The initiative, the Aberdeen Problem-Solving Approach (PSA), aims aims to reduce the use of custodial sentences and cut reoffending by addressing the underlying problems linked with persistent offending.
Now an independent review commissioned by the Scottish Government, and carried out by Ipsos MORI Scotland and the University of Stirling, found that it “shows promise” and recommened that other areas of Scotland consider setting up similar initiatives.
Exisiting specialist courts focus on particular types of crime, such as domestic abuse or drug use, but the architects of the Aberdeen PSA claim it is the first of its kind in Scotland to specialise in women and young men with multiple complex needs and a history of frequent low-level offending.
Instead of being sent to prison, participants are given a deferred sentence while they engage with social workers and support workers to address the underlying problems linked to their offending.
They also return to court regularly to have their progress reviewed by a Sheriff.
The researchers reported the PSA was less successful for people with more entrenched problems.
The report follows the publication yesterday of national statisitics which revealed that statistic Scotland’s reconviction rate has fallen to a 19-year low.
Lorraine Murray, research director at Ipsos MORI, said: “It’s too early to say what the longer term outcomes will be, and the numbers are still small, but the fact that over half of participants were not in custody by the end of their involvement in the PSA is very encouraging.”
Dr Hannah Graham, of the University of Stirling, said: “This problem-solving justice approach works with people with complex needs who commit frequent low-level crimes.
“The data shows these participants have encountered multiple adversities - for example, financial difficulties, homelessness, bereavement, being care experienced - and many of them live with mental illness, trauma, abuse and addictions.”