Thursday, 4 July 2013

Some Observations 15

I thought it was time to round up various bits and pieces before I forget, so in no particular order, lets start with Chris Grayling at the Justice Affairs Select Committee on the subject of Legal Aid. If he thought that spiking their guns by telling them in writing on Monday that he was caving in on client choice of solicitor would ensure an easy time, he was mistaken. He got a good going over and Sir Alan Beith remarked in true British understated style that 'eyebrows had been raised' - blimey! 

The committee didn't seem that impressed to hear that 'he didn't think it was a good idea all along' to remove client choice of solicitor or his supercilious remark that 'he'd read the consultation responses and changed his mind'. He got shafted by the legal Establishment, that's what happened. Actually on the subject of the consultation, the automated e-mails 'deleted unread' came up and his response was basically 'trust me, they didn't get deleted, but I don't feel inclined to prove it'. 

I'm not sure if people have noticed, but there have been developments in relation to Operation Fairbank and one Charles Napier was arrested last week. Most amazingly of all it seems that seven boxes of evidence have been retrieved by police from a warehouse. The Elm Guest House scandal has the potential to make the expenses scandal and phone-hacking scandals look like side shows. The whole political landscape could be thrown into turmoil very shortly guys and that would seriously affect the government's agenda.....

At long last, some Napo members will be relieved to hear their new General Secretary state:- 

This cynical rush to get TR implemented without proper public and Parliamentary scrutiny is why Napo and Unison have now launched indicative ballots to test our members resolve to take Industrial Action so that we can develop the next stages of the campaign.

Now seeing as industrial action is a key risk factor identified in the leaked government risk register and we are talking about the very existence of the Probation Service, I really do think it behoves members to send a clear positive message to government through this indicative ballot. We all know that probation officers and indeed most probation staff have an historical aversion to industrial action, but look guys, don't we all owe it to our forebears, our clients and history to put aside qualms, past bitterness and even disillusionment and just bloody well vote?!

I haven't heard much reference to this article in the Guardian recently on the likely introduction of compulsory lie-detector tests for certain types of sex offender and following recent trials. 

The power to introduce compulsory lie detector tests was put on the statute book six years ago in the Offender Management Act 2007. On Tuesday MPs will debate secondary legislation in the form of a statutory instrument to come into force from 6 January 2014. The House of Lords will be asked to approve it later this month.
The justice minister Jeremy Wright said: "Introducing lie detector tests, alongside the sex offenders register and close monitoring in the community, will give us one of the toughest approaches in the world to managing this group.
"We recently announced the creation of a National Probation Service tasked with protecting the public from the most high-risk offenders. They will be able to call on this technology to help stop sex offenders from reoffending and leaving more innocent victims in their wake."
Am I the only one who feels very uneasy about this and especially probation staff being actively involved in administering such dodgy technology?
Finally, with all this depressing stuff around, there's still time to catch Peter Jones, one of the stars of Dragons Den, on i-player interviewing John Timpson and his son James who run Timpson the national shoe repair business. Timpson's positively recruit ex-offenders and routinely carry out interviews in prisons, saying that many make excellent employees and respond positively by being offered a 'break'. It's not a publicity stunt with son James explaining that it's often better to know the whole offending history from the outset and that 'crack dealers often make good cobblers' due to their entrepreneurial skills. 

I found the programme lifted my spirit because father John Timpson has a refreshingly different approach to management and employee relations. He positively encourages staff to exercise discretion, trusts them to get on with the job, gives them their birthday off and lets them use company holiday homes free-of-charge. Having fostered over 90 children during his lifetime, he comes over as a genuine guy who proves that you can care about staff, as well as make lots of money. Have a look on i-player and reflect on your own experiences of employers you've known over the years.    


  1. Agree Jim, have to show a bit more then hot air and mumblings. In the light of recent events theres no better time to demonstrate the level of concern and discontent felt in the service. Indudtrial action must be the next phase, and sooner rather then later.
    Agree again on the lie detectors. Lie detectors are not accepted by the courts as defence evidence, and therefore taking action' against' somebody on the results of such a test is frought with hidden dangers and legal actions.
    However, I do feel that some may rub their hands together in anticipation of a new toy.
    Be very cautious with such technology. Theres bound (along the way) to be massive fall out over it, and fingers burn quite easy.

    1. Dodgey ground indeed. I'm not exactly sure, but wasn't there some kind of test (along the lines of lie detection) applied to sex offenders during the 90s that caused a massive degree of confusion and legal challanges?
      Maybe Grayling could pass this one over to old Winston Smith at the ministry of truth? It's not something that the service wants to touch with a barge pole. I think its dodgey, dodgey ground.

  2. What do you think to todays half baked idea relating to the 70 resetlement cat c and d jails to promote and facilitate localism and engagement. I note with mild hysteria, the North West's Pilot project is HMP Haverigg. Has Failing looked at a map recently? Haverigg in Millom, Cumbria is not near anywhere. Far from promoting closer relationships with communities and families, this will stop people being able to visit their relatives....unless you are from, Barrow in Furness, Windermere, Conniston or Ambleside and in winter, a 10 mile journey in that part of the UK can be harder to negotiate than a Manchester to London trip. Even the jails own website says from Millom, 'a bus or taxi is required for the rest of the journey' to the jail. By car, it is at least 40 miles from junction 36 on the M6. I also wonder how all these volunteers doorstepping these prisoners on their day of release, will pay for their own transport to such a remote place????? It really beggars belief; surely is such a pilot was to be attempted, it should have been done in a local prison, as this is where most under 12 month sentences will be released.

    1. Completely agree! I think this topic will feature in my next post - thanks,


  3. I absolutely agree with your disquiet over the use of lie detectors, and there is plenty of international research that points out the ethical and reliability issues. Definitely my "line in the sand"for what I won't do. However I agree some may relish the thought of their use. And of course it won't stop with sex offenders. Which other groups do we stereotype and label as liars - oh yes, DV perpetrators and drug addicts -they,'ll be next and before you know it the Lie Detector will be the Supervising Officer of choice and the therapeutic relationship even more relegated to the margins of pratice. Far fetched? Ask me again in 10 years.

    1. Regrettably, not far-fetched at all! Oh, how far we've come eh?

  4. Hi all. A few people have referred to the possibility of forming mutuals. In reality how easy would it be to set up a mutual? Does anyone know how the bidding process works and what hoops need to be jumped through.

    1. I don't know, but the time frame is short, the costs involved are considerable, there is no guarantee of winning a bid and finally as was confirmed recently, it would involve considerable redundancies in order to be price competitive. I really can't see the attraction.