Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Media Bits and Pieces

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What a gift the first Tory election poster has been and if you know what you're doing, the possibilities for mischief appear endless. Which brings me nicely on to the 'Trumpton' phenomenon on Twitter. This text book example admirably demonstrates how the rise and democratic nature of 'new' media is inexorably challenging the ability of established political parties to dominate and manipulate the election agenda. 

It would also seem that UKIP broke the golden rule where satire is concerned and got upset, thus ensuring its runaway success:-
A brief history of Trumpton UKIP 
by Mike Dicks the unofficial, unelected, mayor of a puppet town
This year we face a general election in the UK that, whichever way it turns out, will be defined as the UKIP election. For those of you who don’t know UKIP are a fairly right-wing, fairly nasty party populated by a set of fairly white, fairly golfy middle-aged men that is setting the agenda for the country, and it’s an agenda of distrust and often hatred for all that is not ‘British’
I have been worried about these politicians for some time, as I believe that movements like this, in times of economic difficulty have a habit of turning out badly (I don’t need to mention Hitler this early as it’s normally a sign of losing an argument)
So, having spent a few months trying to debate and poke fun at these people and their leaders online, I decided to start an account called Trumpton_UKIP that used a classic children’s TV show from my youth,Trumpton, to gently mock the politicians and supporters of the real UKIP and their old-fashioned ways by suggesting the Mayor and his clerk Mr Troop had defected to UKIP.
For a month or so, the account grew a little in popularity with 2–300 followers enjoying silly jokes that showed UKIP up for the ‘local’ politicians they were and mocked the ‘Britishness’ of it all and their unpleasant attitudes to immigration. Then, one night in December, David Coburn, a senior politician in UKIP and their Scottish member of the European Parliament, tweeted to his 9000 followers to warn them that we were a fake account, that they should all block us and report us to Twitter!
David went on to accuse us of copyright theft (because we used the letters U,K,I and P in our name) and a version of their logo. Which prompted an interesting article about the legal position of parody in light of a new EU law introduced in October — the irony is not lost on me here.
As you can imagine, my followers and their followers and then a large proportion of the politically active twitter world found this hilarious — what was it about the fictitious town of Trumpton and the puppets that gave us away? Our most shared joke was a reference to the party’s obsession with immigration using the role call at the Trumpton fire brigade to make a point:-
We gained more and more followers, and then something special, that only happens on Twitter happened, other Trumpton political parties started popping up, Labour, Tory, and Green, when Windy Miller defected to them after we tried to ban his windmill. Right-wing and left wing groups appeared like the rather sweet Trumpton National Front — who believe they are the Mayors bodyguards and the LGBT group who keep inviting the Mayor to their Pride March. Then cycling pressure groups and oil companies sprang into life followed by trade unions, a library, two radio stations and a pub. Even the clock tower that features in the show has its own account now, striking the hours with a pleasant bong.
As our following grew, and these actors filled their parts, Trumpton began to become a ‘thing’ on Twitter, and the press noticed. The Huffington PostIndependent, The Guardian and Daily Telegraph were quick to spot our ascent, and then the Financial Times called me for an interview. They ran the story online, and then the next day on the front cover, which saw us rocket past David Coburn’s, the MEP who originally revealed us a fake account, 9000 followers and on to a respectable 21,000 followers on Twitter and nearly 3000 fans on Facebook.
We have appeared on Radio and TV in the last few weeks, and I like to think we played a part in getting UKIP to change its policy on people using their logo — and even using social media. The account seems to have captured the imagination of a certain group of people, who are proud of their country, and Trumpton, but don’t share the little Britain views of UKIP supporters, who still manage to get wound up by the jokes.
The plan is to keep the account running until the election in May, unless we reach ‘peak Trumpton’ or UKIP stop providing us with so much funny material . Even in the unlikely event that UKIP manage to get control of the UK, there will remain a little bit of it in Trumptonshire that they won’t own — and that’ll really wind them up.
Just like buses; nothing for ages then two turn up. First we have 'Bring Back Borstal' on ITV Thursday 9pm, then a new comedy series 'Crims' on BBC3 straight after at 10pm. Set in a YOI, it'll be fascinating to see the contrast, but I'm not sure how funny it'll be judging by this preview in the Guardian:-
“What part of ‘I never want to see you henceforth again’ did you not understand?” Luke asks Jason when they are reunited in a cell at a young offenders’ institution. “Henceforth,” replies Jason. So begins Crims, the new BBC3 sitcom about two jailed muppets.
Jason did a bank job to pay for his sister and Luke, her boyfriend, to go to Australia. As Jason dived into the waiting car waving wads of cash, sirens filled the air. “So I’m your getaway driver?” asked Luke, who thought he was there to take Jason home with his shopping. “Getting caught driver,” clarified Jason as their car was surrounded.
So, for the next 600 days, the two young men are to share a cell, just like Ronnie Barker and Richard Beckinsale did 40 odd years ago. But while Porridge pitted Barker’s old lag against Beckinsale’s fresh meat, Jason thinks Luke is his best mate, while Luke blames Jason for getting him in the slammer. “It’s not so much Porridge as Ready Brek,” says Kadiff Kirwan, 33, who plays Jason, as we chat on set at Twickenham Studios. Perhaps, but that makes Crims sound like kids’ stuff, whereas in reality its implacable rudery – involving jokes about anal rape, pervy intergenerational sex and flying condoms – makes one yearn for a cleansing shower, though not one in a young offenders’ institution, if you catch my drift. “I’m absolutely thrilled that you’ve managed to arrange me a two-year staycation in this bummertorium,” Luke tells Jason with terror.   
Finally, the BBC have commissioned a documentary on the Strangeways riots and are requesting help, especially from any of the 8 Probation Officers seconded to the establishment at the time:-

A BBC-2 Documentary

Minnow Films is making a special television documentary for BBC-2 to mark the twenty fifth anniversary of the disturbances at Strangeways prison in 1990. The film will be broadcast in late March this year.

The programme makers have begun extensive research into the events that unfolded over those twenty five days and are keen to talk to people who were directly or indirectly involved.

In order to fully understand the details of the disturbances, we would very much like to talk to you about your personal recollections – either by phone or, if you prefer, we can make a personal visit. All initial conversations will be confidential – with a possible view to conducting a filmed interview at a later date.

Minnow Films is an award-winning television production company ( with an established track record of making high quality, rigorously researched documentaries, including BBC-2’s BAFTA award-winning film, “7/7 – One Day in London” about the terrorist attacks in London in July 2007.

If you think you can help us with our research please do get in touch.

Sally Brindle – Producer – 07831 381296 –

David Belton – Director – 07788 268279 –


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  1. Private Eye 1383 page 29 has two very interesting articles....
    1. "Buildings occupied by the Ministry of Justice...are -almost unbelievably- owned offshore in a Mediterranean tax haven.... All this undermines an order from the Treasury....that UK Government assets should not be transferred off shore". Pity that didn't extend to ownership of probation eh??
    2. "Welfare to work firm A4e has been accused of introducing an 'incredibly dangerous' policy of using untrained or inexperienced advisers to work with people with mental health conditions, learning disabilities and drug and alcohol problems." Let's hope similar developments will not occur in privatised for profit probation eh?

  2. So - what might be the benefits of some Probation folk in Trumpton?

  3. Tweet by Harry Fletcher 'no of court orders to CRCs still at 85%,NPS recruiting POs to court,CRCs losing them,cut to NPS next year up to 10% Chaos!' The trend of the majority of court orders going to the CRCs continues while the split is now about 50/50. In a large area in the north, POs apparently are leaving the CRC in droves and the MOJ can't replace them. Teams in the NPS are also short-staffed and not able to serve courts. As the CRCs will have to make 15 -20% cuts to make a profit and the NPS will be cutting 10%, one can assume this will be mainly of expensive staff, so there will be even more chaos. I hope some of you bidders are reading this because Probation is not the gravy train you might imagine.

    1. the CRC may very well attempt to make up to 20% cuts but to do so the service delivery will have to drastically change and to be quite frank we are skimming the surface a lot as it is. Dangerous times.

    2. they think the answer is mass reporting centres ...ROFL

    3. They may not be the answer but the certainly are the future. Roll them up, scan the barcode and print off the next appointment, not forgetting to enter onto Delius 'Attended on time, no issues disclosed, all is well, nothing to see here...move along'.

      I really cannot see what could possibly go wrong.

    4. The new providers will be only too happy to see staff leave of their own accord

  4. Hope you don't mind Jim but given events in France and the focus of this blog on media...
    Je suis Charlie.......RIP mes amis

    1. Nous sommes tous Charlie

      Chapeau, Charlie Hebdo

  5. Probation Officer7 January 2015 at 20:14

    Reading through UKIP's manifesto it is not probation friendly and so my interest in the party ends there. In fact I was never interested in it as do not want to be led by a bunch of overt racists/sexist bigots. It's bad enough being led by a bunch on covert bigots in the form of ConDem and Labour. I would support a GreenLab coalition, which would be as probation friendly as it can get, but that's wishful thinking.

    Too much reading about borstal lately. We've all seen the scenes of bullying, rape and violence in Scum and that sums up the borstal experience we don't need to return too. Short, sharp, shocks did not and do not work for most.

    A fitting postscript, and I wonder how the awful events in Paris today may impact on the proposals for increased use of control orders for suspected terrorists, etc in the UK. On the other hand should we be worried that probation offices could become "soft targets", alongside other CJS agencies/offices? I don't think so but then you never know what's round the corner these days it seems.

    On another note and as I posted it earlier and it disappeared, maybe a tad to topical, but this is a media thread, no? With all the many offenders on my caseload that maintain innocence but are trying to rebuild their lives I think the Ched Evans situation is highly of interest, particularly now that he's about to sign for Oldham as I read in the news today. There's various aspects here, firstly that the increasing trial by social media which is dictating the future of convicted offenders is very worrying. Politicians, inc the PM, have jumped on the bandwagon showing two-fingers to so called impartiality and calling for him not to be signed. Once again Napo (and the probation institute) have missed a trick as should have been the "expert opinion" on the issue rather than leaving this to PCC's and the Daily Mail.

    My opinion, he's done his time and should be able to return to his profession. He'll unlikely ever play at his previous level or for his national team. Employment is key in going straight for a multitude of reasons, as is giving people a chance. Fergus McNeill calls the latter the 'collective social responsibility' of the community to accept and support those that gave served their time and are trying to make amends. A person does not have to accept guilt to move on with their life and never reoffend, and I'm shocked really that politicians and PCC's have ignored this too. If he's complying with his licence and trying to pick up his life then good on him. The fact he maintains his innocence is not reason for him to be prevented from employment of this type and nor is the nature of his crime, as grave as that crime may be.

    The fact of the matter is that the right to work is a human right and precedents already exist for challenging licence conditions where this has been inappropriately restricted in the past. Playing for Oldham cannot be challenged in terms of licence conditions no matter what probation, MAPPA or local police may want, and in terms of his Registered Sex Offender status or any Sex Offending Prevention Order he is not directly working with women or children. Although unlikely to happen, but even if Real Madrid signed him then licence conditions would be challenged and he would be permitted to leave the country too.

    Personally I wouldn't want a convicted rapist playing for my team, he's not that's good a player anyway. Saying that though how quickly did we forgive Beckham for losing us the World Cup, just as we forgave Gazza for being a drunk, Ferdinand for taking drugs, Graham Rix for unlawful sexual intercourse, John Terry for racism and Vinnie Jones for being a violent lunatic...?

    I'm sure it comes as no surprise that as a probation officer i believe in giving people the chance to change, and our work is severely hindered if every time a notorious criminal is released we have politicians, journalists and idiots on twitter calling the shots.

    Any thoughts?

    1. By the way your earlier post on Ched didn't disappear - it's over on this morning's Borstal post.

    2. Professionally I understand he cant be prevented from playing pro football again but i still dont like it. His status as a professional footballer gave him opportunity to offend and likely contributed to his justifications. If a pair of taxi drivers or bouncers treated a young woman in the same way I doubt theyd walk back in to those careers. His failure to condemn the 'supporters' who contiue to hound his victim is nauseating.
      It would be just fine by me if the public make it impossible for him to be signed.

    3. I feel for the supervisor of Ched Evans trying to manage his case with regard to employment. Reminds me of difficulties I faced when a herdsman (a very mobile type of employment - I was surprised to discover) had already been released on parole in the 1980s before MAPPA & sex offender registration - for a comparatively short sentence - for incest with his only child, a14 year old daughter and (If memory is correct) gross indecency with a friend of the 14 year old), a year or so after his wife and the child's physically alike mother had died.

      He turned up on my case-load having moved after release when found a job via an employment agency on an isolated farm (for which he did not seek advance permission - but just moved 200 miles) with living accommodation being shared accommodation at a farm house, where another farm employee lived with his family including younger children - without the employer knowing of the conviction. The easiest thing to do would have been to immediately recommend recall, but then he would have been released in a further few months with no support or surveillance. He was adamant the employer not be told or he would abscond - I was adamant he was going to be told and after negotiation a way was created whereby I got confirmation from the employer that he understood the situation - by which time the parolee had been in the job and accommodation for several weeks and proved satisfactory - He complied with the reporting restrictions, resisted scrutiny of the offence and as far as I knew completed satisfactorily and was never re-convicted. Thank goodness it did not get into the local press!.

      Probation Officer on 7 January 2015 at 20:14 says " A person does not have to accept guilt to move on with their life and never reoffend, and I'm shocked really that politicians and PCC's have ignored this too " and " Any thoughts?".

      I am not shocked or surprised that politicians and Police and Crime Commissioners, should pander to public opinion as their positions depend on getting more votes than other nominees and that has been a problem at the heart of difficulties probation work has faced since criminal justice became so 'politicised' from the late 1980s by which times other policy differences between the leading political parties seem to have been narrowed regarding economic matters.

      It is a problem that no individual probation service employer or trades union has had the media 'clout' to take on effectively and has got more difficult as the control of criminal justice in England and Wales has been more centralised and the Government has become more of a propaganda organisation with the media than hitherto.

  6. Can't decide if this is a spoof or a real document:

    1. " Grayling Facts

      Grayling is a leading Public Relations, Government Relations, Investor Relations and Events Consultancy with specialist services including CSR, environment and sustainability and digital.

      Grayling operates from 54 offices in 26 countries worldwide across Europe, North America, the Middle East and Asia.

      The company has revenues in excess of €100 million (USD148 million).

      Senior Executives: Pete Pedersen, Global "

    2. Grayling reminds me of that bloke from The Blacklist. Cannot recall his name but he is a devious and mendacious tool too.

    3. Grayling UK. a subsidary of Huntsworth a PR company founded by Peter Gummer

    4. thought it was about fish.

      Smells fishy to me.

  7. We've (as in the population and the service) all been in an abusive relationship with the political class, yet the minute another party gains some sort of prominence, diversity-conditioning does its job and you get people smearing them as racist/sexist,comical,etc. I think they (Ukip) are no better than the others but I'm voting for them because I'm fucking sick to the back teeth of what the political class have any done to this country and their sense of entitlement and l want to see them all suffering. All of the vitriol on here about politicians is just hot air if you are just going to shuffle bleating into your pens come election time. I'm swapping the muppets for Trumpton and that must make me racist and sexist, eh?. You are SO rebellious. Not.

    1. No, it does not make you anything. You have as much right to vote for whomever you choose and if you said you were voting Tory/Lib/Lab/Green then someone would have something negative to say about the party and your choice. But, as you are allowed to vote they are allowed to comment. You only have to look across the Channel to find out what happens when people try to stop free speech, it just creates louder voices.

  8. Je suis Charlie, from a Muslim Probation Officer. As a Muslim, the terrorists are complete criminals and are certainly not committing heinous crimes in my name. I hope they are caught quickly and dispatched to meet their maker! It is truly a shame that terrorists are predominantly Muslim, but the religion they represent is in no way reflective of Islam. Obscurantist, fanatic extremists have hijacked my religion.


    And the prison violence continues. Would want to meet prisoners at the gate like that

    1. A violent prison attack which left three officers needing hospital treatment was one of a series of incidents caused as a result of Government budget cuts, a union official claimed.

      Three male guards at Walton prison were taken to hospital after the attack at the Hornby Road prison at 11am on Monday.

      Glyn Travis, spokesman for the Prison Officers’ Association, said officers were “being treated like punchbags” on a daily basis as Government cuts took effect.

      He said: “This attack on prison officers is an affront to hard working professionals and violence in prisons needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.”

      He added: “The issue is the prisoner to staff ratio means staff have less time to interact with prisoners, less time to get information, less time for security, less time to search for contraband and less time to deal with prisoners who are vulnerable and feel the only way to deal with things is by lashing out, when they may be being bullied or intimidated by other prisoners.

      “It is a cocktails of things which makes a recipe for disaster.”

  10. Probation Officer7 January 2015 at 23:32

    Anon 21:58. Please note that most terrorists ARE NOT Muslims. While there are many heinous attacks carried out by Muslims and those claiming to be Muslims, if you check out European, US and world statistics you'll find the cast majority of terrorist attacks are not committed by Muslims or Muslim affiliated groups. That being said it is unclear who committed this attack although the indication is it may have been Muslims or Muslim affiliated individuals. On that note, Muslim or not, this attack was committed by deranged individuals.

  11. Jim.

    Maybe, because I'm a lifetime offender, a daily reader of your blog, and a contributer for many years, we could have an open forum one day?
    I have a degree which comprises of components of crime and justice, penology, health welfare and social problems. I have a diploma of advanced social policy, a couple of A levels, 4 decades of involvement with the CJS, several experiences of short term impriosnment, one of 5 years, (when 4 years or over ment automatic involvement with the dispersal system), and a life long relationship with herion.
    I have a great knowledge of the CJS, from academic study,observation, and personal involvement.
    Maybe, on a day when your struggling to find enough information to produce a comprehensive blog (on a daily basis, it must be fucking hard), I could be posed questions, or invited to give opinion from the other side of the fence so to speak?
    Some may not like my response, but I'm part of the TR omnishambles too, have an opinion, and less of a platform to speak from then probation staff.

    Available most days.


    1. Getafix,

      A great idea, but I have no idea how to organise such an 'open forum'. Maybe the way forward is if you have a stab at writing a guest blog piece, either in small chunks off your mobile and e-mail them to me, or as Andrew has suggested, try your local library for free internet connection. Maybe if readers knew a bit more about your thoughts, ideas and experiences it would generate questions and comments. Let me know what you think.



  12. Hi Jim, did you see this wonderful piece from policy exchange from early December.?

    1. I noticed this banner across the top of Policy Exchanges web page: -


      "The PCA ... welcomes the critical appraisal of current delivery arrangements that Policy Exchange has provided" Probation Chiefs Association on Future of Corrections"

    2. Prolific criminals serving community orders, who break the terms of their probation, could be sent to jail for up to a week under plans to make the criminal justice system swifter and fairer.

      Swift and Certain shows that 182,000 offenders receive either a Community Order or Suspended Sentence Order every year.

      1 in 3 fail to complete their Order, predominantly due to a failure to comply with the requirements of their sentence or as a result of a further conviction. Punishment for breaching probation is not handed out until 5 weeks after the breach has taken place and the average time elapsed from committing the breach to completion can take up to 53 working days.

      Currently first time breaches of Orders usually result in a warning from a probation officer, and further breaches are left to their discretion. Only after multiple breaches and significant time delays is an offender likely to be brought before the court and receive a punishment.

      The paper, authored by former prison governor Kevin Lockyer, proposes a series of recommendations similar to the HOPE probation programme in Hawaii that is judge-led and sets out clear conditions for offenders with drug and alcohol related problems from the start of their sentence including short, sharp spells in prison for missing appointments with probation officers or failing a drug test. The scheme has been so successful in reducing reoffending rates that it has been replicated in 18 States across America.

      The report says that replicating the HOPE model could lead to a 50% reduction in the 23,000 people not complying with the terms of their Community Orders. Under the new swift and certain system, between 6,000 and 8,500 could receive short prison sentences over the course of a year. Under current guidelines courts in England and Wales are discouraged from handing out custodial sentences.

      Recommendations include:

      The creation of a new ‘Conditional Behaviour Order’, as a requirement attached to Community Orders, which would set out guidelines including drug testing and alcohol monitoring for people with clear sanctions for non compliance.

      Fast-tracking prolific offenders to dedicated ‘Breach Courts’ with specialist magistrates and judges sentencing guilty pleas within 24 hours of the decision to charge.

      The introduction of new Police Courts with magistrates sat in or nearby policy stations to immediately sentence low level offences where there has been a guilty plea.

  13. Jesu is Charlie?

    The pen is mightier than the sword; but auto-correct is funny too.