court.


Problem-solving in Scotland

Glasgow was the first of a handful of Scottish problem-solving courts which addressed issues like drug abuse and domestic violence.  Interest was strengthened by the 2012 report of the Angiolini Commission on Women Offenders which  recommended a new pilot programme for problem-solving.


Today, Scotland has a small group of established problem-solving courts as well as a new generation of courts which have sprung up in response to the Angiolini report. As well as specialist sites, the principles of problem-solving have also influenced the development of mainstream sentencing including the use of reviews as part of Community Payback Order.


The Aberdeen Problem-Solving Approach

The Aberdeen Problem Solving Approach seeks to reduce the use of short custodial sentences by providing new community disposals to women and young adult males with complex needs and multiple previous convictions. It has been supported by the Scottish Government after Aberdeen won a competitive bidding process to be the site of the Angiolini commission pilot.

It works with women over 16 who have and men aged 16-25, providing them with wrap-around support from a combination of criminal justice social work services and the voluntary sector. Alongside the support package, the court regularly reviews the progress of offenders to encourage them to comply.

Edinburgh Alcohol Problem-Solving Court

The Edinburgh Alcohol Problem Solving Court (APSC) seeks to provide alcohol-dependent offenders with quicker assessment, speedier access to interventions, and regular oversight by the Sheriff through progress reviews. The project is a partnership between the court, the local authority and CLG a local treatment provider. The partners originally assembled to respond to a call for proposals from the Scottish Government but after the bid was unsuccessful, the partners decided to go ahead using local resources.

Offenders admitted to the APSC receive a Community Payback Order, which incorporates alcohol addiction treatment from CLG . As well as treatment, the service can also help them access housing (many are homeless) and other forms of support. Treatment services are delivered at hubs across the catchment area. Treatment services are delivered at hubs across the
catchment area. CLG addiction workers are the key point of contact for the offender, reporting progress and compliance to social workers who the prepare progress reports for regular court reviews.


The pilot dealt with 26 cases in its first year of operation and is seeking to expand in the coming years.


Forfar Problem-Solving Court

Forfar Problem-Solving Court, which opened in January 2017, provides support and supervision to persistent offenders through a specialist court hearing and tailored support services. The project, which was transferred to Forfar from another court, represents an interesting example of how an innovative model needs to be adjusted as it moves to a different context.


The Forfar project has its origins in a partnership between sheriffs sitting in Arbroath Sheriff Court and the Glen Isla Project, a women’s community justice centre run by Criminal Justice Social Workers from Angus Council.  However, when the project transferred to Forfar the busy court schedule meant that vulnerable defendants were being asked to disclose personal details in reviews taking place in busy, open court rooms.


Problem-solving sittings now take place fortnightly on a Wednesday morning, in a small, relatively intimate court room. As well as reviews, offenders receive support from the Glen Isla project and other community services.