Tuesday, 7 October 2014

MoJ Rattled

As the following document shows, the MoJ are making efforts to make sure things are 'smoothed over' as far as Judges and Magistrates are concerned regarding the bright new future being ushered-in under TR. I particularly like this bit:- 
"The feedback we have received to date is that judges have not noticed any difference in probation service delivery since the transition on 1 June."
Transforming Rehabilitation: Programme Update
Ministry of Justice officials are currently conducting a series of interviews across the country with members of the judiciary to get your views on how the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms are progressing in regard to the courts, and what further information you would like to gain a greater understanding of the reforms.
Over the coming months we will be putting out regular information responding to emerging themes from these discussions to ensure that you have the information you need fully to understand the reforms that are taking place in the probation system.
What has been happening over the last few months?
On 1 June the 35 Probation Trusts were re-organised into 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) and the new National Probation Service (NPS). Over the last few months, staff in the new organisations have been working hard to embed the new structures and processes. Under the new system, all low and medium risk of harm offenders will now be managed by the CRCs, and all high risk of harm offenders by the NPS.
Alongside the operational reorganisation, the Ministry of Justice has also been running a competition to find new owners for the 21 CRCs. We remain on track to sign contracts with new providers by the end of 2014.
Our reforms will see the probation market opened up to a wide range of providers to allow innovation from the private and voluntary sectors under a new payment by results structure. This system will encourage new ways of working with offenders based on what works to reduce reoffending. Services to the courts will continue to be provided by the public sector NPS.
Competition Update
Good progress has been made in the competition to own and run the 21 CRCs. On 30 June we reached the deadline for bid submissions. We have a strong and diverse market of bidders, with more than 80 bids currently being evaluated. There is healthy competition, with an average of 4 bidders in each of the Contract Package Areas.
We have a mix of bidders from a range of partnerships, including charities experienced in tackling a range of issues affecting offenders, small and large British businesses and experienced multinationals. Mutuals (formed by enterprising groups of staff who worked together in Probation Trusts) are also represented in this cadre, and all of the bidders have experience in working with offenders or across the wider criminal justice system. In addition, almost 1000 organisations have now registered as potential supply chain providers including more than 700 voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations.
We are on track to sign contracts with new owners later this year. We expect to commence the legislation when new owners take ownership of CRCs in early 2015. 
Maintaining the quality of probation staff serving the Courts
The NPS and CRCs will both be required to have suitably qualified and competent staff. The NPS will continue to use the Probation Qualification Framework (PQF) and CRCs will be free to do the same should they choose to. If CRCs chose not to adopt the framework then they will still be contractually obliged to demonstrate equivalent qualifications for their staff.
On 3 December 2013 the MoJ announced the establishment of the Probation Institute in partnership with the Probation Chiefs Association (PCA), the Probation Association (PA), Napo and UNISON. This new independent organisation opened its doors in March this year and will provide professional leadership and promote skills for those working to drive down reoffending in the community.
Overview of the Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014
The Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014 extends post-release supervision to prisoners released from sentences of less than 12 months. It also makes various changes to the framework for community orders and suspended sentence orders, including the creation of a new rehabilitation activity requirement.
We will bring these provisions in to force at the point that the contracts for successful bidders for CRCs take effect and the new providers start delivering rehabilitation services. We plan to do this in line with our commitment to introduce these major reforms by 2015.
The Judicial College will be providing training later this autumn on the provisions of the Act and on the wider context of the reforms.
Through the Gate
The reforms will also put in place nationwide rehabilitation services which work “through the gate”, providing continuity of services for offenders in custody and the community. Under these reforms, in most cases the same provider will support induction of an offender into custody, provide them with resettlement services before release, meet them at the prison gates and continue work in the community.
The principals of Through the Gate (TTG):
  • Coordination and management of offenders’ resettlement needs by the same provider
  • A universal screening of need for all prisoners within the first three days on arrival in prison - completed by prison staff using the Basic Custody Screening Tool (BCST)
  • Individual resettlement plan for all prisoners, Part 2 of the BCST, completed by Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC)
  • Delivery of the plan by the CRC through the sentence
  • Finalised plans for resettlement are made with the prisoner in their last twelve weeks in custody
  • Support (including for those serving under 12 months) continues into the community
  • The same provider responsible for the offender’s progress both sides of the gate
  • CRCs will be contractually obliged to deliver the following services; accommodation advice, employment retention and brokerage, financial advice and signposting services for sex workers and victims of domestic and sexual violence
Managing Risk: Community Rehabilitation Companies
For low and medium risk offenders, resettlement and supervision post custody will be the responsibility of the CRC; meeting the offender at the gate on release and supporting them in successful resettlement during the licence and supervision period. During the custodial period prison offender supervisors will be responsible for managing risk.
National Probation Service
Management of high risk offenders will continue to be the responsibility of the National Probation Service (NPS). During the custodial period prison offender supervisors will be responsible for managing risk.
Contract management function – How will we make sure that this will work? How will we enforce the contracts if services are not provided by CRCs?
CRC contracts will set out detailed requirements in relation to offender management, including management of the risks posed by anoffender, which CRCs must adhere to.
Contracts have been designed to ensure that the MoJ contract managers can take robust action to deal with any risks to public safety, including the ability to step in, require action from CRCs and ultimately terminate contracts.
Our contracts are designed so that, to be paid in full, CRCs have to focus on ensuring both that offenders complete the requirements of their orders and that they are successfully rehabilitated. CRCs will be contractually required to ensure that the full sentence of the court is delivered. We will measure CRC performance in this respect and can deduct from their overall payment if performance falls below our expectations. 
Separately, a proportion of the overall payment to CRCs is at risk under Payment by Results, and they will not receive full payment unless they improve reoffending rates for offenders in their cohort.
Furthermore there will continue to be an independent Inspectorate of Probation with the same statutory remit as now. The Inspectorate will be expected to inspect the system as a whole, covering both the public sector probation service and the contracted providers.
Has probation service delivery been maintained through the transition period?
Throughout the transition period we have worked closely with HMCTS and are now conducting nationwide interviews with members of the Judiciary. The feedback we have received to date is that judges have not noticed any difference in probation service delivery since the transition on 1 June.
Public protection remains our top priority and, as the programme progresses, the MoJ and NOMS will continue to deliver services effectively and provide value for money for the taxpayer. We will also continue to work closely with HMCTS to ensure that levels of service to the Court are maintained.
SPJ Protocols 
We will work with the Senior Presiding Judge to increase awareness of the protocol amongst NPS and CRC staff and local judiciary. The protocol can be found here:
http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/offenders/probation-instructions/pi-49-2014-liaison-arrangements.doc

In stark contrast to the picture painted for sentencers, the latest issue of NPS Getting Started is a special edition that tries to address the continuing chaos 'What we're doing to stabilise the new NPS'
Directors’ message

It is now four months since the formal creation of the National Probation Service and the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies and over that period we have all been working to build and develop both the NPS and CRCs and to prepare for the share sale of the CRCs.

For the NPS much of this work carries on what we were doing to prepare for the June 1 change-over such as transferring policies from 35 Trusts into NOMS. We need in time to bring together our policies and we are working with the unions on a whole range of issues still needing to be resolved.

We are also looking at the shape of our workforce, where vacancies exist, where new roles have been created and how we should best recruit, train and vet our staff. You will all be only too aware that in the run up to June, in some places vacancies were not filled and that some aspects of the new model are new. None of this was ever going to happen overnight but good progress is being made.

Much of the work we are doing revolves around the relationship between the NPS and the CRC, which I know is something that many people have questions about. Our aim remains as it has always been: to ensure the best operational relationship between NPS staff and the CRC providers. This involves a whole range of teams from ICT, to our colleagues in the Prison Service as for example we prepare to implement Through the Gate provision and those dealing with the practical issues such as shared work spaces.

The implementation process for Transforming Rehabilitation was always going to be complex and there are issues that we will all still need to work through after share-sale. This special edition bulletin aims to give an overview on the work being done and key contacts if you need to know more.

All probation staff deserve credit for the professional way that you have maintained your focus on core operational delivery processes. Overall core offender-focused probation performance has stood up well during these early months in no small part due to your professionalism and effort.

I’d like to thank you all for your work over the last four months in particular and I encourage you to continue giving your feedback.
Colin Allars, Director of Probation

Sarah Payne, Director NOMS in Wales

32 comments:

  1. Is the financial advice only available to "sex workers and victims of domestic and sexual violence", as suggested by that document, or did they just miss out a comma?

    Is anyone taking part in the latest web chat this morning? I know I've got many better things to do with my time.

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  2. I tried to discover what BCST was and found myself directed to the "manage the sentence" document. What a crock... Sadly it won't let me copy (why?) but its a 37 page pdf full of astounding gobbledegook. Try putting 'bcst' into a popular search engine. Its a hoot!

    I still don't know the answer.

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    1. This is the Basic Custody Screening Tool . It's an OASys programme to screen all new receptions to prison and is supposed to highlight areas of need - accommodation, drugs etc -which are then picked up by the CRC workers who will be working in the prison. Trouble is that pilots have already shown that they take far longer than expected, it is a tick box programme completed on screen at interview and leaves little opportunity for the interviewer to discuss anything outside the format -and how many of us would want to be sitting opposite someone who was focused on filling in a computer programme while feeling stressed about being in prison and wanting a human conversation? It will be completed by Band 4 officers, the SOs who will be Offender Supervisors. Any busy local prison can expect to receive dozens of new prisoners each week so the number of staff needed to complete this task is probably unlikely to be available given the current shortages and redeployment already stretching resources to the limit. It's a cumbersome way to get information and gives no scope for the interviewer, won't be available for a lot of other staff to read, further casenotes will have to be written on the national prison system so important information can be shared. All the staff I know who trialled the programme felt very uncomfortable with the way they were constrained by the sequence of questions, gave them no opportunity to respond to the interviewee and probably did not get any more information than the interviews we have been doing with new receptions for years.


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  3. My partner is a PO working for NPS. Her line manager is based 40 miles away and works 2 days a week. They have me once, three months after the abolition of the local probation trust. Doubtless Colin Allars thinks this is all fine and dandy.

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  4. Love to know how many staff are off sick with work related stress now?

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    1. 50% in our office in Manchester, and more and more staff looking ready to go, the whole thing is unmanageable, never mind the crap that they keep writing about. Cause the judges haven't noticed any difference since the split because agency staff are papering the cracks, and if they can't manage CRC staff are having to do it. Why cant just one person in the MOJ be honest and admit that its a load of shambles.

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    2. After 27yrs I was sacked for being off six months with work related crc stress. Unison full time official said it was an open and shut case of unfair dismissal but then Unison refused to take to court for some gobbledygook reason. With help of my mental health worker became well enough for phased return but management refused to engage with Mind counsellor. My three month window for taking to tribunal is near past. The conspiracy theorist in me suspects that management waiting to see what happens in my case (will I wont I) before culling all those on sickness which they have caused. Watch this space..........

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  5. Hi, sorry I didn't catch the comments last night on the previous blog. I am more than happy to arrange a meeting for those who want to participate on an emergency motion and we could arrange a time and place at the AGM. As I'm the only one who doesn't have to be anonymous I could liaise with people or we could publish a time and a place on here. My email is joanna840@googlemail.com

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  6. VIA TWITTER: -

    " MerseysideCRC ‏@MerseysideCRC

    Chief's Blog: Our mission is to create the best rehabilitation through mutual collaborative effort, high achievement and high performance... "

    https://twitter.com/MerseysideCRC/status/519428222195609602

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  7. Webchat was a waste of time.

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    1. It is here : -

      http://www.napo2.org.uk/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=840

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    2. I asked this on the webchat today but unless I missed it, I don't think it got past the moderators:

      'There has been no recognition of the role and responsibility of CRC Probation Officers changing. However, the CRC handbook which states ‘Section 4 of the Act reserves the function of giving assistance to the court to determine the appropriate sentence to pass or making any other decision in respect of an offender, to public bodies. During the period when the CRCs are wholly owned by the Secretary of State they will count as public bodies for the purposes of section 4 – however, there are no plans for them to provide these services during this period. On share sale to the successful bidders they will cease to be public bodies for the purposes of section 4 and therefore be prohibited from providing advice to court'. Is this change legal without offering redundancy to Probation Officers in CRC?'

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    3. So if this is the case how come they are saying that post sale PO's in CRC can write reports for NPS at £150.00 per report, if we have no right to provide advise to the courts.

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    4. I guess - and this is a guess - CRC POs writing reports for NPS post share sale will be contracted & paid by NPS so they will be employed by public sector to write the reports? It's not about being qualified to do it, it's about who employs us and you have to be public sector to advise the courts.

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    5. I think you're right. I would imagine that CRC staff would be used as 'agency' staff by the NPS post share sale to write PSR's if need be. I would also imagine that we would do this in our own time. Not that I would ever try and paper over the cracks and do this, no matter how much they offered to pay me!

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    6. Doesn't this just make a mockery of the wall thats been put up regarding access to information between CRC and NPS?

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  8. http://www.nwemail.co.uk/news/crime-papers-sent-to-wrong-barrow-address-1.1166714

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    1. AN “urgent investigation” is under way after sensitive court documents were sent to the wrong building in Barrow and disappeared.

      An unknown amount of correspondence from the Crown Prosecution Service’s offices in Preston, intended for the Probation Service, is missing from the address in Lawson Street, Barrow.

      The Evening Mail understands the alarm was raised by a probation service user, who was given documents relating to his own case by another individual who claimed to possess a “stack” of papers from the CPS.

      The Probation Service had previously been located at the building but moved to Duke Street last year.

      It is understood that the mistake may have seen documents sent to the wrong address up until July this year.

      A CPS statement read: “We are conducting an urgent internal investigation into why some correspondence from the CPS to the probation service was sent to a previous probation service address. We are working closely with the probation service to identify any cases where CPS correspondence was sent to their previous address and where the correspondence was not then redirected to them.

      “Initial findings suggest that this concerns a small number of cases.”

      Although the CPS could not confirm what documents had been wrongly sent, a spokeswoman said it regularly corresponds with the Probation Service with information on court cases.

      The Evening Mail understands the missing documents relate to Crown Court cases.

      The CPS also says a “small number of correspondence items” had been recovered from the building after it was contacted by the Probation Service about the error.

      Rumours that some of the documents had been recovered from a skip outside the building were denied by the CPS.

      The Lawson Street building is undergoing renovation work.

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    2. So how can CPS be so sure that documents hadn't been retrieved from the skip? They're in Preston and clearly have no idea where probation are in Barrow, let alone whether the documents are in a skip, a brown paper bag or the belly of a whale.

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  9. Northumbria branch continuing to campaign in the press -

    http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/justice-secretary-systematically-destroying-probation-7890002

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  10. Three of the four colleagues who worked with others on our local 'mutual' (that isn't), safely esconsed the other side of the ethical wall, have got Vol. Redundancy. Bodes well for those of us with no idea what they have 'developed'.

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  11. I hope oldsters have not missed this treat about the original tailgunner p: -

    http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/oct/07/geoffery-parkinson-obituary

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    1. Geoffrey Parkinson obituary

      My father, Geoffrey Parkinson, who has died aged 87, was a dedicated officer with the Inner London Probation Service. He had a passion for his work and was determined to stay on the frontline for as long as he could.

      Along with his probation work, though, he also wrote prolifically. Using his wit and the inspiration of his Methodist upbringing, Geoffrey wrote plays for radio, many of which were produced and aired by the BBC throughout the 1970s, 80s and 90s. He also had a monthly column in New Society magazine under the name of Tailgunner Parkinson, which had a small but avid following.

      Professionally, he was a man before his time. He challenged the probation establishment, thinking it unrealistic to expect hardened criminals to opt for a crime-free life overnight. Instead, Geoffrey advocated "weaning" offenders on to lesser, petty crimes. His stance was too controversial for the probation service of the 70s and he was suspended, though later reinstated.

      Geoffrey was born and brought up in Epsom, Surrey, and educated at Glyn grammar school, Epsom, and Oxford Polytechnic (now Oxford Brookes University). After national service in the RAF he spent a while not knowing what he wanted to do, but eventually trained as a probation officer.

      He was funny, great company, intelligent, and a brilliant storyteller, but also a highly complex character. Privately, he could be unapologetically judgmental of others. His marriage to my mother ended in 1985, after which I lived with him alone for the next decade. We had a tempestuous relationship but lived alongside each other amicably, dad in a flat downstairs and me above him.

      Geoffrey accumulated money and possessions throughout his life, remaining in the family home in Sutton, Surrey, which became very cluttered. He was proud of his achievements, his reputation in the probation service and his many plays.

      He is survived by my sister, Jane, brother, Paul, and me, and by nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

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    2. Off topic, but this latest incident at Swaleside prison is not going to go away for Grayling.

      http://www.kentonline.co.uk/sheerness/news/trouble-hit-swaleside-jail-to-get-visit-24799/

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    3. Top politicians are set to visit Sheppey after a major disturbance in which a prison officer was slashed across the face with a blade.

      The incident began just after 5.30pm on Friday when a series of “small fires” were started at HMP Swaleside, Brabazon Road, Eastchurch.

      The injured officer was taken to hospital and later discharged.

      Two prisoners climbed onto netting strung between walkways designed to stop items being thrown to the ground.

      The Home Office dispatched its specialist Tornado unit to the jail, a group of officers specially trained to quell prison riots.

      Accommodation areas are believed to have been damaged, and fire crews used breathing gear to enter the prison and extinguish the flames.

      Now Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has agreed to visit one of the prisons on Sheppey.

      It is understood his Labour shadow, Sadiq Khan, is also planning to attend a meeting on Sheppey to discuss the prisons at the request of parliamentary candidate Guy Nicholson.

      A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said it was an “isolated incident” and was resolved at about 10.30pm with two prisoners involved later kept in segregation.

      Other prisoners were confined until the situation was brought under control.

      Prison Officers’ Association (POA) representative for London and Kent, Mike Rolfe, said he had spoken with the union’s chairman for Swaleside, David Todd, about the incident.

      He reported that more than two prisoners were involved to begin with and the disturbance was “drink and drug fuelled”.

      The prison officer, who was on detached duty from Dover but had worked in the jail before, was assaulted by four inmates.

      The cut was across the scalp, Mr Rolfe said, narrowly missing a major artery which could have killed him while he also received other bruises and puncture marks to his back.

      He said: “This is a clear indication that there are not enough staff and prison officers.
      “They do not have enough time to carry out the appropriate cell checks for illegal weapons and alcohol.

      “That is really down to budget cuts and that is the reality of it.”

      He added prisons across the south east are facing an “ever increasing crisis” as they are struggling to make up the staff shortfall as experienced workers are leaving the service at a faster rate than they can find new recruits.

      He said this was partly down to potential employees not wanting to risk their lives for salaries as low as £18,000 and they are instead opting for safer jobs in the same pay range, such as in retail.

      Improved pay and better safety conditions were needed to stop violent incidents from happening, he said.

      An MoJ spokesman denied there was a staffing problem and said: “The wing of the prison where the incident took place was fully-staffed.”

      Just a week ago, Swaleside was slammed by HM Inspectorate of Prisons which said staff shortages were affecting “every area” of the category B training jail.

      Serious issues raised by the report included a number of serious assaults on staff and inmates, with some prisoners too frightened to leave their cells.

      Last month another report by an Independent Monitoring Board raised concern over the number of weapons found at the prison.

      The National Offender Management Service said the prison has been supplementing officers with temporary staff in an attempt to fill vacancies.

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    4. managers are not presenting a true picture of what is going on, prison governors are also being complicit in perpetuating a lie that everything is ok when it's staff on the coal face who bear the brunt of the risks and have to deal with the realities of dealing with and managing this difficult group on a day to day basis. Does someone have to lose their life in the execution of their duties for anyone in the government, MOJ or senior managers to pay attention? Why a private company would want their brand and reputation associated with this type of work is beyond me. There is a reason why the vast majority of this client group are involved with the CJS, conforming is not something they do just like that, it can take years to truly rehabilitate. And those that do desist quickly are the ones that probably wouldn't need probation intervention in the first place, they do it on their own, hence the low tier management and limited contact with their officer.

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    5. The UK govt has become enveloped in a thick skin such that it will sacrifice anyone for the sake of their own wants & needs. Public service staff, hostages around the world, prisoners, the low paid, the mentally unwell, the physically unwell, political opponents - anyone who gets in the way of their ideological plans for profit & personal gain. By the same principle they Cuddle up with & embrace the global criminal fraternity in the form of billionaire organisations run by liars, cheats, bullies, thieves, murderers, etc, etc. And because they've been getting away with for some 40 years or more, they think they're untouchable. They think they can change the rules on a whim to suit their ends and means. Its time they were challenged and brought face to face with justice.

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  12. If anyone hasn't already read about Graylings second Judicial Review defeat in a couple of weeks (and importantly, the reasons for defeat), this article explains it well I think.

    http://www.theguardian.com/law/2014/oct/07/court-consultation-cancer-payouts-illegal

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    1. The Ministry of Justice may have to rerun a public consultation about reducing compensation payments for cancer patients after a judge ruled that the previous procedure was illegal.

      The high court decision is the second judicial review defeat in the space of a few weeks for the MoJ’s legal reforms. The long-running dispute exposed the existence of a secret understanding between the government and the insurance industry.

      The case revolves around restrictions that the MoJ tried to impose, under the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (Laspo) Act 2012, on claimants diagnosed with the asbestos-related condition mesothelioma.

      The act prevents the recovery of success fees and insurance premiums from losing defendants, who in mesothelioma cases are often insurance companies. The aim of the legislation was to tackle excessive legal costs.

      There was supposed to be a public consultation assessing the impact on mesothelioma patients before the provision was extended to cover their specific cases. Around 2,500 people a year in the UK are diagnosed with the malignant condition.

      The judicial review challenge was brought by Tony Whitston, of the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK, who alleged that mesothelioma sufferers would have to pay up to 25% of their damages for costs previously paid for by insurers.

      Mr Justice William Davis declared that the exercise carried out by the MoJ last year was inadequate. “The issue is whether [the justice secretary, Chris Grayling] conducted a proper review of the likely effect of the Laspo reforms on mesothelioma claims.

      “I conclude that he did not. No reasonable lord chancellor faced with the duty imposed on him by … the act would have considered that the exercise in fact carried out fulfilled that duty,” the judge said.

      It is the second time in a few weeks that a court has ruled that a consultation carried out by the MoJ was so flawed as to be unlawful. In September, MoJ plans to cut criminal legal aid by £220m were thrown into confusion after the high court ruled that the MoJ consultation process was so unfair that it was illegal.

      The Association of British Insurers (ABI) intervened in the court action in support of the government. This summer the Commons justice select committee criticised the consultation process. MPs on the committee also expressed concern about a secret heads of agreement document, dated 2012, between the government and the ABI which was not been previously disclosed.

      In a scathing conclusion, the committee said: “We are concerned that the government has not been transparent or open, either with us or with other interested parties, about the fact that its overall policy in relation to mesothelioma has been shaped in accordance with an ‘agreement’, however informal and elastic, which it had reached with employers’ liability insurers.

      “It is hard to see how a balanced and informed public debate can take place when a prior agreement has been reached between two of the principal parties to that debate, and that agreement is not known to others participating in the debate, including victims.”

      Richard Stein, of the law firm Leigh Day, which brought the judicial review against the MoJ, said: “This government is seemingly intent on doing what it is told by the insurance industry against the best interests of those suffering from the negligent behaviour of the insured.

      “[This] judgment should send a clear message to the government that it has to conform with the laws of the land and cannot ride roughshod over the interests of mesothelioma sufferers and their families to benefit the insurance industry.”

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  13. A message from Pat Waterman Chair of Napo Greater London Branch

    TO: NAPO MEMBERS

    TELL THEM ABOUT IT

    https://www.facebook.com/napoukglb/posts/1540699156142495

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  14. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/oct/08/wormwood-scrubs-chaos-dysfunction-watchdog

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    1. Sweeping cuts and staff shortages have left Wormwood Scrubs, one of Britain’s best-known Victorian prisons, operating in a “dysfunctional and chaotic state”, according to an official watchdog.

      The west London jail’s independent monitoring board said in its annual report that the Scrubs had had “a very dismal and highly regrettable year”. It said the sudden departure of 31 prison staff in October 2013 meant the “core day was frequently a day of lockdown”, and the knock-on effect was felt in every area of the prison.

      “There then followed many weeks of chaos and dysfunction in virtually every aspect of the prison’s regime,” the board said. Association and access to the library, gym, education, work, visits and even the distribution of medication were restricted or on some occasions cancelled. In November and December last year time out of cell was reduced to less than an hour a day for many prisoners.

      The watchdog said a new prison governor tried to stabilise the situation by introducing security gates on the landings of most wings so that fewer officers were needed to supervise the prisoners.

      “Towards the end of the reporting year the situation was improving and a predictable regime based on an ‘up time/down time’ scheme, which included association, was delivered in the later part of April and May.”

      However, the report adds: “The board is very seriously concerned that this will have to change to an emergency regime in the very near future because of the lack of staff. The staff continue to have a very low morale. They have very serious concerns about safety, control and discipline. Most officers have little time to have meaningful conversations with prisoners which, in the board’s view, is a cornerstone of their role.”

      The board said meaningful rehabilitation had become generally no more than an aspiration and the levels of tension and violence had increased with the introduction of young adults to the remand population. It said there had been five deaths in custody at the prison in the past year, only one of which appears to have been from natural causes.

      The report echoes an equally scathing verdict on Wormwood Scrubs from the chief inspector of prisons last month. Nick Hardwick reported that spending cuts had led to the regime declining in almost every respect, with parts of the jail left in a dirty, dilapidated and filthy state.

      Penal reformers pointed to the state of Wormwood Scrubs as evidence that spending cuts were driving jails across England and Wales into freefall. The justice secretary, Chris Grayling, has rejected claims of a deepening prisons crisis.

      Michael Spurr, chief executive of the National Offender Management Service, acknowledged last month in his response to the chief inspector of prisons’ report that Wormwood Scrubs had been through a difficult process adapting to the introduction of young offenders and providing a decent regime for prisoners at a lower cost.

      He said new permanent staff were being recruited, and the prison was receiving temporary staff support from other jails to ensure it could provide a structured and consistent regime until they were in place.

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