Monday, 23 June 2014

A Cracking Wheeze

I see from this article in The Times and lifted from the Napo forum, that Chris Grayling and the MoJ have come up with yet another cracking wheeze. Due to a number of factors, Magistrates haven't got enough work, but the Parole Board is snowed under. The answer to this problem? Why simple, get the former to do some of the work of the latter. 

It seems that the Minister is getting a bit hacked-off with lots of prisoners just walking out of Open Prison, and he thinks the MoJ would be better at making the decisions on the re-categorisation of long term prisoners instead of the Parole Board. He also intends to hand matters of recall over to Magistrates to give them more to do. Another disaster in the making me thinks.     

Parole Board shaken up to stop prisoners escaping

The power to recommend that murderers and other life sentence prisoners should be moved to open prisons could be stripped from the Parole Board under plans being considered by the government

Chris Grayling, the justice secretary, is also looking at ending the board’s involvement in reviewing decisions to recall thousands of prisoners to jail after they have broken the terms of their release. He wants magistrates to take on the job, which could involve them reviewing 17,000 cases a year.

The shake-up comes after high profile incidents in which murderers and violent offenders have gone missing from open prisons where they had been moved to prepare for their release.

Ministry of Justice sources insisted that the plans were not linked with escapes from open prisons but are the result of the increasing workload of the Parole Board. A Supreme Court ruling last October will require the board to hold more oral hearings including in “recall cases” that were previously dealt with on paper.

Others suspect that Mr Grayling has seized the opportunity of the need to tackle the board’s workload problems as a way of giving the Ministry of Justice the power to block transfers to open conditions.

Harry Fletcher, a criminal justice expert, said: “Magistrates do not have experience of risk-assessing longer term prisoners who include sex offenders, robbers and violent individuals.” He added: “The Parole Board is best placed to decide whether a prisoner should transfer to open conditions.”

Mr Grayling has ordered a review of release on temporary licence after a series of escapes from open prisons.

Last month Michael Wheatley, the “Skull Cracker” robber who was serving 13 life sentences for a string of raids on banks and building societies, absconded from Standford Hill prison on the Isle of Sheppey. While on the run he stole £18,000 during a robbery at Chelsea Building Society branch in southwest London.

After he was caught he was given another life sentence with a recommendation that he serve a minimum of ten years after admitting robbery and being unlawfully at large.

Under Mr Grayling’s plans, the recommendation to transfer hundreds of life-sentence prisoners, including those convicted of murder and rape, to open prisons would be made by the public protection unit in the Ministry of Justice rather than by the Parole Board.

Officials would make their recommendation after studying reports from prison and probation officers on how inmates behaved while in prison and whether they are a risk to the public.

The review of decisions to recall to jail thousands of prisoners released on licence would move to magistrates up and down the country. It would lift the burden from the Parole Board while at the same time provide extra work for magistrates, who are facing a declining number of cases going to courts because of the fall in crime.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We are working with the Parole Board to address the impact of a recent Supreme Court judgement. The board is introducing a number of changes to improve [its] capacity in response to the judgement. We are also considering whether there may be further options to help to ensure the board can continue to deliver an effective service. No decisions have been made yet.”


  1. Here we go again...

  2. Isn't that reverting to something similar to the old 'LRC' system?
    All Grayling is doing now is trying to plug some of the holes he's made. Unfortunately gor him, he's not bright enough to understand that all he's doing is creating a hugh bottle neck in the system thats going to spout dozens more holes thats eventually going to sink his ship.
    It's time he went, and replaced by someone that can think about things before they act, and not develop a new policy and todays headline whilst spooning down their cornflakes.
    The Criminal Justice System is for everyone, he needs to stop treating it like his own personal train set.

  3. On our local news this morning: man I transferred four weeks ago due to TR has been charged over the weekend with a Section 18 Wounding with Intent. The receiving PO in the NPS had arrived into a new post in a new area to find 38 high risk cases waiting for them. The handover of this man was superficial to say the least. Whose Serious Further Offence is this?

    1. It will no doubt be part of this governments "long term ecconomic plan".

    2. It's Chris Graylings SFO.

    3. And David Cameron's.

    4. No way, because our sold out managers will blame the OM.

  4. If it was not so serious, I'd have to laugh. Giving the Magistrates more to do....does CG not understand there are reasons why the Magistrates have limited authority to sentence? Things are being turned on their head...Magistrates having any authority to intervene or make more onerous a sentence passed by a learned Judge at the Crown Court...what does Mr Grayling put on his cornflakes?

    A friend of mine always referred to the local Magistrates as 'the Muppets' due to many years of experience in relation to their inconsistent and bizarre sentencing and judgments - com'on Chris lets have Waldorf and his mate decide on recalls,

  5. Magistrates do a good job, and let's not forget they are volunteers. I don't think putting them down will help anyone.

  6. Volunteers - yes, my peers, never and I for one hope they are not given anymore authority than they already have. For many years now I have considered it inappropriate to allow them the powers to imprison anyone - especially if you are sentencing on risk to the public; all those female shop lifters, so dangerous that only a custodial sentence will get my drift. I accept where there is a Stip Judge sitting, they tend to offer some checks and balances and I do appreciate the job Magistrates do, but I feel they have too much power. Lets not forget the requests we get on the majority of report requests, certainly in my area - 'all options', inc custody for a man who stole an airbag. In fact decision making, is not their strong point.

    Also, many Probation Staff will have shared car parking facilities with Magistrates and you just need to look around at the vehicles - Bentleys, Jags, Range Rovers, with personalised number plates, massive cars, which unfortunately, they have difficulty parking and consequently at one Office I worked at, they just left them anywhere they liked, causing great difficulty for those wanting to park their Nissan Micra.

  7. 30 years in is correct, no one with long experience in magistrates courts will say its not a system without flaws. Benches have legal advice as to the legal tests that are required to give a just sentence. But have been in many courts over the years you can't honestly say you would have complete confidence in a family member getting s just sentence. I have seen many examples of benches in awe of the prosecutor. The best magistrates are exceptional, the worst are dire. And that's the point, everyone in court in looking at a case asks..."whose on the bench today?"

  8. Forgive me if I am wrong but if the Magistrates are being asked to consider a recall then it could be likely that the supervising officer might be required to give further oral information in the court. If the supervising officer is part of the CRC they no longer have any right of audience in court. Would this involve the officer attending court and standing next to a CDO who would then relay the info to the Magistrates?

  9. No think your right, as with Oral hearing at Parole Board, patronising and demoralising for all our CRC former PSO/PO colleagues.

  10. I note with interest the disparaging remarks directed at my colleagues and me; they do you as a profession no favours. Indeed they indicate a gross ignorance which does nothing to enhance symaphy for your current problems. Having said that I will agree wholeheartedly that Grayling`s latest proposals re Parole Board are not even fit to be flushed down the finest lavatory in Petty France. When J.P.s have finally been dispatched from the courts and replaced by full time state employed District Judges our critics here might regret our passing.

    1. Point is comments based on experience, as I said the best magistrates are exceptional. If you are confident that every magistrate in the land is in that category or at least in the category below then you are an amazing individual. I know for a fact I am not as confident of my own profession.

    2. To the magistrate who offered the above understandable objection may I say this. I object to the disrespect offered to the magistracy by members of my former profession. Having been a Probation Officer for nearly twenty years up until the mid 90's, with several stints as Mags Court Officer in two large cities, I can share your unhappiness at the disparaging comments above, and I am not sympathetic with much of what has been said. I do recall a huge range of approaches and aptitudes of magistrates, some of whom were excellent in dealing with certain types of cases, others better suited to more generic work. Furthermore (as with a number of probation officers I knew), some magistrates would have been better off offering their time and energies elsewhere; this is the case in all subsets of people and not a comment on magistrates as a whole. This seems to be the issue which has been inflated by some commenters above to a generalisation, which I do not share. Having said this, I would invite sensible discussion as to whether the magistracy are offered the training required to assess risk and dangerousness of serving inmates, and whether or not it may be argued that, along with the principle of the separation of powers, the magistracy, as a major arm of the judiciary, should keep themselves separate from the process. This may not be correct, but it would be a more fruitful line of debate than cheap shots about large cars, muppets and so on, which frankly cheapens and demeans a crucial debate. The magistrates and probation officers I knew worked together, and when we disagreed it was over maters of professional opinion. We didn't call one another names.

    3. The magistracy is a broad church. I think yhou'll find that is the point ;)

    4. Apologies for any hurt feelings, I know how that feels as my profession has been on the receiving end of unsympathetic comments and attitudes all my career. I must also offer gratitude to some Magistrates, as on 3 occasions between 1982-1999 I was interviewed by local Magistrates for work, those were the days! I can only put the 'rush to the head annoyance' I expressed, down to the post today. It is about personal experience and I have friends, excellent workers and professionals who have gone through the very grueling process for selection to the Parole Board and have failed - I can only imagine their shortcomings being the inability to walk on water. Also, anyone who frequents Oral Hearings will, I hope empathise with me, because I have always had a first rate experience of the Parole Panels - that I cannot imagine the Magistracy having a positive influence on any part of the process, without extensive and significant training.

  11. Don't be fooled - Fort Lauderdale Local Home Moving Companies has been part of TR from the beginning!

    Simon Garden

  12. May need your services soon Jyoti at short notice too, will need to get out of this country sharpish and sounds nice there. Will be in touch. CG.

  13. Did anyone catch the webchat today from the moj? There was mention that anothet mutual has pulled out momentis.

    1. The Webchat - what an expensive, time consuming and utterly pointless exercise. A bit like the cost of sending 72 people to the USA then Brazil under the guise of being an England football team.

      According to Chris & Jezza, the Toxic Twins, all is fine in the moj, there's nothing they haven't thought about, all bases are covered, all systems are go. No VR for the humble frontliners, and they're ever so grateful for the hard work probation staff have given to ensuring their TR project is excelling and working like a dream.

      What a bunch of nobs we are. Our own worst enemies.

  14. someone mentioned today that Cumbria only has one bidder - is this true - I know Innovo are still in the running. Where I am managers are feeling that privatisation wont be happening afterall but you never know what rabbit Grayling may pull out of the hat.

    Here is the latest from Innovo in the NorthWest:

    Dear Colleagues (er are we there colleagues yet?)
    another week and again some great work on the submission for Innovo Rehab to create a new era in the Probation Services provision in Cumbria, Lancs and Merseyside.

    Our first draft of our bid submission is now complete and is being scrutinized as part of our partnership.

    We aim to provide staff the greatest opportunity to use their skills in the most effective way possible. Innovo CLM is an organisation that differs from others in the TR competition, in that it is a staff mutual, by staff for staff.

    The partnership between Innovo CLM and TMC will build upon our joint reputations in the sector for reducing offending behaviour both in custody and out in the community. Creating innovative solutions and sharing best practice will encourage better performance and value for money.
    Both key values in the tender conditions for the CRC contracts.

    Please have a look at our updated website to get more info . It gives a lot more detail on the structure and advantages that such a partnership brings to our bid submission.

    As a NW based social enterprise, we will deliver innovative locally-based solutions within our communities to provide enhanced offender management, reducing reoffending and furthering education skills and economic growth outcomes.

    The bid writing team face continual challenges. Non more so than a recent Thursday meeting.

    A 4 day challenge of a changing agenda from a one hour discussion to a three hour presentation. Everyone rose to the challenge and we acquitted ourselves well.

    Every offender released from custody will receive statutory supervision and rehabilitation in the community. We want to make sure that all those who break the law are not only punished but also engage in rehabilitation.

    Innovo Rehab welcomes the challenges of a new look Probation service that encourages innovation to improve outcomes. New payment incentives focusing relentlessly on reforming offenders. Giving providers flexibility to do what works with freedom from bureaucracy.

    Have you any questions for use? We have set up a dedicated email for you. Please send questions to

    We will endeavour to reply to each and every one of them within the time constraints of leading the team completing the tender documents. We are sure you will understand that we are unable to include information considered sensitive to the bid submission in any reply.

    They are exciting times for us all as we create a new era of probation based on our collective experience, integrity and passion. Should we be successful in our bid to run either or both the new CRCs we aim to continuously improve the operation in terms of effectiveness and efficiency, through reinvesting any profits. Much work will only be paid for if Innovo establishes a real reduction in rates of reoffending. This is a core operational requirement of the TR competition. Our experience gained over many years will enable us to be more effective across both partners and the extended supply chain including service delivery, estates, ICT, HR and leadership & governance.

    Hopefully we will provide the most compelling tender and be awarded the contract to run both Cumbria/Lancashire and Merseyside. There are others tendering for the work and as such we are unable to say much more. Bid submission is now 30th June - a 2 week extension from the original deadline of 16th June

    1. Its a well known fact that everyone else has pulled out of the Cumbria competition so they can buy Blencathra instead.


    3. The heart of the Lake District, the beloved mountain Blencathra, is up for sale.

      In early May, Lord Lonsdale announced plans to sell Blencathra- fondly known as Saddleback- in an auction to raise £1.75 million. However, we, the Friends of Blencathra, don’t want the mountain to be sold to a wealthy tycoon, we want it to be sold to the public.

      We petition Lord Lonsdale to sell the mountain to the public, if we can generate enough money before July 2nd.
      Why is this important?

      Because Blencathra is much more than a status symbol on a piece of paper. It is a well-loved mountain, part of our community that should be given back to the people.

      Blencathra is one of the most renowned landmarks in the Lake District. Back in 1800, Samuel Taylor Coleridge was inspired by a visit to write of the “tyrannous and strong” winds battering “stern Blencathra”. It was also a favourite of the fell-walker and guide book author Alfred Wainwright.

      John Robson at H&H Land and Property who is managing the sale said this will be bought "by someone who has a certain amount of disposable income”, as it will be “something they will want to pass onto future generations." In other words, the mountain is being marketed as if it were a piece of jewellery, or a landscape painting. But Blencathra is loved by all and is more to us than this.

      Please join our campaign to petition Lord Lonsdale to allow the public to buy thee mountain. Our second public meeting was held at 2pm on Saturday 31st May 2014 at the Rheged Centre, Redhills, Penrith, Cumbria CA11 0DQ

  15. Don't get too hung up about the Magistrates . . .here in West Yorks we've solved the problem . . .we no longer give them any choice in sentencing, it's just low / med / /high level Activity Requirement and we'll decide on the detail 'post sentence' ! The mags love it - -NOT. It's coming to your area soon !.

    1. We've been told that Mags wont be saying the components of a sentence but saying 'Probation for 12 mths' or whatever and its down to the OM to decide the rest. Court staff worried about their futures - has there been court staff cuts as a result??

    2. So technically we could just take them to the pictures every week?

      For those who are progressing, maybe Spiderman or Transformers.

      For those in breach, ANY Jennifer Anniston film.

      Culpae poena par esto :)

    3. every week - you're behind the times, CRC is fortnightly for the 1st 8 weeks thereafter professional judgement should be used and contact can be with either OM or designated other. All of mine are on monthly or 6 weekly.

    4. "Sentenced to Social Work" returns maybe?

    5. It all comes down to that self explanatory question,
      "who's on the bench".
      A question everyone asks, but if it was truely an impartial process, then thats something that wouldn't even be considered?

    6. Anon 19.45, please can you tell me where to find the new CRC reporting guidelines? When I referred to them last week to an ACO, she hadn't heard of them- although I'd previously read about them on this blog. Thanks.

    7. Does this apply to thise on BBR/DV perps etc?

      I would be very concerned if this was the case!

    8. It appears that things are going to be done differently all over the country. In Northumbria we are all having three days mandatory training in 'Positive Pathways' from the Northumbria CRC Website:

      "There are three levels of supervision - standard, enhanced and premium – depending on the amount and nature of the work which needs to be done.

      Most offenders will begin their supervision by completing the positive pathways programme. This is a 6-8 week course where offenders under supervision work individually and in small groups on a range of lifestyle, victim awareness and offence related work identified in the sentence plan.

      Once offenders have completed their core supervision, they move on to our resource centres. These centre provide ongoing assistance with a range of lifestyle and offending related issues, and support offenders in their reintegration into local communities. The resource centres provide support in:

      accessing suitable housing
      becoming ready for work and looking for employment
      accessing education and training opportunities
      accessing benefits
      linking with relevant community groups in their local area, for ongoing support after the sentence has ended"

      The offence focused work has to be done in groups with males and females separately. DV perps apparently being taken out of this, but I haven't done the training yet! Resoyrce centres to be staffed largely by volunteers and partnership agencies. Not sure what happens if they don't have any of theses needs or the 'resources' aren't available or don't come on board.

      It's all a bit rubbish really.


    1. The BBC must start providing news reports, background information and intelligent, balanced analysis of the social and political shift happening amongst the UK population right now, connecting this to the impacts, justifications and morality of the long & deep austerity measures being pursued by those in power. The BBC failed to proportionally or accurately cover or analyse the swing towards the Green parties in the European election and now has failed to provide coverage or analysis of the Austerity Protest in London yesterday.
      Why is this important?

      The BBC is a public service with a remit to cover and analyse news, events signifying social & political shifts in the country, and not a spokesperson for power or corporate interests.

      8462 signatures so far.