Research Report

Review of the Aberdeen Problem Solving Approach



Eunson J, Murray L, Graham H, Malloch M & McIvor G (2018) Review of the Aberdeen Problem Solving Approach. Scottish Government. Social Research series. Edinburgh.

The Aberdeen Problem-Solving Approach (PSA) has been running in Aberdeen Sheriff Court since November 2015 (for women) and since August 2016 (for young men). In line with theory and evidence on problem-solving justice, it aims to reduce the use of short custodial sentences and reduce reoffending by combining the authority of the court with support and rehabilitative opportunities to address the underlying causes of offending. Unlike traditional problem-solving courts, which target a specific crime (e.g. domestic abuse) or problem (e.g. drug use), the Aberdeen PSA’s ‘specialisation’ is people with a history of frequent low-level offending with multiple and complex needs. Those admitted into the PSA have their sentence deferred while they engage with service providers for a specified period of time, during which they must return to court for regular judicial reviews with a dedicated sheriff. Ipsos MORI Scotland and the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research/University of Stirling conducted an independent Review of the PSA between August 2017 and January 2018. A mixed method approach was adopted. This involved primary qualitative research (interviews and focus groups with PSA participants, professionals involved in delivering the PSA and wider stakeholders), court observations, and secondary analysis of routinely collected monitoring data. The qualitative research provided rich data on participants’ experiences and the perspectives of participants, professionals and wider stakeholders on: how the PSA is being delivered; what distinguishes it from other sentencing procedures; what is working well; what could be improved; and lessons for other areas. The court observations enabled further comparisons with other sentencing procedures. The analysis of the monitoring data provided some quantitative data on the profile of participants (including risk/needs assessment), engagement, compliance and sentencing outcome.

FundersScottish Government
Title of seriesSocial Research series
Publication date05/09/2018
Publisher URL
Place of publicationEdinburgh
ISSN of series2045-6964

People (3)


Dr Hannah Graham
Dr Hannah Graham

Senior Lecturer, Sociology, Social Policy & Criminology

Professor Margaret Malloch
Professor Margaret Malloch

Professor, Sociology, Social Policy & Criminology

Professor Gillian McIvor
Professor Gillian McIvor

Emeritus Professor, Sociology, Social Policy & Criminology