Thursday, 11 December 2014

Data Cleansing

I think it's worth highlighting yet another unwise and dangerous aspect of this TR omnishambles raised yesterday. It concerns the direction to staff for the wholesale destruction of records, euphemistically referred to as 'data cleansing'. 

In my experience, the retention of comprehensive and accurate records has always proved both valuable and often vital in dealing with 'difficult' cases and this erasing of the corporate memory will have serious consequences further down the line.    

How are people getting on with getting rid of years worth of data both paper and electronic? How many are filling out the destruction forms when deleting information? Preparation for share sale is being done recklessly and I imagine illegally. Where do we report this to?

I'm not sure what you mean, could you clarify? Thanks

CRCs are being told to get rid of any information they have that should go to NPS i.e. old files, old paperwork etc. Anything that has a trust logo or should belong to NPS. Apparently there are legal implications if not done properly and I can tell you now, the deadlines are so tight, I don't see how it can be done properly.

Don't worry - just dump, delete & job done. Someone will cover for you. No-one wants to put their corporate hand up & say "we screwed up".

Not so long ago (pre-2014, but post-2006 - a time when I was allowed to write reports) one of my "very worrying" ex-clients re-appeared having committed a very serious offence. I referred to relevant and significant background papers which couldn't otherwise be located, but were in an old file I had kept back. After that file was taken from me I was subsequently disciplined ("failure to follow policy & procedure") for retaining paperwork which should have been shredded or otherwise destroyed per the "new" Trust guidelines. No-one else involved previously had kept their paperwork, which led to further discomfort (for me) as the Judge asked NHS, social services and another partnership agency why they didn't have any record of their past involvement this person? That went very quiet very quickly. The case was reallocated to another PO and the records were made 'sensitive' (limited access only).


So please don't worry about deleting. You're doing the bidding of your paymasters. Keep a copy of the instruction, policy or direction. If, as or when you're asked in the future, just produce that copy. Me? Oh, I'm just happy flipping burgers these days.


I have no doubt someone would cover. There is already talk of denying all knowledge paperwork ever existed. Thing is, if someone reports it now whilst it's happening, perhaps share sale will have to be put off for a little while. So where would someone report it to?

Perhaps one might compose a letter containing such concerns to the MoJ, with copies to The Independent, The Guardian, the Public Accounts & Justice Committees, Russell Brand, Ian Lawrence, MD of Sodexo & HMI Probation? Don't forget to include your name, rank & National Insurance number. I have also failed to find the "sarcasm" font.

Well, that looks like the end of all my detailed records which I had on file as well as on screen. Some high risk cases had numerous old files. One case (sibling sex offender) had 6 files, separated into personal data, part C's, forms, PSR's, letters, CP reports, MAPPA, for ONE current Order! As I had worked on cases in the mid 90's, which had dead files going back to the early 80's, there was nothing like a good rummage to really get to know a person. It's a sad, sad time.

Going off on a tangent about old records, as an old records admin, I used to field requests from out of area and the request always was for the last PSR and little else. Got me wondering how many times an author wrote 'would like treatment and has a job offer dependent on sentence handed down'?. Because, with a little digging, I imagine it would show up the same aspirations are proffered time and again for the same cases. With the split between NPS and uncle Tom Cobley and all, who knows what horrors will not see the light of day.

37 comments:

  1. Just a question from a concerned client with legal issues that are on-going.
    If my legal team were to request documents (through legal process) only to find that thoses documents or files no longer exist having been destroyed for corporate reasons, do I sue the SoS?
    Isn't there a minimum time period that data must be keep't for, regardless of wheather privatisation happens or not?

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    1. There isn't a minimum retention period. Housekeeping of records is constant and you'd only really have a case if you could prove records existed that were only shredded to prevent you seeing them under the data protection act. For example, if you committed a shoplifting offence which got you a conditional discharge, there would be almost nothing kept, other than those facts. All the appointment letters, cps papers, documents you provided relating to your means, etc, would have no further use and would be pruned from the file. Records should only be kept as long as they are needed and relevant. It may be the info you are trying to obtain was no longer of use and 'house kept. As I said above, there is no minimum 'catch all' period.

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    2. it is seven years and this applies to staff diaries being retained too

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    3. check epic, there is a minimum retention policy - the retention period is 5 years for general records 6 years for financial records (tax purposes probably). The clock starts ticking after involvement has ceased. Some records should be retained indefinitely (eg lifers). Diaries for 5 years I think. With personnel records there are similar rules (need to provide references). I'll see if I can find it and post it.

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  2. I think the legal requirement is around 5 to 6 years (sorry I am not sure of the exact requirements, but maybe someone else can confirm the time limit). I understand our old trust used secure storage with a destroy date of that time period. This is likely to still be the case for files in storage, although anyone who is not a current case reverts back to the NPS; e.g. if in CRC and licence/order expires, then all electronically held date will be transferred to NPS in order for them to hold the records for the designated time period. If there is a new offence, then the information will be again transferred to the CRC, or remain with then NPS, as required.

    Currently, we are being asked to strip back files of general correspondence that was normally kept and to scan reports etc to be stored electronically. This is obviously very time consuming and arguably destroying general correspondence that is not held electronically (ie originally produced via Delius or the previous databases) could fall foul of the requirement to store data for the prescribed time.

    I'm not aware of the comment in the main blog regarding not being able to retain any correspondence with the old Trust logo. Although CRCs have been told they are not permitted to hold information on non current CRC cases.

    As mentioned in the main post, this is a rushed job and the potential for mistakes to occur is considerable. As for the potential to sue the SoS, whilst your legal rep would be the best person to advise you, I would think the CRC as a separate company would be responsible if they haven't carried it out correctly, or if NPS, then potentially the MoJ.

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    1. Can I clarify my above post re the time limit before a file is destroyed - this period relates to someone who was not re-sentenced to a period that would result in Probation supervision in the time. So if someone was subject to supervision once every 4 years for a 20 year period, there could be files dating back to the first period of supervision.

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    2. Indeed - we had files dating back to 1970's - in one case 19 files. Another case involved domestic violence over many years and eventually resulted in a Murder of partner. It was so easy to see it would be the eventual outcome. All have now been destroyed in name of TR

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  3. an addendum to my comment last night - I am still taking it in that what you seem to be saying is that ALL info belonging to the Trusts prior to CRC will have to be destroyed?? So that means NO cases will have detailed info going back prior to June? Could the info at least not be transferred back to NPS. What a bl.... y unsafe, unprofessional, reckless decision! What happened to the wise words ' THE BEST MEANS OF PREDICTING THE FUTURE, IS LOOKING AT THE PAST'?

    And who ordered this stupid cock-eyed action?

    What about cases - eg DV - which are not (rightly or wrongly) regarded as high risk at this moment in time, but have a dodgy pattern of behaviour, with a likelihood of further similar offending, which, if they do commit a further offence, then the person who does the risk assessment can identify increased risk - but, with reduced info being available from the courts prior to sentencing, and no file to check back on a pattern of behaviour - how can a reliable, realistic assessment be accomplished? And partners and children protected?

    I supervised a sex offender( against his step-daughter when she was 3- he got 9 years but always denied). He and partner had 9 children between them, with a dodgy brother who also had a large family. Every one of their sons also turned to crime, and many to drugs, and some of the other daughters alleged sex abuse too, never proven. There are also numerous next generation grandchildren who will be heading into adulthood.

    They were a nightmare to Social Services, but as I had (over 2 offices in 10 years) supervised several of the offspring, I was able to draw up a family tree with relevant history. But a SW, who knew some of the family, said they suspected familial abuse but were afraid to investigate all the files, as it would open up a Pandora's box for which they had no resources to cope.

    They asked for a copy of my detailed tree, with all family links, convictions, relevant experiences, and links to other offending families identified, being invaluable, and enabled one member to be moved into MAPPA. That family tree was passed down and copied onto other related files. But - would that be able to happen now? Does the tree even still exist?

    Ironically, I was rebuked by my manager later, that I wasted too much time researching! And the same was told to a colleague- an excellent worker, who wrote brilliant reports. Yet in one case, she had been preparing a PSR, looking through an earlier file she had just been given of a violent offender, who had maimed his victim in a particular way. Her research into the files revealed a warning that this particular pattern was his way of marking people, whose suspected sexuality was unacceptable to him. When she rang the prison to warn them, (he was RIC) it transpired that he had been sharing a cell with a man who was then deemed to be at risk from him, and he was immediately moved. Had that officer not flicked through a previous file, at least one inmate would almost certainly have been harmed.

    All these skills are now deliberately being lost or abandoned. What you see on the surface can be light years away from what is lurking underneath. Offender history is crucial.

    This government has a lot to answer for, by its actions (MoJ) and by its silences (Cameron)

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    1. ML the original post says 'getting rid of any information they have that should go to NPS' I think it needs clarifying which is yes get rid of but not delete it all as you say some can go back to NPS but I'm not sure how long NPS are allowed to keep data for as people have said it seems to be between 5 and 7 years.

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    2. thanks anon 1805. It is becoming clearer, but not better. This latest data clearing seems to have just come out of the blue. If it is unlawful to keep NPS stuff in the private sector, why didn't CG inform people months ago. Even if they didn't have to do it before the sell-off, staff would at least have been prepared.

      I think it is an issue which either CG did not know about and has just been advised, or else it's another clever ruse/punishment to pile on the stress.

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    3. Couldn't agree more.

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  4. There is a PI (PI6?) that specifies how long file should be kept for....It used to be min 6 years with option to retain for longer subject to regular review by Manager on need to keep for longer. Some trusts ignored this and slung files at 3 years to save on storage costs!! Others had proper annual review process with any 'Serious and Specified' offence cases being retained longer. Since TR instruction has been sling everything - No reviews - Everything MUST be destroyed no matter how serious - in case we get sued for having it!

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  5. It gets worse. If a CRC case completes, the file is immediately released to the NPS and sent for storage at their central records archive. If the CRC get an enquiry about that offender, they cannot respond as they no longer have access to hard copies or computer records. The operating model has every possible flaw built in. It's genius.

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    1. the way a case terminates eg on 12th Dec and is then erased from view on 13th Dec is awful, I regularly need to look back at case records for addresses to send custody educational certificates to or to let people know if their SSO has expired or been spent.

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  6. It is not just potentially useful case material that is being destroyed but the very documents that could form the basis of future as yet unknown criminal justice research as well as the archive of the written history of probation practice.

    Why would greedy go-getting commercialists care about that unless they can earn a dollar by selling it?

    But what a tragedy - we are depriving the future from greater knowledge and making understanding more difficult than necessary. There should be a random storage system in perpetuity for one in a hundred case files or some other percentage, but does anyone really care now?

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  7. until I retired in 2011, a file was being retained for 5 years if no later convictions, but lifers and sex offenders' file would be retained forever, and marked 'DO NOT DESTROY'. Due to pressure of work, the 5 year rule often lapsed.

    But in later years, in the 2000's, closed files would be periodically sifted , to thin down the file because of lack of space in the office, and if you wanted something keeping, you had to mark it.

    Can't speak for the last 3 years.

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  8. FT refers to contracts being awarded to G4S & others despite Grayling's claims:

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/6f1c35c6-7f90-11e4-86ee-00144feabdc0.html#ixzz3LajM5x8H

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    1. Can any one supply the text please?

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  9. The mandatory period is 6 years. Do not destroy records are lifers and those that have an offence from the schedule 15 CJA list that tallies with the list for SFOs. The laughable/shocking thing is that the regs now mean that we no longer retain S18 GBH records after 6 years from last contact but are obliged to hang on to all those dastardly villains who have occupied an oil rig.

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  10. I am concerned about the implications for staff where cases are subject to complaint to the Probation Ombudsman - it can take a considerable time for complaints to be made, investigated, outcome report, appeal then escalation to the ombudsman. Not having original sources has serious implications for staff - for many years information has been consolidated into OASys, with finite number of characters, so what happens when a practitioner is asked where the information came from without the source files to refer to?
    To be fair, what happens when a service user wants to challenge information? I can think of a Child Protection case when information contained in the OASys was challenged and Family Court became involved. Fortunately files were retrieved from archives with the original source able to be produced and verified This is fraught with risks and I wonder what the information commissioner would say? There will be breaches, staff do not understand this.

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  11. Five government departments awarded G4S and Serco fresh work during a period in which Whitehall “gave the impression” that all business with the two outsourcing companies was on hold until the outcome of a review.

    The Cabinet Office was widely understood to have barred Serco and G4S from winning new government work until they had they undergone a period of “corporate renewal” after both companies were referred to the Serious Fraud Office for overcharging on electronic monitoring contracts.

    But an investigation by the Commons public accounts committee found that the two companies were quietly awarded 14 pieces of additional work worth £350m in the probation period that ended in February for Serco and in April for G4S.

    The committee found that “the quantum of additional work that was awarded to the companies during the period was not clearly communicated to parliament at the time”. It demonstrated that the government remained overdependent on G4S and Serco, which were in a “quasi-monopoly position” and therefore “too big to fail”.

    Margaret Hodge, who chairs the public accounts committee, said “the impression the government left was that all business with these two companies was on hold until the outcome of a review”. “Instead, what we uncovered was that they had given extensions and new contracts,” she said.

    The Department of Health, the Ministry of Justice, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Ministry of Defence and HM Revenue & Customs all gave the companies new work during the period of apparent purdah.

    The contracts came despite a statement by Chris Grayling, the justice secretary, in October in which he said the government was investigating all contracts held by the companies worth more than £10m. “We will not be awarding the companies any new contracts unless or until those audits are completed to our satisfaction,” he said.

    The Cabinet Office told the committee it was unable to blacklist companies from new contracts because of EU procurement restrictions. It said it believed “the “government worked within legal and operational necessity constraints to limit work placed with both companies”.

    Both G4S and Serco remain under investigation by the SFO for overcharging on contracts to electronically tag prisoners, including offenders who had died. Serco also lost a contract providing out of hours GP services in Cornwall after it was found to have altered performance data and remains under investigation by City of London police for manipulating figures on contracts to escort prisoners to court.

    The cross-party committee said that too often “the ethical standards of contractors had been found wanting”. “A culture of revenue- and profit-driven performance incentives has too often been misaligned with the needs of the public who fund and depend on these services,” it said.

    But the watchdog also urged the government to pay more attention to contract management given that the private sector delivers about £90bn of services on behalf of the public sector — almost half of public sector expenditure. Although Ms Hodge welcome government initiatives to improve monitoring in the wake of the tagging scandal, she said the improvements “were on the margin”.

    A Serco spokesperson said yesterday: “Since the events of 2013 Serco has put in place a corporate renewal programme that was positively assessed by the Government Oversight Group, and has strengthened internal management systems and governance. There has also been significant changes within the senior management of the company.”

    G4S said: “We are pleased to have been able to contribute to the inquiry. We welcome improved contract management processes and more effective engagement with contracting government departments. We think this will lead to improved services and greater value for money for the taxpayer.”

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  12. in 2010 I was asked by police to recall a case I had briefly supervised in 2002 - the file had been destroyed, including the handwritten part C's (just prior to on screen cels) so there was little info left as there had been no further convictions. The person had disclosed details of serious abuse to the police, years later, but I had only been the supervisor for 6 weeks, just after moving offices, and inheriting this case before taking it back to court to be terminated on the grounds of good progress, which had been phenomenally good and had been the intention of the previous officer..

    But during those few weeks, that person had disclosed info which they had not told their 2 previous PO's, but did not wish to take my advice of going to police.

    Just after the Order was terminated, this person was even more seriously assaulted by the same person, which they had kept to themselves for years. (why is there not a word in the English language to use when you don't want to reveal the gender, and you have to use the plural ?- such a slip up of evolution!), and I knew nothing about that until the police visit to me, 7 years later, following the victim's revelation that they had spoken to their PO about it. .

    As it turned out, the client had not told me the whole story, which had been even more serious, and I had to go to Crown Court to give evidence at the trial of the perpetrator (I am being careful for fear of identifying the case, as it made national news).

    Luckily, I had kept all my diaries at work, and was able to trace details of the 3 appts the person had kept, and the reason for missing one, and brief notes I had made under them. The person who had been violating the victim (and many other vulnerable people) received a lengthy sentence, and the police believed that what I could recall was a significant help in getting a conviction, as it established that the abuse had not been invented at a later date.

    That was a case where the file had been kept for the required duration before destruction. Imagine how much precious info is now going to be destroyed. I would be inclined to do what the person who commented last night about holding on to the file did. And I think the way the officer was treated was abysmal, getting into more trouble because Probation was the only Service which still had a record of the person's history. Those in charge should have been applauding the officer, rather than disciplining them. Unless staff are reckless, I think using initiative to keep an eye on a case, should be valued.

    I apologise for hogging the page with all my little stories, but being old school probation, I am one of a number of oldies who will all have a story or 3 to tell, of the 'good old days', as the world keeps spinning and mutating. .

    Feel free to yawn.....

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  13. OK, so G4S said: “We are pleased to have been able to contribute to the inquiry. We welcome improved contract management processes and more effective engagement with contracting government departments. We think this will lead to improved services and greater value for money for the taxpayer.”

    Lets translate this into a Crown Court criminal sentencing hearing for Mickey 'sticky fingers' Grabber, the well known local con man. Up pops the defending Barrister and offers "the Serco Defence":
    "My client is pleased to have been able to contribute to the investigation and trial. He welcomes improved policing techniques (like warning gullible pensioners about people like him on Crimewatch UK), more effective engagement with victims (as they have now seen his e-fit on the telly), and he thinks this will lead to improved services (a better patter to get into Mrs Boggins house for her savings) and greater value for money for the taxpayer (as now he's had a chance to learn from his experiences he won't get caught next time, thus sparing society the cost of a prison cell).... And so, Your Honour, it only remains for the Court to let him off with a pat on the head and a pound out of the poor box...”

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  14. Are you ready for Justice Questions Tues 16/12 11.30am? : -

    http://www.napo2.org.uk/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=886

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  15. Off Topic

    38 Degrees are running a petition re Tory Stephen Dorrell MP working for KPMG the company driving the privatisation of the NHS foreward. Please take a look .
    .

    Also could Blair have his day in court now that we know the secret services were torturing people in Iraq.

    papa

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  16. I see Napo are in court tomorrow asking for their costs and permission to disclose what Grayling has promised to do regarding safety. What a bizarre situation: a judge to rule on whether safety issues should be in the public domain, whether the public and probation staff, the potential victims, have a right to know the risks they may face. And if the judge says 'No', what then? What duties does then Napo have to inform its members and the wider public of the risks? Would IL act in contempt and go to prison on behalf of his members?

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    1. Ian Lawrence works for the MoJ. It's brilliant really - scupper any meaningful action by having the union you're fighting lead by someone who (just about ) talks the talk while all the time in truth ensuring no effective action actually takes place, and delivering the death blow both to the dispute and to the union simultaneously by staging a mock Judicial Review application, only to withdraw it at the last possible second on a ludicrous basis of assurances given.

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    2. I cant believe he had the authority to be able to withdraw without members being consulted. I don't think i'll ever get my head round that. I definitely think we were robbed.

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    3. No one is that naive, or that incompetent. I can only assume that Lawrence is acting quite deliberately. We know he didn't want this Judicial Review, and we know he only took the action when he feared for his own position in the wake of pressure at the AGM. Withdrawing the JR application would appear entirely consistent with his track record of empty posturing while all the time ensuring that no meaningful action was ever undertaken

      Simon Garden

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  17. We have first hand experience that a corporate totalitarian Elite controls politics, the law, the state, our work and our lives.


    They control us via the media and in the name of short term profit the Elite is killing out planet; 40% of sea ice disappears and BP see a profit potential.


    The outlook for us and our planet is bleak only mass acts of civil disobedience can stop the Elite al a the revolutions of 1989. The Elite have broken off from the rest of society they do not live among us, now they have gated communities and gated islands. They see only money and power, like the miser they have gone mad, they must be stopped.

    Why do so few see this and why are so few of the few doing anything to stop them?

    Arguably because we have first hand experience of this monster we should be in the vanguard of resistance.

    papa

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  18. Yet MORE privatisation ;-)

    http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/society/relationships-to-be-privatised-2014121193740

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  19. Question Time - Brand is a hoot on occasion, but interesting statistic he raises (don't know if its true yet) that 78 MPs will personally benefit from NHS contracts being awarded to private sector companies. We're aware of the trouser-filling antics of Lord Interserve, but perhaps a list of names would be helpful? They might coincide with the beneficiaries of TR? Can anyone help? Is Le Brand a reader of this blog?

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    1. Here's a link to the March 2014 updated list of 63 conservatives, 3 libdems & 14 labour MPs with personal financial interests (its content is too long to paste):

      http://socialinvestigations.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/compilation-of-parliamentary-financial.html

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  20. What about DO NOT DESTROY/RETAIN forms that have to be signed off by SPOs and placed on the front of the case file? If they've got rid of that practice, then it's truly game over. There are some deeply troubling clients and for those in particular, files need to be retained indefinitely... Psych Reports etc

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  21. Surely all records should be passed to NPS, as all closed case files pass to NPS. And what happens when someone is sentenced and managed by CRC...do NPS pass all records to CRC only for them to be destroyed by CRC at completion or breach of the order? It's bad enough transferring between colleagues in same office let alone areas, now we will be passing stuff in to BIONIC abyss

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