Friday, 1 May 2015

TGI Friday Again

It's Friday, a Bank Holiday is nearly upon us and I want to say two things. Firstly, thanks for keeping the blog running whilst it's been on autopilot and I continue to be necessarily involved elsewhere. 

Secondly, with less than a week to go before the Election, judging by the comments coming in over the last couple of days, it's abundantly clear that all our fears regarding this TR omnishambles are more than proving to be correct. You don't need me to tell you to remember who is to blame come next Thursday and time to wield that strange stubby black pencil on a bit of string. 

Please keep supplying the testimony, sending in the evidence, sharing your thoughts and concerns, but above all, carry on looking out for each other. As always, those moved to pen a Guest Blog will be more than welcome. 

I'll close this holding post with an article in the latest edition of Private Eye:-  

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This from the Bradford Telegraph and Argus is worth pondering on as well:-
A PERSISTENT Bradford burglar, with no home and no income, was ordered to pay more than £1,000 in court charges under new rules, after admitting his latest offence. Nathan Simpson, 30, was jailed for four years by the Recorder of Bradford, Judge Roger Thomas QC.  
It is thought to be the first time the Courts Charge has been imposed in Yorkshire and one of the first cases in the country. Under new legislation, which came into force on April 13, Judge Thomas had to impose a £900 Criminal Courts Charge on Simpson, as well as a statutory £120 Victim Surcharge. He ordered the defendant to pay at £5 a week when he is released from his sentence.
The Criminal Courts Charge was introduced by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling to make offenders contribute directly to court costs. It is in addition to fines, compensation orders and the defendant's own legal charges. His barrister David McGonigal, of Broadway Chambers in Bradford, said after the case that Simpson had no income whatsoever, but the judge had no discretion when making the Criminal Courts Charge.
Mr McGonigal said: "I suggested the charge was wholly unjust, but the judge had no choice in the matter. Simpson does not have any means, no income, no benefits, and is of no fixed address. When he was asked how he was going to pay, he just laughed.
"This is the first case of its type I have dealt with, but there will be plenty more to come. It doesn't seem right to impose a penalty without considering the financial or personal circumstances of the defendant, but that is the new law."
Postscript 2 

Richard Monkhouse, Chair of the Magistrates Association, commenting on the Criminal Courts Charge on BBC Radio 5 Live on 27 March 2015 (from article in current MA eNews) 
I would like to correct some misapprehensions about the activity of the MA concerning the newly introduced Criminal Courts Charge.
The principle of the Courts Charge was announced in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill in February 2014. It was fully and widely consulted upon. We have made this known to members in various communications. That Bill was given Royal Assent in February 2015.
The MA submitted its response. We said that even without any knowledge of the proposed levels of charge, judicial discretion should be allowed in its application. We submitted evidence to the Public Bill Committee and amendments were tabled. The MA Policy team also briefed MPs and members of the House of Lords about our concerns. During the Bill’s passage, at meetings and events, we argued for judicial discretion and asked repeatedly about the anticipated levels of charge. The charges were only revealed on 23 March 2015 without public consultation and following this announcement, I was invited and appeared in various media outlets and repeated our concerns.
Members have raised this issue at visits that I and others have been making recently to branch meetings. Some members have jumped to the conclusion that because they have only just heard about this, it has also taken the MA by surprise. That is just not true. This matter has been the subject of discussion for the last 12 months at least. The main, but not the only concern is, as we have been saying over that period, that there should be judicial discretion in its application.
I understand members’ views. I have the same concerns that the charge will have a detrimental impact on the justice system. However, we have to remember that we are judicial office holders and cannot pick and choose which laws we like. We have no authority to tell the government which laws they should enact and which they shouldn’t. We can only advise them of the likely effects of their laws, and we do, repeatedly.

It is also worth mentioning that when arguing a case with anyone, particularly politicians, we may have strong belief in our own arguments, but so will they. If their proposals or actions are based upon ideologically held views, then no argument however logical it may seem to us, will win the day. In this case it was not only the MA but also other organisations within the Criminal Justice System who voiced the same concerns and yet collectively we could not shift the principle of a mandatory charge.
Of course, neither the MA nor any other organisation which seeks to influence policy will get its own way all the time. Sometimes we do, as in the changes brought about in the same Act regarding Cautions. Sometimes we don’t, as in this case. That doesn’t mean we will stop trying. We will be making the same arguments with the incoming government after 7 May and we have proposed that at the very least, the three year review of this charge should be brought forward to a six month review.
As judicial office holders, I am sure we all understand the need to be aware of the relevant facts before we draw our conclusions. As such, we will continue to keep you informed.
Richard Monkhouse


  1. The SSJ (whoever he or she may be after 7th May) really needs to consult with people working in the justice system AND offenders before making decisions like this. It is highly unlikely that this man will ever pay the charge and the costs of imprisoning him for failure to pay will be thousands more than the charge. It makes no sense whatsoever for this charge to be imposed on those who cannot afford it and the lack of judicial discretion in the imposition is bloody ridiculous.

    1. Will someone who hasn't been given a custodial sentence for their original offence, but subsequently imprisoned for failure to pay the fines imposed by the court, be subject to 12 months supervison upon their release from custody?


    2. No because I'm fairly sure under the Offender Rehabilitation Act there is a distinction between being committed to prison and being sentenced to imprisonment. A typically subtle and confusing aspect of this whole omnishambles. Non payment will be a committal. I hope I've got that right from the ORA training.

    3. Sorry to come back so soon, but I have been pondering on Jims postscript quite a bit.
      Is the amount that the defendant has been ordered to pay actually a fine? Or is it actually a 'charge' for court costs that constitutes a 'bill' that would then represent a 'debt' rather then a 'fine'?
      To my mind there is a distinct legal difference between definitions.
      You don't go to jail for not paying your debts, but you do go for not paying your fines.
      If it's a debt then you can write it off with a debt relief order-job done, except you may not be able to get a mobile phone on contract for 6 years afterwards.
      Indeed, if it is a debt and not a 'fine' the the introduction of such a scheme is idiotic in the extereme, as the only money that will be involved is the cost of application and process.
      Nobodys going to pay diddlysquat!


    4. I do not know the answer to Getafix's query at 09.54 - I suspect it maybe a charge similar to compensation ordered by a court.

      I recall there used to be an issue about when folk were ordered to pay -say £2.00 a week (back in the days wages and State Benefits were usually paid weekly) into a court how there was a strict rotation about how Court Collecting Departments should apportion payments - with compensation always taking precedence over court costs and fines - but I do not know the precedence of a fine or a court costs or the victim's surcharge and the latest extra charge - it must be massively complicated to administer - I expect much gets written off in confusion - but I hope priority is still given to compensation for victims.

      Are there still such things as MPSO's (money payment supervision orders) occasionally they could be vehicles for some useful social work and an area of probation work, where the formerly titled PSA's (probation service ancillaries) later PSOs(probation service officer's) - gained experience - without specific training - of one to one work with clients - that led on to some becoming very knowledgeable about State Benefits and organisations that give financial support and bursaries to those in financial need.

      Presumably some food bank workers are now repositories of such local knowledge.

      I guess it must help to be able to consult CPAG (Child Poverty Action Group) on line: -

    5. "When I went to prison last time your Worship, I was homeless and broke, and I was only shoplifting for food to feed myself.
      However, I was released last week with only £46 in my pocket, I'm still homeless and broke, but now I've also got £1000 court costs to pay aswell from my last appearance.
      I can't get benefits because I'm homeless. I can't get accommodation because I can't get benefits, so the only way I had of paying my court costs from last time was to go shoplifting again.
      Will I have to pay another £1000 because of todays hearing your Worship"?'re just soooooooo bloody stupid.

    6. Seems you can be imprisoned for not paying the charge. This is from the MoJ...

      'If default in paying the Criminal Courts Charge by an offender is due to their wilful refusal or culpable neglect and all other enforcement steps have been exhausted, then the ultimate sanction of ordering them to serve a term of imprisonment can be used as a last resort.'

    7. There are some people that will accrue more court charges in a year then they could earn in a year at national minimum wage.
      And those charged with chasing up people that haven't paid wont be cheap either.
      Still, I guess its just another outsourcing contract waiting in the wings for Sodexo/G4S/or purple poopers, though I have a feeling the cost of this will knock spots off the amount that the CSA cost the government.
      Thanks for the info Netnipper.

    8. Is "the ultimate sanction" served in lieu of the costs? Or do the costs remain due post-sentence? Maybe during the PSS the supervising CRC officer has to make weekly collections of the £5 until the debt is cleared?

    9. No doubt Sodexo et al will have their eye on the collection of court costs- for a fee of course!
      But it's worth noting that apart from all the other problems the client has when they turn up at the office, every client that now enters the office for the first time walks through the door with a debt problem. No doubt aswell that the supervising officer will be expected sit with the client and produce a document detailing income/outgoings and identify where that £5 a week is going to come from because after all debt is one of the clients issues that needs addressing!

    10. This farce - or a more evolved version of it - is already ruining lives across the pond. Today This Week with John Oliver, an excellent show, featured a woman whose life had been ruined by a parking fine. She didn't pay the fine on time, got hammered with court fees and it was all outsourced to a private company. Who'd have guessed?. She was working but the interest and fees on the debt had led to her ruination - with the original fine never near to being paid. She was paying more than the fine every month just to stand still.She was by no means alone in her predicament. The vultures will be rubbing their hands together. CG will no doubt have his executive thank you handout already in his back pocket.

    11. Anonymous at 13:13: its probably the same as POCA. Don't pay your POCA, go to jail for the default term and you still owe the same amount plus interest when you get out. The CPS can theoretically come after you for the rest of eternity to collect from you as much as they want even if you paid the original court awarded amount in full and on time.

  2. I was initially surprised to realise how fast time is passing - when I saw someone posting about the latest and possibly last cohort of Probation Graduate Diplomaists starting today - there was a message from one expressing nerves, excitement and optimism.

    Then I saw the post from Mike Tailgunner about the uncertain state of all training (referenced yesterday, via Napo News and the Napo Forum).

    Then someone writing about how ONLY last week they refused to become a Probation Officer mentor of a new PGDist due to existing overwork - most such messages attracting negative and positive opinions of the posters (why are folk so dismissive and rude of one another - who claim to work in probation - and so understandably themselves hide behind anonymity?)

    Then I thought are new trainees for anything REALLY expected to turn up for a first day on a Friday, and a Friday that comes before a bank holiday weekend, just because the calendar says it is the First of May?

    Then I wondered about the Probation Trainee experience, of which I have only seen disjointed references, despite these folk mostly (unlike me) growing up in the internet social media age.

    Is there a blog or forum somewhere where these Probation Trainees are sharing experiences?

  3. Grayling et al really do need to be brought to book for bringing the CJS into disrepute. It is farce upon farce.

  4. Pension omnishambles:

    Off topic, but have any other retired ex probation staff received inaccurate, threatening letters from DWP, due to the Tameside pension transfer?

    I've been advised that some other benefits may be at risk because my pension is due to increase and DWP don't know by how much. Odd, because they've known exactly how much my pension has increased annually for the last 15 years. Mind you, that was when the benefits "handling site" was across the road from the office handling all local government pensions for the Midlands. Now presumably hundreds of pensioners will have to write identical stupid letters informing DWP drones what Grayling has done to us as well as to current staff. Bonkers.

  5. Remember that dystopian future they all talked about? It's here.

  6. FROM TWITTER - too good not to repeat: -

    " Sodexo UK & Ireland ‏@SodexoUK_IRE

    Sodexo's Quality of Life Conference takes place in NYC next week. Journalists can visit our media page #QoLConference "

    1. Ian Blakeman will take the fall for Mr Grayling, Magistrates will be reminded of their place and told not to interfere with government policy and if the court charge is unpaid, will it result in people voting with their feet, not paying but choosing to serve time in lieu of the debt! His incidentally will cost a lot more than the court charge!

  7. Working Links now outsourcing CV writing to a private online company.
    Working Links @WorkingLinks · Apr 30
    Need a CV but don’t know where to start? We can help you write the perfect CV with our online tools #jobs, #CV

    For a limited time a Jobcentre globally can donate £50 (approx. USD$85) and every registered jobseeker at that establishment can have lifetime access to Epcot Career Solutions revolutionary CV Builder tool. For further information on our Crowd Funding initiate click here.
    Download a blank CV Template here and ask your jobcentre advisor to create a professional quality, customised CV for you, using our CV Builder tool in as little as 30 minutes. If you seek assistance to develop your CV or Resume from a commercial organisation, they will have to pay us £8,000 + VAT/Tax for a yearly license, as these organisations are funded by Governments to help jobseekers into employment.

    How long before offenders can 'report' online?

  8. Today is the day for TTG, is it actually up and running ANYWHERE ????????

  9. Not in my northern area, no clearance so sat thumb twiddling whilst colleagues trying to pick up the pieces are left pulling hair out..their own..that is.

  10. I thought that too, TTG roll out ..... not heard a peep . I guess the first thing we will hear is trying to direct a lifer or RSO to AP and finding they have a nice shining flat or b and b with vulnerable people and children

  11. It's up and running in Wales with CRC staff seconded in, including trainee TPOs, while St Giles get their act together.

    1. I thought catch 22 were comissioned for TTG in the Working Links CRCS?

    2. in Mersyside, OMs in prisons do the BCST within 72 hours of arrival and shelter will review it by day 5 and create a Resettlement Plan comprising of either debt/accom/ete advice.

      I wont hold my breath but so far no CRC PSOs directed there which is a positive.

  12. St Giles will be in some of the S. Wales prisons. New staff were taken on after easter so I guess waiting to work their notice and get prison clearance. The current CRC TTG staff do the BCST and run the in house programmes. 25 new prisoners every day into Cardiff prison with 5 TTG staff 3 are p/t.

  13. Heard a lot about resettlement plan they going to create, not entirely sure what that amounts to. How are they going to resettle mappa 2 and 3 with 12 weeks notice

  14. New CRC staff aren't trained to work with high risk offenders. Some TPSOs are doing TTG in the prison. Even worse to think about new inexperienced St Giles staff working with them.

  15. They are all gradually beginning to find out that what they have got is not what they thought they would be getting and that this business is a lot more complicated than they were led to believe.

  16. St Giles is a phoney organisation. They marketed themselves as this lovely, organic, holistic, cosy little bunch of ex offenders who knew the ropes and could show the young uns where they'd gone wrong. They went wrong by saying they could scale it up. A project like that will have so many false starts but they portrayed it as shelling peas. Shame on them.

  17. I was told that TTG is not compulsory for prisoners. It is compulsory to offer it but if they prefer to go to the gym etc. they can.This was from someone who has just finished their 1 wk TTG training

    1. Thats just a cop out. Can't deal with the numbers involved so we'll 'select' volunteers.