Monday, 1 December 2014

PSR Special

It all started with a casual throwaway line in Saturday's blog post:-
Finally, I continually hear depressing news regarding increasing numbers of judges who are willing to sentence for quite serious matters without the need for full probation reports. The Recorder of a major northern city apparently feels there's no problem and it's much quicker and cheaper to weigh off a manslaughter charge on an FDR. It's so short-sighted and unprofessional. I cannot help but wonder if we've been wasting our time over the years and if they ever really understood the purpose of a full PSR.......   
I share your concerns vis a viz full PSR and wonder where we are going with this trend? I was passing through a Court last week and was told that the Judge is now sentencing without ANY report!

It's quite clear where it is going...removal of reports altogether. It was proposed a long time ago and is not far off being implemented. The removal of legal representation and then the pre sentence report...all part of a plan..the rise of the rich and the punishment of the poor.

I'm not so worried about FDRs as long as they are done on an adjournment, in fact I have seen some better, more detailed FDRs than full reports. It's the oral reports based on short interview with defendant in court with limited CPS papers & no Children's Services or police checks. Someone the other day said that DV was the fault line running through TR & I couldn't agree more yet some courts are requesting & getting oral reports in DV cases. This is so, so wrong & colleagues in NPS should be refusing to do them in any case where there is a victim at risk of harm. 

Under TR unless checks are done or diversity factors such as mental health or learning disabilities are picked up at PSR stage the chances are they never will by CRC. And the reality is that in an interview in court, generally under 30 mins, checks won't be made & diversity won't be explored.

A little bit harsh on those of us in CRCs!! We're still perfectly competent members of staff, you know. I would agree that failure to pick things up at PSR stage makes life for supervising officers significantly more difficult, however. We are getting an increasing number of cases through with reports that have significant gaps in them, many of which are resulting in wholly unsuitable orders being made.

Male with mental age of 8 sentenced to Supervision and ASAR requirement (alcohol module) - sentenced via FDR - should be interesting!!!!

Sorry I didn't mean to infer that CRC colleagues weren't up to the job far from it! My concern is in the point you make about inappropriate orders being made such as someone with a learning disability being placed on a group or domestic abuser simply being given stand alone UPW with no opportunity to address offending behaviour. Also I am well aware that some of the new CRC will push to have service users pushed off to voluntary sector or for reductions in reporting requirements to reduce costs & Max profits. If diversity issues aren't flagged up at PSR it makes it more likely the incorrect order will be made or leave the CRC, at best, playing catch up.

For cases where custody's inevitable I've always scratched my head at wondering what the point of a 3 week adjournment was apart from giving Judge background information on the defendant and background on the circumstances surrounding the offence. I always thought that we were duplicating the defence barristers work. So, I can see the point of these types of cases not having a report. With regards to FDRs on all other cases I'd say is hit and miss. I'm coming across a lot of 'skeleton tickbox' type ones and to me they're a bit pointless. 

Surely the essential point of the full PSR is to bring a probation officer's expertise and analysis to the party, and which gives perspectives which invariably the defence solicitor and barrister will not have picked up on. I've lost count of the times I've had to lead them by the hand and point out factors they've missed that could be used as mitigation for example. Learning Disability is something that often gets missed in my experience, and mental health issues. 

Then there's the role the report plays in informing the prison and subsequent probation staff about the person in order to assist sentence planning. Finally, as you say, information regarding the offence and helping to put that into the context of the person and the reasons for the offence commission.

The trouble is a lot of this was clearly far too nuanced for judges who seem have got it into their head that the PSR was a defence document designed to try and argue against custody and therefore wasn't necessary if custody was going to be inevitable. And before anyone says what about OASys - you know my views on that pile of useless crap! (JB)

All I can think of is that defence reps don't pick up on things, then that is not Probation's problem and like you said we're not here to mitigate for them. Why are we doing their job? The judges have sentencing guidelines so again, no reason for Probation to get involved in that and I had a short intake of breath when you suggested that the PSR could be of benefit to prison staff for sentence planning - there are OMs inside who should be doing that - why should a field team OM or court PO write a report to help inform sentence planning when the person is going to be sitting in prison for +12mths, prison should be doing it surely? The courts is one area I do think Probation could be a bit leaner staff wise and I appreciate I'm probably in the minority with this.

"Why are we doing other peoples jobs?" It's a good question, but I've been doing just that ever since I started out as a green probation student on a practice placement! I've always seen my job as a PO as applying sticking plaster to try and repair damage and failings everywhere, for the benefit of clients and on behalf of the state. A sort of catchall service of last resort. (JB)

The point about a PSR is that if done well it captures the situation before the defendant's uncertainty is removed by the sentencing decision and especially the details - length - financial orders - conditions of supervision. And not just the defendant's attitude but that of those closest to him and sometimes the wider supports, such as an employer.

In some cases it will make not a jot of difference to a sentence - but it might identify some feature that is immediately relevant post sentence, such as the practical - elderly parent needing to have care provision, dog, children and more. Then there are psychiatric situations, it maybe that there are grounds for a forensic psychiatric report that are not obvious but make all the difference in the long run. Then there are the things like vulnerability to suicide so that immediate steps can be taken to alert those who can minimise the risk.

Then, of just as a great a value is the immediate post sentence interview - the attitude on first discovering the actual sentence and the difference between the attitude when the situation was uncertain, of defendant and those closest.

It maybe rare to get good opportunity to do it all but when it happens it can be vital to the relationship between the client and the whole probation service and especially the one to one relationship. That stuff is MOST relevant in custody cases when parole is under consideration.

That some have posted here that it is unnecessary is sadly revealing about the style of probation now practiced and accepted as good enough in some places. I suspect the deterioration in this aspect of the work is partly responsible for the increased suicide numbers in prison I stress partly - other things are always more relevant, because if a probation worker did not detect a high risk, somewhere else in the chain of reception someone should have had the opportunity to tease out a higher suicide risk - if they interview properly - hopefully the old - 'you're not thinking of doing anything silly' type questions - that I heard when working in a prison are no longer asked?

I was nodding all the way through reading through this. You are right. I trained in 2005 through DipPS route which is much later than a lot of my colleagues. But reading through some of the other comments today about not needing PSRs it leaves me wondering have things really changed so much in the last 10 years? I'm feeling very old. And sad.

PSRs - the most important document in the world of probation. That was how I was introduced to report writing in 1992. My apprenticeship In the profession began as a Probation Officer's assistant. One of my earliest tasks was to read every report prepared for the court on my MPSO (money payment supervision order) duty days. Later I was asked to help with the gatekeeping of Crown Court reports (as proofreader). Those experiences ensured my depth of knowledge. When I trained, sponsored by the Home Office, report writing skills were revered and central to the role, i.e psr, parole, deferred sentence, etc. Judges AND magistrates (lay & stipendiary) read and acknowledged the contents of reports. Often I was asked to attend to speak to a report in both court settings, being quizzed in open court by judges about my proposals on numerous occasions as they worked towards their decisions. Equally I could find myself in chambers with a judge & both barristers, being offered a cup of tea & being asked to explain my thinking for a particularly radical or uncommon proposal.

Those were the days when probation officers were respected professionals. Sadly those days are long gone. I agree with much of what you say on the PSR issue. Standard PSRs are incredibly important for more serious offences, and certainly for complex offenders, and over the years I have spent much time liaising with relevant partners in order to produce a thorough and comprehensive report. I always explained to offenders that the report aimed to be objective, and was intended to assist the Court in the sentencing exercise. Unfortunately, many report writers have tended to argue unrealistically against custody in the proposal, hence the perception amongst many players in the court process that the PSR is a second tier defence.

The assumption made is that all reports were arguments against custody. Some of the best & more complex reports I ever read were acknowledgements that jail was all but inevitable, nevertheless offered several pages of insight, observation & suggestion as to how that jail term might usefully be spent - I think its now labelled 'sentence planning' - with ideas as to what might happen post-jail. Nothing new under the sun, its now been fragmented into a series of computer based codes and tickboxes designed by logarithms & formulae & 1s & 0s. 

The guidance was to offer the Courts alternatives to custody, not to argue against custody, particularly if custody was inevitable. The report content was to provide objective analysis and offer suggestions towards the possibility and viability of reducing the risk of continued offending. The report was read by the person it concerned, consequently the content could and did have considerable impact on their response and subsequent ' engagement 'with the sentence. Now many reports are subjective, ridden with all the negatives the interviewer could 'identify' from the interview. Every possible 'risk' extrapolated, every 'deficit' highlighted. Proportionate sentencing proposals an apparent mystery.

I had the impression from an anon comment in a recent post that to current court staff their role was about second guessing what Mags might be thinking and making proposals accordingly. Is there no challenging of Mags thinking nowadays and getting sentences down tariff? As an old dinosaur PSR writing was the best part of the job for me. Of course you have to acknowledge cases where custody is likely, but a good report can often affect length of sentence, or on occasion lead to a judge taking a chance on a non custodial disposal. Good, persuasive report writing seems to be an increasingly lost art. 

Information that I heard about from someone is that one and a half hours is the allocated time allowed for fast delivery reports. A ridiculously small amount of time as in many areas OASys generated reports are the exception rather than the rule. Most report writers would spend at least five hours on an FDR from reading CPS, researching past response to supervision, reading previous reports, liaising with other agencies etc. The real issue is that if, as a report writer, you spend longer than an hour and a half in total you don't get and credit on the current work load management tool. 1.5hrs is totally unrealistic. 

Oral reports are being
done in one hour fifteen minutes, including interview and delivery, it can be done as the court team manager is however a tick box report with no annotation.

All that's happened is that the full assessment process has moved from pre to post-sentence. The majority of this work will have to be undertaken by CRC colleagues given the way probation has been split. Frustrating for clients who previously would have spilt all about their lives to the PSR author. So they do a bit at court, a bit at induction and then more at the first interview with their supervising officer. Life used to be so simple when you carried on working with those clients that you'd interviewed for a PSR. How would we feel if we kept being pushed from pillar to post before being settled in a relationship with a line manager for example? The system developed in probation which I joined thirty plus years ago is so client unfriendly.

I wrote extensively on the subject of PSR's in the early days and plucked the following from the archives:-

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

The end of the PSR is Nigh

One of the most enjoyable and satisfying parts of the job used to be writing court reports. When I started they were called Social Enquiry Reports, but they were renamed Pre Sentence Reports some time ago. The astute will not have failed to notice the use of the past tense. The concept is quite straight forward - following a guilty plea or finding of guilt, the sentencers request a probation officer to interview the defendant, assimilate all rel event information and provide in written form background information about the defendant, their current situation, the circumstances of the offence and most importantly a suggestion as to possible sentence and with reasons. The probation officer has a privileged opportunity of speaking directly to the sentencers from an independent viewpoint and as such can be extremely persuasive in being able to influence the eventual outcome. Not surprisingly therefore this has always been seen as a key skill and most officers take enormous pride in producing high quality reports that result in courts following their recommendations. In the past it was felt to be good practice to attend court in person with either a controversial, unusual or brave recommendation in order to be able to re-inforce it on oath if necessary. Sadly, hardly any of this is true nowadays.

Several years ago I was offered the opportunity of moving out of a field office and into a Court Officers post. Many, including myself, felt that this meant being put out to grass, but I needed a break from the front line and I was flattered when management said they wanted 'a safe pair of hands; someone who looked smart and could talk whilst stood on their feet'. It didn't take long to discover just how far the art of PSR writing had deteriorated. On a daily basis I found myself having to try and explain, correct and apologise for colleagues poor quality work. How could this have possibly happened? To a large degree, but not completely, the answer is OASys - the all-singing, all-dancing universal offender assessment tool. Unbelievably nowadays this mammoth, brain-numbing, 90 page computer form is required to be completed before the magic button 'prepare report' is pressed. Yes, modern-day PSR's are computer-generated, so it really shouldn't be that surprising if many of them are unintelligible, riddled with repetition and impossibly 'cranky' sentences. Old timers like myself gave up long ago trying to edit the result into something readable and just throw the whole lot away and start again. More recent officers say they haven't got the time, and to be honest why should they if the system is that crap? What beats me is how did any intelligent human being think that this was a good way to write a report for court? As an aid to sentencing, I think the days of the PSR are numbered. Not surprisingly, the 'authors' never seem to show up at court either. Me? - I do on occasion, just out of sheer devilment.


  1. off topic but charities be warned.

  2. Charities could face punitive costs if they challenge government decisions in future, a coalition of 35 organisations warns on Monday ahead of a crucial parliamentary vote.

    MPs will vote on proposals aimed at restricting access to judicial review which are contained in the criminal justice and courts bill.

    Last month, the government suffered a series of defeats in the House of Lords on the legislation. It is now attempting to reverse most of those changes. Despite concessions obtained by the Liberal Democrats on a clause about whether judges have discretion to charge organisations intervening in cases, the alliance of charities, the Labour party and the Bar Council have all dismissed the compromise as inadequate.

    Judicial review challenges subject government decisions to scrutiny in the courts but the prime minister, David Cameron, has blamed the procedure for “time-wasting” and the justice secretary, Chris Grayling, has accused charities of exploiting cases for publicity purposes.

    Critics warn the changes will have a “chilling effect” on the ability of anyone to hold public bodies to account.

    The 35 charities work on a wide range of issues, including representing children and older people, people with disabilities, bereaved families and victims of torture on issues as diverse as housing, fair treatment at work, healthcare, freedom of expression and privacy online.

  3. Once more, Battling attacks the challenger and not the challenge.

    1. Agreed - treat the symptoms, not the cause. Its the modern way. Its a lazy way. But its rewarded with goodies because it feeds consumerism and profitability and control.

      There are many examples, e.g. the lazy GPs whose first instinct is to prescribe benzodiazepines or antibiotics because they are rewarded by the multinational pharma industry - invitations to conferences in sunny climes, performance bonuses, corporate gatherings at Ascot, Twickenham, Wembley...

      School Academies who are sponsored by questionable organisations with targets set by accountants, not academics.

      Criminal sentencing was seen to be problematic because it excited and incensed the public but was outwith the control of the political classes - irrespective of the direction of their leaning. Initially they tried to meddle with the sentencers, but that didn't prove very successful. Judges and magistrates were not happy and there was an unpleasant backlash. Fingers were burned. So, how else to tweak sentencing? I can imagine it went something like this:

      "Fuck the lot of them. If they want to exercise the law we'll just legislate everything to death (New Labour's 5,000 pieces of new legislation, for example) so that sentencers have nowhere to go. Hoist the bastards high - with their own petard. We can ensure that CPS is brought into line to do our bidding, that's easy. But the lawyers? How about we appoint an arrogant non-lawyer as head of the legal profession then use "public spending austerity measures" to financially cripple the criminal defence system. And in the meantime we dismantle the probation service so that courts cannot have any access to spurious information about the evil, wicked criminals before them. Pre Sentence Reports are especially dangerous - they have to be eradicated otherwise, regardless of how much we've crushed the lawyers, sentencers will still get to READ about the back-story, the reality of others' lives outwith the dock:

      - benefit sanctions
      - a lack of mental health interventions
      - evictions and homelessness
      - bereavement
      - the untreated psychological consequences of military service in wars, legal & illegal
      - the failings of the child protection & care systems
      - sexual abuse by powerful men
      - (insert client's story here)

      We'll ensure its a document WE want sentencers to read. And we'll take those bloody probation officers out of courts; all they do is interfere, with their grandiose visions of intervening and playing at Rumpole. No, remove their Officer of the Court status - they're only there to tick boxes, make appointments and take names.
      WE decide what happens."

      "Critics warn the changes will have a 'chilling effect' on the ability of anyone to hold public bodies to account."

      Anyone else fancy a go?

    2. and alongside this, lets limit their education, can't have the masses thinking for themselves quite so much.. way too risky..



    1. Hopefully, fingers crossed, this Monday morning may start a stampede of Graylings chickens on the way home to roost!
      It appears to me that just about everyone in the criminal justice system has really had enough of him. Judges, Laywers, Prison Governors, Charities, Probation Officers, Police are all sick to the back teeth of his idiotic meddling in things he has no clue about.
      I feel the Tories may find themselves very isolated this week, and Grayling being a very pissed off individual.

    2. Britain's biggest private jail management company, G4S, has warned MPs that the heads of prisons are being "undermined" by government policy.

      G4S say governors must have control of areas such as healthcare, education and training so that they are "responsible and accountable for everything that goes on within their prisons". The company is concerned that governors do not have powers to change these aspects, which are core as they can affect inmates' moods and rehabilitation.

      A prison source added: "The concern is that more levers are being taken away from the person in charge."

      The warning is made in a G4S submission to the Justice Committee. It says: "This [policy] is serving to undermine the ability of prison governors to govern effectively… Good governors should be allowed to govern."

  6. - "A Ministry of Justice spokesman said its policy was the best way of "tackling our stubbornly high reoffending rates"."

    If I might offer some thoughts?

    Table 1: Number of adult offenders in England and Wales who committed a re-offence within one year of their release from short custodial sentences (less than 12 months) in the 12 months ending September 2012:

    England & Wales - Adults = 29,951, of which 'Re-Offenders' = 17,221. These are listed as being responsible for 34,401 offences during that period. (From MoJ: Statistical Notice - Further breakdowns of proven re- offending of adult offenders in England and Wales released from custodial sentences of less than 12 months, by region: 24 October 2014)

    Okay, so by my calculations the frequency of re-offending is either:

    (34,401/29.951) = 1.14 further offences per re-offender; OR, (34,401/17,221) = 1.99 further offences per re-offender.

    In their own "Proven Re-offending Statistics Quarterly Bulletin
    October 2011 to September 2012, England and Wales - Ministry of Justice
    Statistics Bulletin 31 July 2014 the MoJ state:

    "Between October 2011 and September 2012, around 61,000 adult offenders were released from custody and around 28,000 of these (45.2%) were proven to have committed a re-offence within a year. While the rate has decreased by 4.2 percentage points since 2000, it has remained fairly stable since 2005."

    August's published results for the Peterborough PbR experiment:

    Table 2: Proven Re-offending rate and Proven Frequency of Re-offending for HMP Peterborough SIB cohort 1 and national comparison group, 9 September 2010 and 30 June 2012 Proven Re-offending rate Proven Frequency of Re-offending:

    Peterborough 53.4% 2.48
    Control Group 55.7% 2.53

    Would it not be true to suggest that a reoffending rate and frequency of reoffending taken across the wider population is likely to be more accurate, and that the MoJ's own estimate of 42,5% is far more favourable than the much lauded Peterborough results at 53.4%? Or that the extrapolated frequency figures of either [a] (34,401/29.951) = 1.14 further offences per re-offender; OR [b] (34,401/17,221) = 1.99 further offences per re-offender are equally significantly more impressive than Peterborough's 2.48?

    Or am I missing something?

    1. So the MoJ is telling us that because approximately 30,000 prisoners reoffended in 2012, resulting in 35,000 new offences, then Hundreds of £Millions of public funds are being handed over to multi-national companies, with many tens of £Millions already gifted to "consultants" and paying off staff with enhanced redundancy schemes and written off in useless IT systems.

      Based upon the MoJ's arguments it represents almost £1 Billion being spent on an issue that, in the context of the UK, is targetted at 0.0005% of the UK population. The politics of fear.

      It is estimated that by 2015 there will be 850,000 people with dementia in the UK. There will be 1 million people with dementia in the UK by 2025. The proportion of people with dementia doubles for every five-year age group. 60,000 deaths a year are directly attributable to dementia. Delaying the onset of dementia by five years would reduce deaths directly attributable to dementia by 30,000 a year. The financial cost of dementia to the UK is £26 billion per annum. There are 670,000 carers of people with dementia in the UK. Unpaid family carers of people with dementia save the UK £11 billion a year. Only 44% of people with dementia in England, Wales and Northern Ireland receive a diagnosis.

      This government are: asking every hospital in England to commit to becoming dementia-friendly; linking £54 million in funding for hospital dementia risk assessments to the quality of dementia care; making £1 million available for innovative NHS projects to increase diagnosis rates through the Innovation Challenge Prize for Dementia; and, Gawd Bless us all, Government spending on dementia research will be doubled by 2025, Prime Minister David Cameron announced at the Global Dementia Legacy event in London in June 2014. Cameron said he would double funding research from £66m in 2015 to £122m in 2025...

      ... although that is still well below government funding for cancer, which stood at £267m in 2007-08. That's roughly equivalent to £1 for each and every diagnosed cancer patient.

      UK plc - looking after Number One.

      (Dementia stats from Alzheimers Society; cancer diagnosis figure from Cancer Research UK for 2011 @ 396.2 per 100,000 diagnosed with cancer).

    2. To confuse matters further... The Independent in Jan 2013:

      "The challenge faced by the Government in tackling reoffending was underlined today by figures that revealed a further rise in the number of criminals returning to crime.

      More than one in four criminals reoffended within a year, according to the most recent Ministry of Justice (MoJ) figures, committing 500,000 offences between them.

      This equates to a reoffending rate of 26.8 per cent, up from 26.3 per cent in the previous set of figures.

      Around 280,000 offences were committed by criminals with 11 or more previous offences, while more than 50,000 of these were committed by nearly 11,000 criminals who had previously been jailed at least 11 times.

      There was also a notable rise in the proportion of criminals handed prison sentences of less than 12 months who reoffend, which increased from 56.6 per cent to 57.8 per cent.

      The figures for the period between April 2010 and March 2011 come after Justice Secretary Chris Grayling unveiled a major shake-up of rehabilitation.

      Lower-risk offenders are to be supervised by private firms and charities on a payment by results basis, while prisoners serving sentences under 12 months will be forced to undertake a period of rehabilitation upon release for the first time.

      Mr Grayling said: "These figures underline why transforming the way we rehabilitate offenders is now a big priority for us. Reoffending rates have barely changed in a decade, and are now rising."

      It feels like MoJ stats are based upon that famous statistical Fruit Salad theory in that that they're comparing apples with oranges with pears with grapefruit with kiwi fruit.

    3. Where are the figures for re-offending rates in relation to people actually supervised by Probation Services?
      Why is Noms / Probation being run by Prison Service managers when all of the figures go to prove that prison, ie their work and their success rates, in itself simply does not work

    4. What no one mentions about Peterborough is that it has a high number of foreign national prisoners who are included in the sample but who are deported on release so no record of reoffending! Job done!

  7. Feathering one's nest is rife, as this Guardian article shows:

    "The Labour front bench has accepted over £600,000 of research help from the multinational accountancy company PricewaterhouseCoopers to help form policy on tax, business and welfare, analysis by the Guardian reveals... The support to shadow ministers including Ed Balls, Chuka Umunna and Tristram Hunt comes after the Guardian revealed PwC’s role in establishing potentially favourable tax structures for hundreds of companies around the world – including many British businesses – in Luxembourg... Such arrangements, though entirely legal, have been criticised by politicians from all three major parties as depriving the exchequer of billions in much-needed revenue. Just last year, Ed Miliband vowed to tackle such schemes, warning businesses that “politicians – not companies – set the rules”... It has been a longstanding, if not greatly publicised, practice in Westminster for opposition parties to receive support from the major accountancy companies in formulating their policies, particularly ahead of general elections... Last year the influential public accounts committee highlighted examples where employees from big four accountancy firms that are advising government “go back to their firms and advise their clients on how they can use those laws to reduce the amount of tax they pay”... When asked about the relationship between the opposition frontbench and these firms, Margaret Hodge, the Labour chair of the committee said: “The issues the Guardian raises are very important. Any politician who accepts support in kind or financial support must consider thoroughly all conflicts.”... Since 2010 PwC staff have held positions in the offices of shadow ministers of international development, business and education. A senior associate at the firm, Thomas Graham, is currently on a six month posting worth £75,000 to shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt... Since entering government, the Liberal Democrats have received over £500,000 worth of staff costs from PwC and KPMG combined. Between 2005 and 2010, the Conservatives received secondments worth £1.5m from the big four accountancy firms as well as large US firms, Boston Consulting and Bain & Company."

  8. chris grayling on TV now - Live Parliament channel - discussing judicial reviews during discussion of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill

  9. Dictatorship here we come. Watching now. Where are all our MPs that we pay for out of our taxes? Not in the House of Commons.

    1. Yes - where the fuck are they?!

    2. In the bar waiting for the division bell; they'll be whipped into the lobbies then back for the result & off for some fine dining & a celebratory bottle or two.

  10. Andrew Slaughter holding his own against Grayling's chants of left- wing troublemakers, pointing out that Grayling is defending his own issues, having lost 7 JR's. with other significant ones imminent!

    He is also making a good argument against Grayling's question about the validity of people backing JR's being anonymous.


  11. Elfyn Llwyd after listing a number of groups against the changes asks "Can I ask which groups DO support the government in these changes?". The response is silence.

    1. Did I not hear some wags shout "the whips"?

    2. You did, sir.

    3. Even his own party are getting fed up of him:
      "There are some on this side who have some concerns about the reforms he is promoting today. What it is he regards as a minor technicality? Judges do not generally grant leave for JR on minor technicalities. They have to be to be matters of serious abuse of due process"

  12. Grayling wasn't even listening. How much I detest and despise that ignorant 'man'

  13. Ian Dunt ‏@IanDunt 45s46 seconds ago

    Government wins judicial review vote by 319 to 203.

  14. Innocent - detained 10 years longer than he would have been if he had not denied guilt throughout.

    Finally is to be sued to pay Chris Grayling's costs!

  15. So much for a conversation related to reports...seems to say it all..unsurprising really.

    1. Not sure what you think it says, so have your say, 21:14. The beauty of this blog for me is that it twists & turns & flows & stalls & flows again. Chip in, old bean. Throw something out there & see what grows from it. Be surprised for a change.

  16. Current times remind me of the Reds under the bed McCarthyite era in the USA when anyone who questioned the government's narrative was deemed as a threat. Deja vu Mr G?

  17. It really annoys me when Probation Staff talk about custody being is only inevitable in mandatory life sentences for murder and setting fire to the shipyards, and maybe treason. Judges already know they can send people to jail, it has always been my experience that they expect us to offer them something helpful, a tangible suggestion to encourage change. It also suggests that once sentenced a full SDR is written it isn't of any use - well it is if Life is passed, for the initial post sentence lifer report, and I recall a colleague in a prison suggesting that a PSR could be read by anything up to 20 differnet people in custody...including, healthcare, discipline, security, Safeguarding (Child Protection officers) and the usual interventions teams, offender supervisors etc. Let's not be too quick to dispense with them, as they are and have always been our opportunity to be heard by the Judiciary and be creative and informative.

    1. I prepared a PSR for a previously violent offender who had recently completed an anger management programme (and done really well) . He was doing so well but committed a fairly minor offence because he was scared for the first time in years of not having probation around. Given his past the court wanted to give him a hefty sentence. I wrote in my report that we had set up all the support in the community he required and that he did not need probation, just the confidence that he could do well without us. He received a conditional discharge and we didn't see him again. PSRs can be powerful if we have the time to do them properly.

  18. Ian Lawrence ‏@IlawrenceL · 12m12 minutes ago
    Sky News running Napo JR examples now. Sell off is unsafe #saveprobation


  20. Probation makes R4 news headlines with ref to Grayling "facing questions about changes to probation possibly contributing to two murders". Waiting to hear if the story is expanded upon...

    1. Bbc news website:

      Changes to the way offenders are supervised in England and Wales may have contributed to two murders, says the probation officers' union.

      Napo said that in one case a man who killed his partner then himself had been under the supervision of an "overworked" trainee officer.

      The union urged the government to halt the changes, which involve contracting out the monitoring of some offenders.

      The Ministry of Justice said it would "robustly" contest the allegations.

      By early next year, private firms and voluntary groups will be responsible for the supervision of 200,000 low- and medium-risk offenders.

      As part of the changes, offender management was split between different agencies six months ago.

      But Napo says that move as well as staff shortages are putting public safety at risk.

      In an 18-page letter to Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, the union highlights a recent case of one offender "with a history of domestic violence" who went on to murder his partner before taking his own life.

      It claims the trainee allocated to undertake home visits to the man was "too overworked" to visit every four months as required.

      Another probation officer was "unable to spend sufficient time working with an offender", the letter alleges, because of an "excessive caseload".

      "Left without suitable supervision, the offender committed a murder while under supervision of the CRC," it added.

      Community Rehabilitation Companies - or CRCs - will supervise low- and medium-risk offenders under Mr Grayling's plans.

      The contracts are worth about £450m a year over seven years.

      The union is concerned staff working for the CRCs do not have full access to offenders' records to assess the risk they pose.

      The union pointed to a case in which a probation officer was sexually assaulted on a visit, and said that "defects in the ICT system" prevented her seeing a "risk flag that the offender should not be seen alone by female officers".

      In his letter, Napo general secretary Ian Lawrence said the union did not believe the MoJ had enough evidence "to show that it is safe to proceed" with the transfer of shares in the CRCs to the winning bidders.

      But a Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said the department had tested its changes to the system at "every stage".

      "We will be robustly defending the allegations made by Napo and expect new providers to be in place and delivering services by early 2015," the spokeswoman added.

      "Reoffending rates have been too high for too long, and we must act now to turn the tide on this unacceptable problem.

      "It would be inappropriate to comment further while legal proceedings are ongoing."

  21. The above has just been on BBC Radio Four.