Sunday, 8 March 2015

Bleak Futures Week 10

"They've stuck feathers on a turd and are now sitting round wondering why it won't fly."

As a trade union rep and JNCC member, I have seen many of the destructive elements of TR start to present themselves over the last year. Firstly, the damage done to industrial relations; the almost total destruction of equality of opportunity and transparency in terms of the allocation of posts; the routine undermining of Senior and Middle management; the deceit implicit in the repackaging of existing material to 'create' Rehabilitation Activity Requirements; the routine lying to the courts regarding content and process; fraudulent practice in order to maintain the illusion that the CRCs (and NPS) are 'functioning'; the undermining of much of the integrity of Probation at all levels; the amateurism of Fast Delivery Reports to courts (compared to the previous practice of proper, fully researched PSRs); the 'assessments' that take place without anyone seeing anybody or having any of the information required to check the veracity of an offenders submissions, even if they have; the repeated reallocation of cases time and time again at the expense of effective supervision; the fraudulent counting of supervision sessions as part of an RAR's allocation of days.... the list goes on and on.

What we have seen is NOT the privatisation of Probation but the replacement of a world class service with a shallow pretence. We are on the verge of seeing offenders reporting to computer terminals, of 'one size fits all' supervision plans and programmes of intervention that everyone does, irrespective of identified need, of creaming and parking (despite being 'assured' (I wasn't) that it wouldn't happen), the marginalisation of hundreds of years of experience at all levels and the replacement of expertise with amateurism.

The 'rehabilitation' model we are seeing developing in the community is to become the same as the one that exists in the prisons; a shallow and ineffective pretence. Remember, the CRCs are still essentially the old Trusts operating under the umbrella of the new providers. The destruction is only just beginning and the wheels are already off. If you cannot see that, you are either astonishingly naive or complicit in that destruction.

The bleak future?

NPS: Probation Officers remain the hidden arm of the CJS and have become the poor second cousin twice removed of the Civil Service. Working out of little cramped offices attached to Courts and other CJS buildings, we supervise high caseloads; continue to record on substandard IT systems; write multiple PSR's and make recommendations in accordance with government calls for increasing punishment and imprisonment. 

The pressure is always on to downgrade risk assessments and assign cases to the CRC. This is easier for the abundance of new staff that joined with no previous experience and qualified in such a short time that the probation qualification is no longer recognised or ratified by higher education. Recruitment has become non existent because of government lies that CRC's are reducing reoffending and pressure is now on to privatise the NPS. Probation Officers can now be ranked as social work trained, probation studies trained, or post TR trained.

CRC: Offender Managers receive on the job training. Professional qualifications, relevant experience and university education are no longer required, and pay has decreased. Probation Officers trained in social work and probation studies have either retired or returned to the NPS or social work. CRC's are now detached from probation offices and heavily stripped back on management and support staff. Through the Gate never happened; supervision for under 12 month prisoners broke the system and contracts have changed hands and been subcontracted out numerous times. 

The CRC model has become as notorious as the work programme, because crime is on the increase and the tabloids report that reoffending rates are falling because the figures are manipulated by the click of a button. Offender Managers are located in small hubs in offices and call centres. Clients phone in on an agreed basis to check in for their supervision, in some CRC's the call is automated. Clients that cannot phone in or need instructions in person, contact infrequently and are seen in their homes or at agreed places. Courts no longer value probation sentences if the case is to be assigned to a CRC.

There's no Napo for NPS and CRC staff to turn to for support, it has long disappeared. The Probation Institute has increased in importance and continues to erode probation by promoting anti-rehabilitation government messages and CRC corner-cutting as best practice. The 'professional register' of the Probation Institute is not recognised by the NPS and probation officers as it recognises non qualified probation staff as qualified practitioners.

Thanks to Chris and all the probation Chief Officers!

Where are our new masters? Purple Futures has not updated its News page since 1st Feb and the last tweet was on 16th Feb.

The notion of continuity of working with any individual case has been eroded to the point of non-existence. Firstly, the interruption to the flow of trained staff when training was stopped. Then NOMS's interference with the imposition of inappropriate/unnecessary process & monitoring, Then the shift to Trusts. Now TR. Add to this a change in the staff profile, where the increase in mobility & ambition (allied to a younger intake) has contributed to staff being able & willing to move between areas and roles as they move up the greasy pole. Then sprinkle with the growth of agency staff.

How many areas can now say they have staff who have been in post, let alone in one locality, for five years? For ten years? For twenty years? For thirty years? In the early 1990s I joined an office in an inner city area when there were 10 POs and 3 PSAs (aka PSOs). Of those POs, 2 were recently qualified but trained locally; 1 had relocated to the area about 2 years previous; the rest had been local POs for between 5 & 25 years. The PSAs had been there for 6 & 9 years.

Where I work now (different area & CRC team) there are 3 POs and 8 PSOs. One person has been there 17 years, not one of the remaining ten has been there longer than 5 years. Most haven't been there for more than 2 years.

Can I point out that I have been informed by management at what was Hampshire Probation Trust in response to a complaint I made, that my OM repeatedly failed to respond to any communication I sent her before I was released, that an OM is allegedly only legally obliged to communicate with an offender once a year. Management maintained that as she had written to me a two paragraph letter at the instigation of her SPO, which didn't even answer a single issue I had raised or any of the questions I had asked, that she had done her duty and need not communicate with me further until the following year.

If this is in fact true and not some attempt to wriggle out of a failure to respond to letters from me this makes a complete mockery of what has been said. How on earth can you possibly effectively manage an offender or build up a relationship with them prior to release to enable you to do an accurate risk assessment if all you are required to do is send the offender one letter in any calendar year that can say absolutely nothing at all? No wonder most risk assessments don't appear to be worth the paper they are written on and why things do go so horribly wrong.

When a prisoner is released and probation services take up their 'supervision' they are in fact at their final stage of engagement with their journey through the CJS. It's often the case that the supervisory period and those involved in it take the flack when things go wrong and SFOs occur. But isn't what's happened to the prisoner during their detention, their development whilst in custody, an even more important issue? If the issues that led to the offence originally are not addressed whilst the person is in custody, then surely they're being released into the world of probation 'supervision' still with the original offending issues unaddressed? I note today that there are a lot of newspaper reports about the prison population being so over crowded, and as such pretty ineffective with regard to any sort of rehabilitative function.

Wales CRC asking staff to go into prisons to run TTG for 6 months. Wonderful secondment opportunity! I guess Working Links can put in whoever they want to.

It feels as though I have woken up in a country I do not recognise. It is not a nice place, but it must have been creeping up on us, wordlessly, sneakily, for some time. I do not like what now seems to be everywhere - people suffering and struggling, starving and killing themselves. Homelessness, rip off jobs, ridiculous rents & artificially inflated property prices, permanent food collection point in the local supermarket, benefit sanctions, unkind policies and well fed, over paid politicians who break lives and let people die.

Politicians who begin sentences with "the truth is..." I am so ashamed of this country and what it is turning into. We are being forced down a horrible road. I feel extremely fortunate that I have employment in the traditional sense - a contract, some measure of security. But for how much longer? Nothing makes any sense any more. As a "hardworking taxpayer" I actually do not give a stuff if a very small minority are not looking for work. But a million people sanctioned? What a nasty, vindictive situation. But not only does that mean people cannot eat, it means they are not contributing to their local economy. Surely that does not make economic sense, let alone moral sense? So the knock on effect must be wider than a brutal punishment of an isolated individual.

I think the wealthy elite have washed their hands of any remaining sense of 'social responsibilty' of those in power. They are gathering up their ill gotten gains as fast as they can and pulling up the draw bridge. It's planned and deliberate, with 'austerity' the smokescreen. Is not taxpayers money used to pay for TR? Do we not see day in, day out examples of increasing cost of this farce, costs written off because some people will get even more wealthy? Cheers suckers! God help us if they are re-elected.

If you speak to senior managers and consultants involved in CRCs then it's true. Anyone who thinks there are not going to be significant changes in the pay and staff structure in CRCs is very much mistaken.

It's going to happen, already role titles are changing, role boundaries are changing and job evaluation training is again underway within my CRC. I would bet my pension on changes to terms, conditions and salaries within the next 12 months.

1999 - Rural area office, large patch: 12 PO staff, 3 PSOs, 6 admin
2015 - same patch BEFORE any cuts, redundancies, etc:
CRC - 4 PO staff, 8 PSOs; NPS - 8 POs, 4 PSOs
Total: 12 POs, 12 PSOs, 4 admin

Everyone is at about 110% on the old WMT, and stressed to hell. CRC have hinted at "managing cost centres" (redundancy?) and NPS are no doubt set to be slashed in the Civil Service cuts to come. In advance of the swingeing cuts to come, I predict Grayling will offer NPS staff a pay deal to further his divisive approach to TR, based on the fact they "manage higher risk" or some such guff.

I did a home visit today - isolated individual, his hip is crumbling and mobility is limited - I can not really spare the time out of the office but as he's not too far from the office I make the effort so at least I can get him through the order. As I was leaving I sensed something seemed a bit odd. When I asked him if everything was alright he said he'd got money but been unable to get out because of his hip and could I drop him off at the Asda so he could get some food in? My pleasure - love doing this sort of stuff for those that need it. This to me is what I love most about my job - I just wish people would not be so shy to ask for a helping hand as there's no shame in it.

CRC in Manchester would never let you do this without charge. There is now a cost to everything.

What a total Horlicks. PO staff shafted to CRC, threatened with job loss if they challenged their shafting, resources demolished by the split, staff leaving. NPS now desperate for staff while experienced POs fester in CRCs. There are more Civil Service management roles than ever before, all speaking in tongues, pocketing fat salaries & achieving fuck all. At a meeting last week someone mentioned the "new NPS NW regional court managers" - uh? More tools, roles and models and fuck knows what else, all being created to hide the TR fuck up.

"Following the recent recruitment to CA and PO posts across the Division the WPC agreed to extend the PO recruitment exercise to Stage 4 (open competition). The advert will appear on Civil Service Jobs shortly and all CRC employees can apply."

As someone sifted into the CRC, despite a grievance being made and subsequently dismissed, I have one reply to anyone who wishes me to now help the NPS/NOMS out. FUCK RIGHT OFF.

Me three and I echo the sentiments. I think they'll find many PO's will feel the same. It appears that they have not found the additional 500 PO's that Grayling claimed we had!

I too was put into our CRC and all I can say to echo the other posts is that the prats at the top ought to go back to school and learn how to do maths. It didn't take a genius to work out the numbers! For me, and 16 years in the job, I'm staying put and taking my chances within our CRC. We never asked for any of this but please think carefully before jumping from one to another.

I was allocated to the NPS during the shafting and if I'm being honest was, at the time, quite glad. I doubt I'd switch back to CRC, even if I could. However, it just does not work. My own feelings are that additional staff are needed as frontline staff are applying for fancy new 'non-jobs' in the belief that they are climbing the management pole. I fear that what they do not realise is that once things stabilise, these jobs will be dissolved, and them with it.

We need to remember that NOMS see us as Civil Servants first, and PO's second. If you are in the NPS, and are planning on applying for fancy new jobs, with great sounding titles, you need to ask yourself what will happen when these go! There was a lot a noise about CRC staff being sacked/laid off post TR. I think we are a lot more vulnerable, more so with the continual influx of TPO's who all want our job. Thinking on, rather than trying to climb that greasy pole for NOMS, why not just ask if there is another way of earning your 30 pieces of silver?

Absolute chaos in our CRC. We have been in chaos for so long we no longer know what normal looks like. Told to choose which area of work we want to be in but no information how we will be working. We have one week to transfer caseloads within the CRC. If the PI is unable to state the fundamental shambles of TR it does not matter how professional it may appear it has nothing to offer anyone with any integrity. How can the PI hold values suggested when the Probation Service has been decimated? It will remain in the government pocket.

Please be aware that the private organisations will do whatever they can to sidestep the rickety 'framework'. They have access to highly paid & 'creative' employment lawyers. Do not believe that terms & conditions are safe & secure. Just look at the 'creativity' applied to the tagging contracts, or the way Sodexo behaved when taking over HMP Northumberland, or the overt & covert flouting of rules relating to Work Programme contracts, the brazen & dismissive attitude to issues around conflicts of interest, or the tardy, lacklustre approach to JR by NAPO on behalf of members.

I understand that JCP will be going into UPW to arrange work placements for offenders instead of going out on van. Sounds like a good idea but they can't find enough placements for current jobless without adding on UPW. Where will these employers come from? Still issues with 'van driving' in Wales. PO/PSOs being seconded to TTG for 6 mths. No mention of who will take their work load. Offenders being passed around to different officers to suit the scheme.

CRCs processing own breaches here. NPS cannot cope.

Attended a meeting in a Government building today with someone from the MOJ. A charity who's funding from Probation ends on 31st March said they had not been offered further contracts as yet and those around the table were aghast that no interim funding had been provided. The MOJ rep looked embarrassed and said all was in the hands of the private contractors now! I so had to bite my tongue in order to not get the sack!

Can I be bloody angry too? Off topic but the IT system is an absolute disgrace. Today...

1. had to reboot NINE times
2. was unable to run multiple systems at the same time - everything froze
3. had to write a PSR with each narrative box reducing its size as I typed so had to press enter at end of each line of text to expand the box so I could read what I was typing, honestly
4. unable to use buttons in lotus notes so for example could open 'out of office' in tools but couldn't press the button to enable, it didn't work
5. the final defining moment was trying to use the new case allocation system instructions for the first time - whoever wrote the new instructions should be shot, yes really. IT IS AN ABUSE OF EVERY SINGLE PRACTITIONER THAT WE HAVE TO USE SUCH A POOR SYSTEM and proves that the MOJ understand NOTHING about efficient business delivery.

Same problem doing an ISP in OASyS so frustrating and time consuming.

Yes, every time the line wraps around it goes out of view so you can't see what you're typing on the new line - annoying and it's the little things that piss you off. I've also noticed offenders with 'concurrent' orders which is wrong as they are only on one - the mysterious concurrent order I had yesterday had 942 months custody. Bizarrely the ghost concurrent order vanished by the time I decided I had built up the energy to ring our IT department over it.

Delius was playing up yesterday with it being unavailable at certain hours of the day.

As ex IT (before I and the rest of the unit left or took VR) can I implore you not to take it out on the people on the helpdesks, please. Crams was described in the press as 'a crime against computing'. That we began to look back on it with longing, says all you need to know about the catastrophic procurement processes that all govt departments seem to employ. Aircraft carriers that can't carry our aircraft is the forces equivalent of NDelius and Eoasys. The help desk bod isn't responsible, and hates them as much as you, honestly!

I did not even mention 'help desk bods' because I am NPS and we have some remote contact centre (for everything actually, not just IT). I really miss the great team we had on our old trust help desk. Based on the advice of numerous colleagues I do not even bother to contact the help desk as I was told it can take days to have issues resolved. I do though sometimes wish 'help desk bods' and others could understand the utter pressure practitioners are under delivering multiple tasks and owning the dead lines for all of this, oh and protecting the public too. Practitioner work is being obstructed by the IT not facilitated and I know the 'help desk bod' hates the system too.

Have been waiting months for an IT issue to be resolved. Our pre TR support team provided a superb service.

Does anyone know what happened to the VR money? Rumour is the companies that took over the CRCs get to keep the cash as an "incentive".

CRC in Manchester in total fucking meltdown.

2 CRC admin walked out yesterday, one wrote her notice out before she left and the other just walked out. Told on Tues they were being re-deployed and their last day would be today - both offices much further away - no notice; no warning just totally out of the blue.

To my shame, I accept I've been drawn in & am guilty of "describing the water". I don't know what to do to effect any change anymore. I try to keep working in as effective way as I've ever done, but as a PO the CRC constrains me with its cuts & administrative stranglehold & its "wait & see" uncertainty and outrageous caseload of primarily DV bullies.

Is there a VR package? No-one will say. There are hundreds of emails weekly about operational this & that's, a threatening undercurrent to many. So perhaps navel gazing & describing the water is all that's left after an exhausting day? I have no energy. I'm depressed. I drink every night. I feel like I'm drowning too!


  1. What really concerns me most is the management policy of distancing itself from practice because if they do not know they think they have no responsibility: any blame can sit with the practitioner. They should remember that their salaries are higher purely because of responsibility payments.

  2. The IT system should be the highest factor in the business risk register and coded red.

  3. I have this to say to everyone who thinks Manchester is capable of offering the same level of service now as pre-TR.

    Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah *pauses for breath* hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah!

    1. Whats happening in Manchester.......Looking to join so would like to know

    2. people need to be more precise with accusations of issues in Areas than being vague. It doesn't help anyone and can be seen as disgruntled staff just trying to stir the pot.

      Back your words up!!

  4. To anonymous at 09:01.....this applies both to CRC and to NPS as things are changing daily and its reminiscent of the movie 'Downfall' when der furher attempts to move divisions that don't exist anymore in the mistaken belief that salvation is at hand and no-one has the balls to tell him...sound familiar????

    1. there are people in our local prison doing CRC TTG and I've no idea who they are but they are not CRC Probation - they're not NPS probation either. Who are these people and why if prison staff are doing BCS and pre-release planning is there a panic that probation CRC staff need to be directed to transfer to custody if its being done by others? Very confusing about who's doing what.

    2. In HMP Durham it was until this month Foundation who ran TTG. This has now stopped and we are in a absolutely shocking position that people are being released with only £46 in their pocket and no support!!! It should not be like this and if there was only some way that we could tear apart, on ideological grounds, an award winning service in order to provide this support.

      Oh, hang on......

    3. This is one of the fallacies that the TR providers are about to discover. There actually was TTG support in place, just not through MoJ contracted services - mostly through agreements with Local Authorities and third sector. They were effective too, but are now down the swannie. The TR providers will now have to pay for their own service but without the flexibility that previous arrangements had. Dear oh dear....I just don't think they understood this at all. And I can't see how they can afford it. Past Foundation and Shelter services in the North - all will have to be replaced with TR provider money.

  5. The Probation Institute: it's what their Code of Ethics doesn't say that bothers me: namely, it doesn't say that it is wrong and unethical to make a profit out of crime. Admittedly our erstwhile probation service was no better on it's values and codes of ethics as these never got in the way of the erosion of the professional ethic and the pragmatism of managerialism. What's the point of values if they don't get in the way of actions sometimes?

    The recent PI elections are shrouded in secrecy: we know nothing about voting figures or turnout; there was no independent verification, but we are assured the PI is 'developing democracy'. It says it's 'member-led' and that membership is voluntary, but it was prepared to accept mass registrations from some CRCs over the heads of individuals who may or may not have approved of being so registered. Presumably it is also developing its definition of 'voluntary'. This does not sound like an open and transparent entity, it sounds more faith-based.

  6. Alot of what is going on is stalling and pretending. Just get to after the election then who gives a fuck.

  7. It's so depressing, and clients are suffering too, on a global (universal) scale! I'll soon try to transfer a lifer to another area- still wthin the NPS district. Never liked losing people I've positively worked with for years to another area, but his reasons for wanting to go are genuine and the right thing to do, for him. I anticipate a struggle and it shouldn't be this way! The other area has no council properties as it has all been outsourced to a private company, so that's the first hurdle, but then there will be probation, victim services, mappa and police, it's exhausting for me and emotionally draining for the client! I know what your thinking ,no change there, but post TR the system appears to have had an intellectual and morality bypass! A consequence of which has been a reduction of confidence, something I have never been short of, and that will, if it carries on lead to feelings of hoplessness!

  8. Good luck with your lifer transfer. My case is unable to return to his home area but no area will accept transfer of him near to his open prison ( two areas nearby) citing " no community support/links" as the reason. Also I couldn't get him into an AP in south for his ROTLs earlier on for the same reason. Chances of accommodation are pretty low. I shall continue to try my best for him from one hundred and fifty miles away but it is very difficult to travel due to times constraints ( what do I leave undone in order to travel to him?) and expense. Rehabilitation....the reality.

  9. For the last ten years the provision of accommodation for probation clients has evaporated. Community Safety agencies, DV forums, Homelessness teams - all seem too eager to refuse to support applications. When did a CRB check become part of registering as homeless? Since when was gossip exchanged at a "professionals" meeting accepted as 'fact'? Not many weeks back I spent 5 hours at the local housing office with a client. At 4pm they told me they were closing for the day - "perhaps you could buy her a tent and a sleeping bag?"

    For a recent releasee on Licence I've had to resort to utilising housing provision previously set aside for prospective tenants with diagnosed learning disability. Complaints etc have been lodged, but no-one seems interested. Even if he had £460 in his pocket on release, he still couldn't have found accommodation.

    I think the wholesale transfer of local authority housing stock was criminal, yet another act of reckless political vandalism which robbed the local tax payers of their assets.

    Even if TR was a sensible plan (which it isn't) it is inherently doomed to fail because there is no working infrastructure In the UK. Why? Because its been hastily dismantled & sold off over the last 30 or so years.

    Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown & Cameron are the Steptoe & Son of the political world. Scrap merchants, thieves & exploitative, self-interested gits.

  10. Second day in new CRC Team, just me replacing 3 FT staff who have jumped across to NPS. Was asked to see a young man who came in insisting he had an appointment and no record of him at all to be found on Delius, admin had rung the Court, they said they didn't know anything about him. Took him in an interview room and he explained he had been in court two days earlier, he used to be with the YOT but the Court 'squashed' that and told him he's got to do 30 days something but he doesn't know what. Put him in the waiting room, rang the YOT, exasperated officer says she's been on to the Court several times about him, he's high risk of harm and should be at the NPS office 6 miles away except it then turns out that he has given a fake address at Court (despite the YOT Officer warning that he might do this) and he shouldn't even be in our town. After he'd been hanging around now for 40 minutes, explained all this to him, he told me to fuck off and that Probation is fucking shit. Had to agree really.

  11. Happening all over the place!

    1. Yep. Case came into the office last week. Reception can't find him on Delius and he doesn't know who he is here to see. Eventually I go down and take him into interview room to ask some details (as office was crowded). From what I can gather he appears to be a CRC case arrived from Court. No record of him though. A shambles, not to mention dangerous.

      Another one last week where unpaid work have no access to OASys before 1st appointment. NPS have a look and in his last assessment (2013) he was high risk of serious harm. Who knows what his risk is now as sentenced without an up to date OASys.

      Finally, FDR completed at Court by PSO on known sex offender who police consider to be high risk. Index offence on the face of it, fairly minor and not a sex offence so historical offences had gone unnoticed.

      All this in one office in one week.


    1. A BRAVE couple who helped to save a neighbour after discovering her lying bleeding in the street have blamed the Probation Service for allowing her attacker to be freed.

      Mum-of-four Ashley Arnold was found in the road near her home after being attacked with a meat cleaver by boyfriend Kerry Roberts. Neighbours Bryan and Margaret Whitcomb rushed to her aid. They called for the police and helped give her first aid until paramedics arrived.

      Mr Whitcomb said Roberts should never have been free to commit the horrific attack on his then girlfriend. He was on licence at the time, after being jailed for six years for setting fire to a former girlfriend’ s home.

      “I don’ t think Roberts should have been out on licence,” said Mr Whitcomb. “I blame probation for letting him out – they should have kept him in. The man clearly needed help."

      “I have spoken to the poor woman since. She’s terribly scarred, but said she's getting over it."

      MP Douglas Carswell also hit out at the probation service. He said: “ How many horrendous crimes does someone have to commit before probation realises someone has to be locked up?

      “What we need is a criminal justice system that punishes people and sticks to that punishment.

      “Probation has had a long history of encouraging criminals to move to our area and they seem to be on the side of the offender, not the law-abiding majority."

  13. how the hell is that probation's fault - does that MP understand anything about the CJS?

    1. Same being said to him via twitter and he calls it 'trolling'. Idiot.

    2. Can someone give Charterhouse boy Carswell a kick up the jacksie & explain how release on Licence works please?

    3. Nice to see that those who matter in Essex are as up to speed with the real world as ever. Fuckin' tossers. Essex Lad.x

  14. Purple Futures looking fragile and wet behind the ears. They have been holding lots of workshops on new service design with staff who aren't experienced in the right places, and the unofficial feedback is that they are coming up with ideas that failed some years ago - group reporting, narrow officer specialisms. Unrealistic about challenges with IT systems also. We know from past experience that emphasis on group work and specialisms is very expensive and inefficient, and loose group work is ineffective too. Some people need reining in but are taken for innovative and enthusiastic.

    My analysis of all this is that those TR providers who look at the Segmentation evidence on effective practice will shy away from groups for the sake of it. But unfortunately too many seem to think this is a route to effectiveness and efficiency.

  15. From the Law Gazette:

    "Chris Grayling has welcomed the House of Lords’ recognition that a lord chancellor does not need to be legally qualified – while ducking its recommendation that governments consider the benefit of future incumbents having a ‘legal or constitutional background’.

    The lord chancellor was responding to a report by the House of Lords Constitution Committee published last December following its investigation into the office of the lord chancellor.

    The committee, chaired by Lord Lang of Monkton, recommended the retention of the ancient office despite changes since the Constitutional Reform Act 2005.

    Its report noted: ‘We recognise the advantages to appointing a lord chancellor with a legal or constitutional background. We do not consider it is essential but, given the importance of the lord chancellor’s duties to the rule of law, these benefits should be given due consideration.’

    In a letter to Lord Lang, Grayling (pictured) said: ‘The government welcomes the committee’s acknowledgement that it is not essential for the lord chancellor to have a legal background.’

    But the justice secretary also said the government did not agree with the committee’s recommendation that the lord chancellor’s oath to ‘respect the rule of law’ be amended to ‘respect and uphold the rule of law’.

    Grayling said that the Ministerial Code, Cabinet Manual and Oath of Office already accurately reflect ministerial responsibilities in relation to the rule of law.

    He added: ‘In particular, both the Ministerial Code and the Cabinet Manual note the role of law officers in “helping ministers to act lawfully and in accordance with the rule of law”. The government does not agree that there should be a specific requirement on the lord chancellor in this respect, nor that the code, manual or oath require amendment.’

    The Ministerial Code sets out 'the standards expected of ministers and how they discharge their duties'. Its current edition, dating from 2010, deals with matters such as conflicts of interest and procedures for dealing with overseas gifts and benefits such as airmiles.

    A section entitled 'The Law Officers' opens by saying: 'The Law Officers must be consulted in good time before the government is committed to critical decisions involving legal considerations.'"

    A reader observed that Grayling is proof positive that the Peter Principle is alive & kicking.

    1. The Peter Principle (summary courtesy of Wikipedia)

      "In an organizational structure, the assessment of the potential of an employee for a promotion is often based on their performance in the current job which results eventually in their being promoted to their highest level of competence and potentially then to a role in which they are not competent, referred to as their "level of incompetence". The employee has no chance of further promotion, thus reaching their career's ceiling in an organisation."

  16. Grayling's Magna Carta speech (part 1):

    "Your excellencies, distinguished guests, my lords, ladies, gentleman, can I start by extending a very warm welcome to all of you at the start of the Global Law Summit.

    Today, in this room, we have representatives from 110 countries around the world; over 100 ministers, attorneys general, chief justices and other leading international legal figures are here. In total, over 2000 delegates are taking part. I don’t think there has ever been a legal summit quite on this scale before, and I am pleased that the UK is hosting what is a very important and truly international event.

    More formally, on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government, I would like to welcome you to London and thank you for taking the time to attend this event. And a particular thank you to those who have left far warmer climates to come to London in February.

    I would also like to give a welcome and thank you to my fellow speakers: Sir David Wootton, the co-chair of this Summit, Lord Thomas, the Lord Chief Justice.

    And in particular our visiting speakers: Attorney General Holder, the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, Angel Gurria from the OECD. That you have made time in your no doubt busy schedules, and travelled many thousands of miles to be here is a testament not only to how important Magna Carta is around the world, but also to your own commitment to its values of justice and the rule of law.

    Before going on, I should also welcome leading legal figures for whom the UK is home, from the judiciary, bar, leading city firms and also regional firms representing interests not just from London but across the country.

    And whilst I don’t want to spoil the surprise, we will shortly be hearing from a very talented British actress, an Oscar nominee, but not here with tales of Hollywood, instead talking about the work that she does with a fantastic organisation that helps children in some of the most difficult and dangerous circumstances around the world. I am delighted that the Global Law Summit is supporting War Child, I am equally delighted that Carey Mulligan is with us today, and I would like to thank her for her commitment to such an important cause.

    This event is the beginning of a whole year of celebrations to mark 800 years of what is quite a remarkable document – the Magna Carta.

    That document, signed on the fields by the Thames at Runnymede in 1215, as part of a truce between King John and his feuding barons, has become a foundation stone not just for our legal system, but for many other countries too. Nation after nation now derive their legal traditions from that piece of parchment."

    1. Part 2:

      "Within that document you will find cornerstones of our legal system.

      No official shall place a man on trial upon his own unsupported statement, without producing credible witnesses to the truth of it. The principle of a fair trial that survives to this day.

      We will appoint as justices, constables, sheriffs or other officials only men that know the law of the realm and are minded to keep it well – a principle that still underlies our system for appointing our judges today.

      To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice. A pledge to keep a corruption-free system that remains vital to this day.

      However, ladies and gentlemen, not everything stands the test of time. Some of the provisions are definitely a bit time expired.

      Like the promise by the King that he will stop taking firewood from his subjects without their permission. Or that he will remove fish weirs from the River Thames.

      But those core principles agreed 800 years ago are still the heart of the legal values and traditions of this country. Indeed, one of most remarkable legal minds of last century, Lord Denning, described Magna Carta as “the greatest constitutional document of all times – the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot”.

      I am proud that Magna Carta has been one of the UK’s greatest exports: it has inspired and formed the basis of so many legal systems and it is cited and invoked whenever and wherever basic freedoms come under threat.

      I am also proud that the great legal tradition continues. The United Kingdom is respected throughout the world for the strength of its legal system, for the skills and knowledge of its judiciary and courts, for its consistency and stability as a legal jurisdiction.

      And I am clear, as the Lord Chief Justice has said – a thriving legal system and respect for the rule of law go hand in hand with economic prosperity. In fact, they are the necessary foundations on which a strong and resilient economy is built.

      In the UK, the legal sector contributes over £20 billion to our GDP, employing over 300,000 people. And UK law firms play an important role in the success of international businesses worldwide."

    2. Part 3:

      "In London, we have a centre of legal excellence that is rival to any other great city in the world. I would like it to stay that way.

      I believe that this is best achieved by continuing to innovate, developing our legal system to keep pace with the world around us; continuing to grapple with difficult issues, learning from others and their experiences; but always remaining firmly rooted in the principles of Magna Carta that have served us so well to date.

      That is why I am pleased to endorse this summit as a forum for leaders and legal experts from around the world to share ideas, knowledge, make contacts and develop their legal systems, businesses and economies.

      The next 3 days will provide an opportunity for debate and discussion about the future shape of the law. You will hear a whole range of different perspectives from within the UK and elsewhere. You will hear from those who want change, and from those who want no change.

      But what’s clear to me looking back at the history of our legal system in the UK is that no change is seldom an option. Change can be driven by conflict, by economic reality, by social change and enlightenment – and when it comes it is often profoundly unwelcome. But whatever the needs for change, those principles from 1215 remain as central and important today as they have ever been.

      I would therefore encourage you to all embrace and make best use of this unique opportunity to debate the future shape of the law, and I hope also enjoy some of the great sights and venues of this great city.

      I’d now like to hand over the floor to a man who has been one of the most distinguished holders of his office. A man who is respected internationally for the work he has done. And someone who has been a good friend to the United Kingdom throughout his years of office.

      Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder."

  17. The British Library introduction to the MC includes this:

    "Magna Carta is often seen as the basis of liberty and justice as we know it in the west. The 39th clause of the charter is still part of British law today. It states that: 'No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.' "

  18. "The B vocabulary. The B vocabulary consisted of words which had been deliberately constructed for political purposes: words, that is to say, which not only had in every case a political implication, but were intended to impose a desirable mental attitude upon the person using them... No word in the B vocabulary was ideologically neutral. A great many were euphemisms. Such words, for instance, as joycamp (forced-labour camp) or Minipax (Ministry of Peace, i.e. Ministry of War) meant almost the exact opposite of what they appeared to mean. Some words, on the other hand, displayed a frank and contemptuous understanding of the real nature of Oceanic society. An example was prolefeed (Sky? BBC? Media?), meaning the rubbishy entertainment and spurious news which the Party handed out to the masses... But in addition there were great numbers of words which at first sight appeared to be mere abbreviations and which derived their ideological colour not from their meaning, but from their structure." George Orwell.

    Ministry of Justice? Minijax?
    Ministerial Code?

    I really must get some sleep!

    1. Here's a selection of B vocabulary words to try at home:

      Detention Centre
      Holding Centre
      Removal Centre
      Deportation Centre

      A variety of prefixes can be applied to the whole range:

      Asylum Seeker
      Border Agency

      Plus you can also add the following of choice:


      e.g. The UK IRC Estate sounds quite lovely. It consists of 14 centres around the UK. I'm not saying such centres shouldn't exist, just don't powder their noses & pretend they're cute:

      Brook House, Gatwick
      Campsfield House, Oxfordshire
      Colnbrook, Middlesex
      Dover, Kent
      Dungavel House, South Lanarkshire
      Harmondsworth, Middlesex
      Haslar, Hampshire
      Larne House, Antrim
      Morton Hall, Lincolnshire
      Pennine House, Manchester
      The Verne
      Tinsley House, Gatwick
      Yarl's Wood, Bedfordshire

  19. Someone needs a hug... Or a comfort blanket... Or a valium prescription.

  20. Hey Jim, I'm so angered by what this government has done to what was once an award winning probation service. Nothing works anymore, NOTHING!! Case allocation-doesn't work. ORA-doesn't work. TTG-doesn't work. Delius-doesn't work. NPS helpdesk-doesn't work. Shared services-doesn't work (total piss take). It's total chaos out there while the managers go round telling everyone that it is working. There's a real disconnect between managers and their staff now, we don't speak to each other any more. No small talk or questions about how YOU are actually feeling with all these high risk cases. Just a get on with it attitude. I don't know who or what can save us now? I don't think many people care? It's all going horribly wrong.....

  21. Its all going wrong all right, when a PO with 20 years experience of managing high risk cases, continues to carry the same cases after being shafted to the CRC, with an allocated NPS member of staff overseeing the work, and tasked with 'risk management'. 20 years of loyal service rewarded by having all credibility stripped, renamed a 'responsible officer', and unable to make a decision about anything, only to find that the over seeing NPS officers are agency PSO's been in the service 10 minutes with no investment what so ever. Good call for public protection !