Just like many of our clients for whom denial is the natural default position, the MoJ appears to be in total denial mode in relation to the 'safe roll-out' of TR. Despite mounting and over-whelming evidence of chaos everywhere, the MoJ just buries it's head in the sand hoping all the 'teething troubles' will get sorted and everything will be fine. Well, it looks like we may well have the first SFO involving the death of a woman at the hands of a man that should have been under supervision.
This from the Mirror:-
A woman was murdered by her ex-lover because of Tory changes to the probation service, leading Labour politicians claim. The man said to have carried out the attack had already been convicted of domestic violence and was thought so dangerous he should have been under constant surveillance. But his file went missing for a week as the service struggled to cope with being privatised. It was during this time “off radar” that he killed his ex-girlfriend.
Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan said he had warned that the new system would pose a risk to the public – and demanded an inquiry into the tragedy. He added: “I wasn’t alone in warning the Government that their probation privatisation would create a confusing system for supervising serious and violent criminals. “This is a terrible tragedy which might have been avoided if probation wasn’t in utter meltdown.”
Under the changes, 70 per cent of the service is being privatised with firms taking over the supervision of all but high-risk criminals. Sources claim the man was first categorised as high risk but downgraded because of a lack of staff in the remaining state service. And because his files weren’t transferred with him, the private firm wasn’t able to keep tabs on him for a week.
Ian Lawrence, head of probation union Napo, said: “We have repeatedly warned Justice Secretary Chris Grayling that splitting the service will turn simple processes into time-consuming exercises. “There are significant staff shortages in parts of the country, an IT system that is not fit for purpose and a lack of basic infrastructure in place for these reforms to be anywhere near safe.”
But Justice Minister Andrew Selous said: “It would be irresponsible for the Labour Party to jump to conclusions when there is no evidence our rehabilitation reforms have undermined public protection.”That comment by the brand new unpaid minister prompted this from a named Probation Officer yesterday:-
The response of Selous reported in the Independent was risible. There is not enough information in the press reports, and in any case, such a tragedy deserves full review. However, I have been minded today of the meeting I had with Mr Grayling and my local MP in June, when I voiced my concerns about the risks inherent in the TR programme and specifically with reference to DV cases. I told him that there was a cupboard full of unallocated DV cases in a local office and that this was dangerous. His response was that this was a local leadership issue, and that we should expect "teething problems" in the project. Outrageous. We have spoken out about the risks, particularly in DV cases, till we are hoarse, and it has felt like banging my head against a brick wall. The PCCs have voiced the same concerns. The TUC women's conference was unanimous in expressing concern. Selous trotting out the same old same old is just plain offensive.
A damning dossier of evidence and interviews compiled by The Independent on Sunday reveals the extent of Britain's probation crisis, as Labour calls for an inquiry into whether the reforms meant a preventable murder took place this month.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has repeatedly denied that the service has nearly ground to a halt as a result of changes introduced at the start of last month. Justice Secretary Chris Grayling split the probation into two ahead of privatising 70 per cent of the service that deals with low-to-medium risk offenders, as 35 trusts become 21 community rehabilitation companies (CRCs). High-risk offenders are overseen by a new National Probation Service (NPS), a separation that has infuriated experienced senior officers.
The dossier reveals:
*A backlog of 75,000 unseen emails, many containing vital information about offenders, to and from probation officers built up in London alone, with similar problems in Norfolk and Suffolk;
*Overworked probation officers: in May, the Gloucester office had 23 staff who wrote 35 pre-hearing reports for adjourned cases, but after the split only six staff completed 27 last month;
*A trust chief executive from Somerset said she has quit because she feels the "fragmentation" of probation is not the "best framework for public protection";
*Former coalition justice minister Crispin Blunt said Mr Grayling should have tested such "revolutionary" reforms rather than just transform the whole service overnight.
The MoJ has repeatedly argued that the probation service has not descended into chaos, despite officers and unions complaining of IT failures and lost files. In an email to the new London CRC, a service desk manager said last week: "[IT provider] Steria has advised there are lengthy delays in the receipt and delivery of external emails. There is a backlog of 75,000 emails to clear." Insiders warned officers were not receiving vital emails from the police, who might be advising that an offender has been arrested. The MoJ said that this was a wider problem that had "nothing to do" with reform.
In Norfolk and Suffolk, a manager warned staff last week that there were "serious performance issues" with critical software, which could result in data being lost. In Hackney, east London, there were 65 offenders given probation from 17 June to 16 July. These offenders should have been allocated an officer within three days; 13 had not by last week. A London man found to have hurt his young child has been allocated as tier two – low risk – when such an offence should have seen him made a tier four, a high-risk offender. This means his supervision could be very different to what is recommended.
Joanna Hughes, a probation officer who quit in May, said that she had been told that Gloucester officers had seen their workload shared between far fewer staff. She said that officers were scared by "implied threat of disciplinary action if they speak out". Sue Hall, chair at the Probation Chiefs Association, said: "Day after day, time after time, there seem to be big new challenges that are testing the new system. Because the reforms were brought in too quickly it would be surprising if there weren't any problems."
Mr Blunt said that if he was still a justice minister he would have advised that the reforms were tested in two areas before being rolled out nationally. He argued: "You make your mistakes, but then show that you've learnt and then show that it works."With the extreme heat of the last few days combined with reduced prison staffing levels, we've seen the first breakout of serious disorder at HMP Ranby and with the prison suicide rate increasing, Frances Crook of the Howard League has speculated that the Tories appear to have reintroduced capital punishment.
Some time ago Dame Ursula Brennan, the MoJ Permanent Secretary, promised Parliament that TR would only proceed if it was safe to do so. Is it safe Ursula?