We've clearly been wasting our time over the years in sweating blood providing what we thought were excellent pieces of work that helped enable sentencers come up with fair disposals; that didn't make matters worse; just might aid rehabilitation; but at the same time offered reasoned advice with regard to appropriate punishments.
I hate to sound like an old record, but the writing was on the wall as soon as PSR's had to be 'generated' by that bloody button on OASys. It effectively began a steady decline in quality in my opinion, but instead of sentencers complaining (or maybe it's true they never read them), they've just decided they're "unnecessary". This from Leveson:-
152. Contributions from practitioners and figures produced by the TSJ programme have led me to conclude that time and resources are frequently being wasted as a consequence of the practice of adjourning the sentencing hearing so that the Probation Service can prepare a pre-sentence report (‘PSR’) for cases that do not require a PSR or when an oral report would suffice.
153. Sections 156 to 158 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (as amended) set out the procedural requirements for imposing community sentences and discretionary custodial sentences. The relevant provisions as regards obtaining a PSR are broadly couched in mandatory terms that require the Judge to obtain and consider a pre-sentence report in these circumstances, although – put broadly – the Judge has the discretion to dispense with this requirement if he considers this step is “unnecessary”. However, in at least one instance the discretion to dispense with a report is circumscribed: for certain offenders who are under 18 a report must be obtained unless there is an existing report or reports.
154. Although greater use can and should be made of the discretion to dispense with reports, and an increased use of oral (“stand down”) or previous reports, consideration should be given to providing Judges with greater flexibility not to order reports. It is at least arguable that the presumption that a report will be obtained should be removed.
155. I note with approval that the practice has developed that when the suitable sentence is considered to be a community order which includes a single requirement that does not necessitate the involvement of probation (e.g. a curfew order), courts often proceed to sentence without the need for a written or oral report. This practice has been endorsed at paragraph 1.1.7 of the Sentencing Council’s document ‘New Sentences: Criminal Justice Act 2003’.
156. For the changes that I propose in this context to be effective, the courts must be staffed by sufficient probation officers to provide oral/stand down reports, thereby removing the need in a significant number of cases for an adjournment. In the circumstances, there should be a reduction in the number of orders that are made for pre-sentence reports (with legislative change considered) and greater consistency in the presence of probation officers at court to ensure that oral and stand down reports can be provided.