Friday, 27 June 2014

Grayling Wasting Money

Whilst I was out and about yesterday delivering the prize to the lucky millionth-hit winner, there's been a lot of talk about how much tax payers money Chris Grayling is wasting. It was all triggered by the latest report from the justice Affairs Committee and the essence of the argument summed up here in the Independent:-
Cash being used to build jails to hold the burgeoning prison population should be switched into preventing vulnerable people becoming caught up in crime in the first place, the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling is warned today by MPs.
In a damning assessment of the Ministry of Justice’s priorities, they urge the Treasury to investigate whether taxpayers’ money is being used effectively to reduce crime. The cash could be better spent on support for first-time single parents, as well as schemes helping people with mental health and alcohol problems, the Commons Justice select committee said. It also questioned how much credit the Government can take from continuing falls in crime rates.
In a report published today, the committee said violent crime, 44 per cent of which is drink-related, costs Britain almost £30bn a year, while drug-related crime costs £13.3bn and crime committed by people with behavioural problems as children costs £60bn. It contrasted the huge bills with the relatively small amounts spent on schemes such as family nurse partnerships, a programme of help for teenage single parents. The committee called for more funding to be allocated to mental health services – the “inadequacy of which costs the police, courts, probation, and prisons and victims of crime greatly” – and protested that alcohol treatment remained a “Cinderella service” both in prison and the community. 
Sir Alan Beith, its chairman, said the amounts given to such initiatives were tiny compared with spending on prisons and the “staggeringly high costs to society of crime”. The committee accused ministers of shying away from using the programme of cuts to the criminal justice system to reevaluate where and how taxpayers’ money is spent. MPs said they could not establish whether the ministry and the Treasury had examined the case for diverting money earmarked for prison-building to other schemes. They called for a “Government-wide approach which recognises more explicitly that the criminal justice system is only one limited part of the system through which taxpayers’ money is spent to keep people safe”.
Politicians are urged to tone down their “hardline rhetoric” about crime for fear they could “inappropriately influence” sentencers and demoralise professionals working with offenders. The media is also challenged to promote a “more rational debate on criminal justice”.
The theme was picked up by this post on the website:-

Grayling's tough justice is as expensive as it is useless

We know Chris Grayling's 'hang-em-and-flog-em' approach to crime doesn't work. Now we are starting to see how much it costs.

The prisons are stuffed full of more and more people, the conditions inside getting worse all the time - partly as a matter of policy. Grayling pays eye-watering fines for each new inmate he adds to overcrowded private prisons.

The need to cut costs could have been an opportunity to think differently about how to do rehabilitation. Instead Grayling has retreated into a Dickensian penal policy - the equivalent of an old general reading the Telegraph with his breakfast and spluttering about political correctness.

A justice committee report published today showed MPs are running out of patience with the Ministry of Justice's lack of interest in evidence-based policy or value for money. MPs on the committee went to Texas and found a political consensus. In this bastion of liberalism, they found agreement that there needed to be a plan to limit the growth of, and ultimately reduce, the prison population - primarily for financial reasons.

MPs, like so many before them who looked at the evidence, called for an increased use of community sentences.

'The committee concludes that a prison system which effectively rehabilitates a smaller number of offenders, while other offenders are rehabilitated through robust community sentences, has the potential to bring about a bigger reduction in crime," MPs found.

The finding is unlikely to trouble Grayling, because evidence plays little role in his view of the world. As MPs found, "ministers appear to have taken steps to increase their understanding of crime trends only at a relatively late stage in this parliament". They called on the government to "recognise more explicitly where reoffending has fallen and seek to understand why".

Saving public money is apparently the entire raison d'etre of this government, but while Grayling bleeds cash with his overstuffed prisons, there's no investigation of how to spend taxpayer money most effectively.

Committee chair Alan Beith said:
"Although crime has been falling, the extent to which this can, in practice, be attributed to national or local crime reduction policies is unclear. We do not have the right structures in place to provide a collective memory of research evidence, its relative weight, and its implications for policy making, including the best direction of resources, and we call on the government to create an independent and authoritative body to facilitate this."
MPs even bother to lay out some price tags. What if just some of the resources earmarked for new prison development could be used on early intervention techniques? The savings could be significant.

For example, each year:
  • Violent crime, 44% of which is alcohol related, costs almost £30 billion
  • Crime perpetrated by people who had conduct problems in childhood costs around £60 billion.
  • Drug related crime costs £13.3 billion.
  • Anti-social behaviour related to alcohol abuse costs £11 billion
On the other hand, the costs of preventative investment 'further upstream' are relatively small:
  • Evidence based parenting programmes cost about £1,200 per child.
  • It's estimated that drug treatment prevented 4.9 million offences in 2010-11, saving approximately £960 million.
But taking this sort of far-sighted attitude - for instance by embedding alcohol dependence and mental health services in the criminal justice system - requires a more cerebral secretary of state than the one currently occupying the Ministry of Justice. There's little chance of any change of course now - no matter how much it costs the taxpayer.

Grayling was put in post to placate the tabloids. And this is what you get if you do the tabloids' bidding on criminal justice: wasted public money and ineffective policy.

On top of all this we still don't know how much the TR omnishambles is costing, but estimates put it at around £150 million so far.


  1. I think it's more than Grayling being put in post to placate the tabloids. The goal of this Government's social policy over the past 5 years has been to win a majority for the Conservative party at the 2015 general election, regardless of the financial or human costs. I just don't have the words to express how despicable this is.

    1. If this is the case, why was Kenneth Clarke put in charge of the MOJ to begin with?

    2. The 'rehabilitation revolution' was in the Coalition Agreement - they had these plans all along. Ken Clarke set the process running and would have done the same things, just made the 'mistake' of waiting to see what the evidence from Peterborough and Doncaster showed. Don't make the mistake of thinking that his cuddly image and legal experience made him any less focussed on Tory tribalism - he wouldn't have succeeded under Thatcher otherwise.

  2. Off topic start-. A person has a history of a particular form of assault. He commits a third (known) assault in the same manner which is intentional, not accidental. There are numerous cameras (not grainy cctv) and high quality images of the assault itself and the injury. His initial comment about the assault is along the lines of "shit happens, deal with it." His friends and employer rally round, claiming everyone's making a terrible fuss about nothing.

    What court would slap the wrist of such a person? ABH with aggravating features of intent, deliberate use of a body part as a weapon, risk of transmitting infection, no remorse. Max available is five years.

    In the world of football, how about senior figures of the ruling body suggesting players would rather be bitten than be tackled? How about a decision that,no, you can't go out to play. You're grounded for a few weeks.

    Pathetic. And they get paid £200,000 a week to behave like that. What hope for young people who are influenced by those they admire and the world they grow up in?

    There's little difference in the Uk as a whole, with well paid influential figures behaving as they choose without any apparent checks and balances, no consequences of significance, just do what you want and tell lies to cover up.

    One of my clients recently laughed their socks off when they heard what my take home wage is - "I earn that in a couple of days - on top of my £50k a year at xxxxxxxxxx. As long as I don't get greedy, keep the right people informed and don't piss off the wrong people, No-one will touch me."

  3. Yes, but they`ve got caught and have to report to Probation Office once a fortnight. You on the other hand............ no that doesn`t work, you`ve got to report every chuffin` day!

    1. And under the new crc rules, they're due for less than that - in and out in under an hour once a month. As you rightly point out, its 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, 45 weeks a year for (give or take) £2k a month.
      Client - approx £3k a month of legit wages plus £10k a month tax-free.

      Who's stupid?

  4. Interesting developments that Grayling is sure not to like.

    1. He should be questioned on issues discussed in this article too.

    2. The new super prison for Wrexham is also raising concerns as reported by the BBC yesterday with regard to the cost it is likely to have on local NHS facilities. Theres likely to be about half a million short fall in funding before it opens its doors, and 'oddly enough' the MoJ cant provide any 'evidence' as to the probable costs of prisoners being treated locally and outside the walls of the prison.

      And just for a bit of fun (but its really not funny at all), I've just spied this article which highlights Graylings competence in reorganising the CJS.

    3. Interesting development in the ongoing row over the prisoner book ban. Later today Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrats' man in the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), is having talks with staff from the Howard League for Penal Reform.

      They're meeting with shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan in the morning. He's always been rock solid in the row and has pledged to repeal the rule if Labour get into office. Then they will meet up with leading authors like David Hare, Mark Haddon, Sarah Waters, A.L. Kennedy and Kathy Lette outside Downing Street to hand in a letter to the prime minister. After that, they'll head back into parliament to meet Hughes.

      It's not clear if this signifies a change of heart from the Lib Dem. So far, his position has been indistinguishable from that of the MoJ. In fact, when the story first broke he tweeted out, word for word, the ministerial lines to take. Now, it seems he may be pulling further away from Chris Grayling's position.

      One thing's for certain: the justice secretary will be furious. Grayling hates the Howard League. He's refused to budge on the prisoner book ban, even though it's a relatively minor policy which he could have put to bed easily if he'd been thinking tactically, rather than emotionally. He was sent a letter from various authors and campaigners in early April asking for a meeting to express their concerns but it was snubbed. He still hasn't written back. That's partly the reason they've been forced to go to Downing Street in the first place. They certainly weren't getting anywhere going through Grayling.

      As Howard League chief exec Frances Crooke said today:

      "The justice secretary's refusal to meet with us to discuss the issue has succeeded only in galvanising the campaign and baffling anyone who believes we should be broadening access to reading and not restricting it. This is a petty and counter-productive policy which the Ministry of Justice has tried and failed to justify with spurious arguments."

      Hughes may have been loyal so far, but now he needs achievements to his name from his short stint as a minister. He's going into an election in a few months time and right now he has little to show for himself.

      The Lib Dems have been reticent about taking a public position on the prisoner book ban because they'd rather pick their battles on more popular topics. But they're now pursuing something new in British political life: a base-of-base strategy - the ruthless targeting of diminishing returns. And things like banning inmates from receiving books, instituting a punishment regime in jails and spiralling suicide rates in overcrowded prisons do actually matter to liberals. So putting a bit of clear blue water between them and Grayling may not be such a bad idea.

      At a fundamental level, Grayling is pursuing the idea that punishment and humiliation, via private sector providers, is the best way to rehabilitate someone. You don't need to be particularly liberal – or particularly concerned with evidence – to find that idea unconvincing.

      He's not even going about this programme with civility. Grayling is a thug, hammering home his message about "right-wing solutions" in an increasingly illogical and ferocious manner. When writing on Conservative Home or the Daily Mail – where he clearly thinks he's among friends – he often loses the plot entirely.

      He's not doing the Lib Dems any favours by dressing up his policy agenda in rhetoric which is toxic to their core values. Why should they do him any favours in return?

  5. A MAN escaped from custody and went on the run from a West Berkshire Magistrates’ Court which no longer has a permanent prisoner escort service.

    The incident happened after the man was sentenced to 20 weeks’ imprisonment for handling stolen goods.

    Since the Newbury courthouse (pictured above) has been downgraded to ‘satellite’ status, a permanent prisoner escort service is no longer present there.

    Presiding magistrate Nicola Buchanan-Dunlop had to ask the defendant to wait within the court precincts until one arrived – a process that can take up to two hours.

    Seconds later shouts were heard from outside.
    An usher then entered the courtroom and told magistrates that the man had “absconded”.

    Newbury MP Richard Benyon said: “This is an example of why there’s such concern locally about the management of this court.

    “We’re all pleased it has been saved from closure, but it’s utterly ridiculous if convicted criminals are unable to be detained 40ft from a police station.”

    The defendant, who had been living in Thatcham, admitted four charges of receiving stolen goods relating to property found in Newbury.

    Earlier this month another presiding magistrate, Doug Porter, described the lack of a permanent prisoner escort service at Newbury’s courthouse as “an embarrassment”.

    Previously, police officers from the adjoining Newbury Police Station would have escorted defendants into a holding cell in an adjoining, state-of-the-art custody suite, purpose-built in 2009 at a cost of £2.3 million.

    In March 2011, the Ministry of Justice contracted a private firm to provide prison escort and custody services in an agreement worth up to £900 million over a period of up to 10 years.

    One effect of the downgrading at Newbury was highlighted last October when magistrates were unable to jail a defendant who aggressively taunted them.

    Weeks later, another defendant left the dock and advanced menacingly on magistrates, shouting abuse and hurling papers at them.

    The bench sought refuge in chambers while the man continued to rant, intimidating a female usher before finally storming from the building, unchallenged.

    In 2010 Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) sought to do away with the Newbury court altogether, centralising the dispensation of local justice in Reading and Slough.

    Following a campaign by interested parties, including magistrates, solicitors, Newbury MP Richard Benyon, other local politicians, and the Newbury Weekly News, it was saved from the axe.

    However, since then, the number of days the Newbury bench sits has been cut to one a week, and the court has been assigned ‘satellite’ status, dealing principally with non-custodial offences.

    Cases involving domestic violence, remand cases and traffic cases, are routinely sent elsewhere.

    1. Useful and relevant FOI here

  6. This atricle is getting widespread coverage today an interests me for various reasons.
    Firstly, I confess to being a proper and dedicated news hound on all matters relating to te CJS. Having scoured all possible news (and I read not just national bulletens, but spend many hours reading all I can find from region to region), this is the first reference I've came accross that indicates a disturbance at HMP Dartmoor on June 19th.
    I'm left to conclude that the MoJ have obviously decided that any incidents inside our overcrowfed prisons should not be reported in the media.
    The obvious question then is "just really how bad have things become?".
    Secondly, Grayling will be furious, and hope someone asks him if the sun cream came from existing budgets or from special funds?
    And with the Howard Leauge at Downing St today, I hope someone asks the PM if he didn't agree that allowing prisoners books to read in their cells is a far more productive approach to rehabilitation, then providing sun cream when sunbathing on the roof?

    Dartmoor rooftop prisoners offered sun cream

    27 June 2014 Last updated at 03:42Dartmoor Prison can hold 659 inmatesStaff at a Devon prison offered sun cream to inmates who managed to climb on to a rooftop, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has confirmed.The two prisoners managed to scale the roof of Dartmoor Prison during sunny weather on 19 June.The MoJ said sun cream was offered as part of a duty of care but declined by the prisoners.John Hancock, from the Prison Officers' Association in the south west, said it was "absolutely ludicrous".It is not known which of the prison's buildings was scaled, but some structures on the site, in Princetown, exceed five storeys and have steeply sloping roofs.The offer of sun cream was a standard procedure as part of the jail's duty of care, the MoJ said.There were no injuries and it is not clear why the men climbed on to the roof.Mr Hancock said it was "absolutely ludicrous that inmates are being molly coddled".The Ministry of Justice said the sun cream offer was part of the prison's duty of care responsibilitiesHe said: "They shouldn't have been up there in the first place."It's only going to encourage other inmates to get on the roofs and expect sun cream, and possibly cold drinks and ice creams as well."An MoJ spokesman said: "On Thursday 19 June, there was an incident at height at HMP Dartmoor involving two prisoners."The incident was successfully resolved by negotiation at 16:28 BST. No staff or prisoners were injured."The prison, currently able to hold 659 inmates, was originally built in 1809 to hold French and American prisoners of war.

  7. "The incident was successfully resolved by negotiation at 16:28 BST. No staff or prisoners were injured.".....yeah, but were any of them sunburnt?

  8. Very off topic, but...

    Tube strikes could stop people from watching the Tour de France when it arrives in London on July 7, unions have warned.Power workers from three different unions are threatening to go on strike from 8pm on Tuesday 1 July to 8pm on Wednesday 9 July.

  9. The man just loves his rules...this time bedtime rules
    His quote "In some prisons, young people are allowed to go to bed when they please. I don't think that is right." highlights yet again just how out of touch he is. It's not about what he think is right, it's up to the prisons to define the rules. Is the government going to tell parents next when their children should go to bed?

    1. Young offenders will have their cell lights and televisions turned off at 10.30pm sharp to enforce earlier bed times, the justice secretary, Chris Grayling, has ordered.

      The restriction, affecting those aged 15 to 17, is aimed at imposing stricter discipline on inmates and to prevent them from staying up all night watching programmes.

      "The public expects that serious offenders face prison," said Grayling. "That is right. But it is also crucial that young people, most of whom have had chaotic and troubled lives, finally get the discipline so badly needed to help turn their lives around.

      "In some prisons, young people are allowed to go to bed when they please. I don't think that is right. Stopping this inconsistency and introducing a strict, lights-out policy is all part of our approach to addressing youth offending. Those who fail to comply will face tough sanctions."

      According to recent figures, there are 827 young people serving custodial sentences in five young offender institutions in England. The changes will come into effect on 3 August.

      Those who disobey the new bedtime rules will lose privileges such as access to a television. Young offenders already have to be in their cells by 8pm; some cells, however, contain televisions. Under current regimes, governors have discretion about when lights and TVs should be turned off.

      Responding to the new rule, Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: "A new lights out policy will only exacerbate the problem of overuse of physical restraint in the youth secure estate which indicates a lack of trained, experienced staff with enough time to supervise and support the challenging children and young people in their charge.

      "As most parents of teenagers know, commonsense discussion, constructive activity, setting reasonable boundaries and encouraging personal responsibility, all work better than new hard and fast rules backed by petty restrictions and harsh punishments."

  10. No mention of Probation who are in "existential crisis" now, there will be no change for us should Labour get in

    1. The NHS, police, education system and social care are at risk of an "existential crisis" within the next five years if the Conservatives win the next election, Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, will warn on Saturday.

      In a wide-ranging speech the senior Labour MP, tipped as a future leader, will say public services are about empowerment and opportunities – not just a safety net, as the Tories believe.

      She will make the comments at a conference organised by the Fabian Society, which sets out its own 12 ideas for Labour's manifesto. Its first suggestion is that a Labour government should freeze public service spending until the deficit is under control and prioritise money for healthcare, children and skills.

      Other proposals include linking pension payments and many other benefits to wages; barring businesses from running entire public services; upping the minimum wage to 60% of median earnings; a five-year programme of tax reform; a UK sovereign wealth fund; and a new midweek bank holiday in aid of the environment.

      Before the conference, Andrew Harrop, general secretary of the Fabian Society, said the party had "lots of detailed policies to deploy in 2015, but lacks a clear story of how Britain will be different by 2020 after five years of Labour in power".

      He added: "Eyecatching but small-scale promises are not enough – the party needs to adopt radical long-term reforms. This is the only way Labour can reconnect with voters and prove that the political parties are not all the same."

      Cooper, speaking alongside the shadow health secretary Andy Burnham and Jon Cruddas, party policy chief, will say Labour will focus on public services in the runup to 2015.

      "At a time when people feel insecure and overstretched, quality public services matter more than ever," she will say. "Yet right now those vital public services we depend on are under growing threat."

      Setting out potential policy ideas in her own home affairs brief, Cooper will announce that Labour would hold a review of failed rape convictions to work out why the number of successful prosecutions is falling. She will also confirm the party's commitment to holding police disciplinary hearings in public to increase transparency in the wake of scandals such as Hillsborough and undercover police forming relationships with activists. Communities and councils should also have a say in appointing police chiefs and setting priorities for their local forces, she will say.