Sunday, 20 September 2015

TR Latest News 4

First, thanks to Andrew for reminding me about this from the Howard League:-

Spending Review 2015: Shrinking the justice system would cut crime and save billions

Crime would fall and billions of pounds would be saved if the prison population was cut by more than half to its level during Margaret Thatcher’s premiership, the Howard League for Penal Reform reports today (Monday 7 September).

In its official submission to the government’s Spending Review 2015, the charity points out how, unlike other Whitehall departments, a massive cut to the Ministry of Justice’s budget could bring huge benefits for everyone if it is done in the right way.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has asked departments whose budgets are not ring-fenced to submit plans to reduce spending by 25 and 40 per cent. In line with this request, the Howard League has put forward policy plans that would cut the prison population by 25 and 40 per cent respectively – while arguing that the government should go even further and bring down prisoner numbers by more than 50 per cent.

The number of men, women and children in prisons in England and Wales has almost doubled in 25 years – from fewer than 45,000 in 1990 to more than 86,000 today. Reducing the prison population to its level under Thatcher would allow governors to improve prison conditions, which in July the Chief Inspector of Prisons described as being at their worst in a decade.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sort out the bloated criminal justice system.

“Common sense and public safety should direct policy changes that will also save the taxpayer a fortune. I have great hopes of radical reform on the horizon.”

The Howard League’s submission sets out a list of policies that, if enacted, would lead to a reduction in the prison population so significant that a large number of jails could be closed:

Prohibit the use of short-term sentences (less than 12 months)
Short-term sentences are expensive and counterproductive, yet more than 57,000 people are sentenced to serve them each year. They are long enough to disrupt often already chaotic lives but too short to enable a person to begin to address the causes of their offending. A person with a job, home and family before they go into custody on a short sentence is unlikely to have them all on release. Unsurprisingly, reoffending among short-sentenced prisoners is very high, creating further victims. Ministry of Justice research has concluded that suspended sentences and community sentences are not only cheaper, but also result in less reoffending.

Limit the use of remand
On any one day more than 8,000 people in prison have not been found guilty of an offence. A further 3,500 are awaiting sentence. Whilst remand may be needed when a person appears to be a danger to public safety and a flight risk, it is used far too often, particularly for those charged with misdemeanours. Seventy per cent of people remanded in custody by magistrates do not go on to receive a custodial sentence.

Reduce recalls to custody
The number of people in prison because they have been recalled to custody while serving their sentences in the community is 55 times greater than it was in 1993. Many people are recalled not for offences, but for technical breaches of their licence. Whilst these are not always trivial, they can almost always be dealt with in the community.

Use women’s centres in the community, not prisons
On any given day about 4,000 women are in prison, but only a very small number have committed serious violent offences and present a risk to the public. The overwhelming majority of women in prison have serious mental health problems and many are mothers, separated from their children. Women’s centres are proven to be much more effective than prison in helping women change their lives and reducing reoffending. Ensuring women’s centres are properly funded and closing women’s prisons would result in huge savings.

Improve the effectiveness of the parole system
There are more people serving life and indeterminate sentences in England and Wales than all of the other 46 countries in the Council of Europe combined. A large number of prisoners are serving more time in custody than intended because of delays in the parole system and a lack of access to work, education and courses that enable them to show they are ready for release.

Reduce the number of criminal offences
Between May 2010 and May 2014, 1,076 new criminal offences were created in England and Wales, about two-thirds of which carry potential prison sentences. The current habit of creating ever more offences and reasons to put people into the criminal justice system must be curbed.

Tackle sentence inflation
Over the last 10 years the average length of a prison sentence in England and Wales has increased by 24 per cent. For some offences, such as fraud and criminal damage and arson, average sentence lengths have increased by more than 50 per cent, but this trend has had no impact on reoffending rates. Almost all other European countries have shorter average sentence lengths than England and Wales.


Then there's this from the Independent:-

MoJ spends £14m on delayed privatisation of court fine collection before appointed firm has managed to chase a single debtor

The Ministry of Justice will have spent nearly £14m on the heavily delayed privatisation of court fine collection, before the US firm it has asked to become its in-house bailiff has chased a single debtor.

To reduce the level of outstanding court fines, the Government has been planning for several years to hire a company to do the job. Uncollected fines stood at around £2bn when the competition to find a bailiff was launched in 2013. However, the MoJ only selected its preferred bidder, Concentrix, this summer and a final contract has not been signed. Concentrix beat BT and French IT group Atos to the £675m deal, but is a controversial choice given criticisms of its performance on an HM Revenue & Customs contract to root out fraud and error.

Earlier this year, Concentrix, a Belfast-based firm owned by the US conglomerate Synnex, was accused of sending threatening letters to people on low incomes, claiming they had cheated on their tax credits. Synnex said it was acting within HMRC guidelines, but critics said this had been a “fishing expedition”. In a parliamentary answer to a question from Jo Stevens, the Labour MP for Cardiff North, the justice minister, Andrew Selous, revealed “the project spend forecast for 2015-16 is £6.1m”. A recent Freedom of Information request by the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) trade union found that £7.8m had been spent on the privatisation so far.

Mark Serwotka, the PCS general secretary, said: “These eye-watering sums reveal the costs of privatisation before any contract has even been signed, and it should not have taken FoI and parliamentary questions to uncover them.” The PCS has been campaigning against the sell-off of court fine collections, arguing that the HM Courts and Tribunals Service has improved collection rates “in the face of budget cuts, and consistently outperformed private debt collectors”. Trade unionists are also worried that sensitive information held by the courts, such as addresses, will have to be passed to the bailiffs for them to do their job properly.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: “We collect income for all fines, penalties and orders imposed by a criminal courts. The project is a complex one and HM Courts and Tribunals Service has been particularly careful to follow a robust and comprehensive procurement and approvals process, which is ongoing. The costs incurred to date reflect the complexity of the project and the subsequent procurement process.”


This on the PoliticsHome site:-

Labour hits out at MoJ for 'misleading' Saudi prison contract claim

Just Solutions International (JSI) was created by former Justice Secretary Chris Grayling to sell expertise around the world in offender management, payment by results, tagging and privatisation.

Recently announcing it was closing the controversial money-making wing, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said it would nevertheless pursue a final contract with the Saudi Arabian regime - infamous for public beheadings and claims of torture in its justice system. Minister Andrew Selous claimed negotiation over the contract was “so far advanced” that pulling out would be detrimental to the Government's “wider interests” and would result in “financial penalties”.

But the original statement by Mr Selous has since been corrected to remove the claim about “financial penalties”.Labour has seized on the amendment, branding it as “yet another example of the shambles and mismanagement at the Ministry of Justice”. Shadow Justice Minister Andy Slaughter told PoliticsHome: “Ministers now have serious questions to answer, starting with telling us why incorrect and misleading information was provided to Parliament.”

The MoJ, when contacted by PoliticsHome, said it didn't have “anything further to add” to the written statement at this stage. JSI has been criticised by human rights campaigners for working with nations with dubious human rights records, such as China, Libya, Pakistan and Nigeria, as well as Saudi Arabia.

The correction is likely to attract further criticism from campaigners, as it leaves the Government with only the detriment to its “wider interests” as a reason for pursuing it. Campaign group the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) is seeking action in the High Court against JSI's activities. GCHR claims the MoJ is acting beyond its powers, since competing for profit-making services abroad is “not a governmental purpose”.

According to Private Eye magazine, GCHR will continue its action despite the planned closure of JSI. The group argues: “It is important for the legality of the Government's actions in relation to Saudi Arabia and Oman – and other similar projects the Government may decide to pursue – to be determined”. Current Justice Secretary Michael Gove has said the MoJ is closing JTI because it needs to “focus departmental resources on domestic priorities”.


The voluntary sector still feel bitter about having been shafted by the MoJ during the TR bidding process and have been trying to work out out why it all went wrong for them. New Philanthropy Capital have written up the results from a conference held in May and here's a taster:- 

Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) is the name given to a major reorganisation of probation services in England and Wales conducted by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) throughout 2013 and concluding in April 2015. It involved splitting existing probation services into two parts: 

1) a National Probation Service, responsible for supervising offenders who pose a high ‘risk of harm’ to the community; and 

2) 21 local Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) responsible for supervising all other offenders—which for the first time includes all prisoners released from custodial sentences of fewer than 12 months. 

Following the split, CRCs were then subject to an outsourcing process intended to transfer ownership to organisations from the private and voluntary sector for a period of up to 10 years. MOJ decided that payment of the CRCs would come mainly through a Fee For Service (FFS) but also partly by Payment by Results (PBR) based on whether or not each CRC reduces reoffending rates by a specified percentage. 

The competition to run the new CRCs ran over a number of months. In October 2013 MOJ identified eligible bidders through a Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ). Those that were successful then had to submit their full proposals in June 2014. The result was announced in December 2014 and successful bidders took formal ownership of the CRCs in April 2015.

Throughout the process MOJ said it wanted the voluntary sector to be involved at all levels. At NPC’s annual conference in 2013 a senior MOJ official made clear that they were very keen to have a not-for-profit prime. Ministers and Civil Servants regularly praised features of the sector such as its experience, integrity, closeness to local communities and potential for innovation. Encouraged by this, some larger voluntary sector organisations decided to compete against the private sector at the prime or ‘Tier 1’ level; ie, to own and run CRCs themselves. Smaller voluntary sector organisations also expressed interest at Tier 2 and Tier 3 levels, which would mean being subcontracted by Tier 1s to deliver services and potentially share profits and/or losses. 

Despite this, actual voluntary sector involvement in the ‘transformed’ probation service now seems limited. Private sector led partnerships won 20 out of 21 competitions* while none of the charities who bid to run CRCs themselves were successful. Some voluntary sector organisations are named as partners at the Tier 2 level, or are currently ‘in conversation’ about possible Tier 3 subcontracts, but on the whole it can only be seen as a disappointing outcome for the voluntary sector, particularly for those who wanted to see a ‘social prime’ that would apply a voluntary sector ethos and approach to the management of a probation service. 

NPC convened the discussion reported here to better understand the reasons for this failure and what can be learned for the future.

*The exception is a probation staff ‘mutual’ led partnership which was successful in the Durham and Teesside CPA

‘We suspected from the beginning that we were bid candy. That our involvement was politically expedient and nothing more.’

Why the voluntary sector failed

Feedback given to voluntary sector organisations on their unsuccessful bids suggests that they lost on technical and commercial grounds. In short, decisions were made on the basis of price and minimising risk rather than quality or any other aspect of the bids. From the perspective of participants, the result of the TR process exposed a tension within Government between:

• the policy rhetoric and stated commissioning intentions—which sought voluntary sector involvement; and
• procurement teams who sought to apply strict commercial terms.

Ultimately, it seems that the interests of the MOJ commercial and procurement teams prevailed and the choice was made to minimise financial risk to Government and to get the best economies of scale available—while quality assessments were superficial and had less influence on the decision made.

‘The competition was driven by procurement who were solely interested in transferring risk. We designed something good, but the mechanics of the process were all against this being successful.’

‘They were strict on finance rules, but much less strict on quality. For example providers without through-the-gate experience or effective IT systems got through, while we didn’t.’

A particular problem for voluntary sector participation was the ‘Parent Company Guarantee’ (PCG) which required bidders to have a ‘parent company’ that would stake assets equivalent to the size of the annual contract value as a precondition for ownership of a CRC. While this minimised risk to the Government, it was also a major problem for the voluntary sector bidders who, being smaller organisations than private sector competitors, did not have the necessary capital. This meant that voluntary sector bidders were reliant on third parties to provide the guarantee, which is fundamentally more expensive and brings a range of complicating factors around how the third party minimises their own risk. This barrier proved to be insurmountable, and we were told that at least two voluntary sector bids were deemed technically non-compliant because of aspects of the ‘Parent Company Guarantee’, before the quality of their bids was even considered.

This was particularly frustrating for our participants because in their view:

1. The details of the PCG were refined at a late stage in the process; after the PQQ stage (see below) and after a tremendous amount of effort had already been invested. Upon reflection our participants felt that MOJ should have been much more honest and upfront about this condition from the outset.

‘They should have been clear right at the beginning. We will never get involved in something like this again.’

2. The PCG requirements were unnecessary. Our participants’ experience across the sector and from other competitions suggests that there are different ways to apply a PCG and that there was no need for it to occupy such a large proportion of the contract. The perception of our participants was that MOJ procurement teams applied the PCG in a formulaic and overly simplistic way, without thinking through the implications or appreciating the flexibility they had at their disposal. More generally, our participants felt this reflected a lack of capacity and expertise within the MOJ procurement team, as well as a very strong aversion to risk, and an unwillingness to really engage with the stated policy aims of the tendering process.

3. MOJ were made aware of the problem during the tendering process but did not take the steps to resolve it.

‘Despite all the risks and challenges, we felt that the technical matters would be dealt with in the pre-contract stage.’


I think I need to say that everything in this report was thoroughly covered on this blog during the TR bidding process and the charities were warned.  Here's the evidence that we were right all along:-

‘There was no way for us to judge risk, which caused extreme anxiety about selling the charity down the river.’

‘We felt that MOJ did not understand or appreciate our model.’

‘MOJ seemed to be making things up as they went along. They careered across different issues in an unseemly way. Overall it seemed highly disconnected and uncoordinated.’

‘It was a sham. We should never have been invited. Their governance processes should have ruled us out at earlier. We received legal advice but our enthusiasm got the better of us.’

‘From the outside no one could really tell what was going on, nor were they able to understand the various operating models. It was impossible to unpick.’

‘They were living in fear of market failure. They only just managed to get one compliant bidder in each area.’

‘The Cabinet Office were led down this path as much as we were.’

‘Someone needed to say that this was much bigger than risk transfer.’

‘We spent a fortune. A huge amount of time money and effort was wasted.’

‘We were overly optimistic about the rhetoric from MOJ. We thought they were genuinely interested. We built an exciting, imaginative solution, we got hung up on this—we believed them.’



Just noticed this in the Guardian:-

Michael Gove holds out legal aid olive branch

Michael Gove, the justice secretary and lord chancellor, has offered to suspend the latest 8.75% legal aid fee cut imposed on criminal law solicitors, according to their representatives. The conciliatory gesture follows a fresh round of talks this weeks between Ministry of Justice officials, the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association (CLSA) and the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association (LCCSA).

In August, criminal solicitors called off their boycott of crown court cases which was staged in protest against a cumulative 17.5% fee cut and a reduction in the number of duty contracts to represent suspects in police stations and magistrates courts.

“The lord chancellor indicated that the suspension was a reflection of the negotiations and goodwill established over the summer, which he would like to see continue as a consequence of his proposal,” said a joint statement by the LCCSA and CLSA. “We are currently reviewing the proposal and seeking clarification before we respond.”

New contracts for criminal solicitors in England and Wales are due to be announced by the Ministry of Justice later this month and expected to come into effect early next year.

An MoJ spokesman said: “The lord chancellor recently met the leadership of the criminal solicitors’ profession. He explained that he is minded to suspend the latest 8.75% fee cut – introduced in July – for three months from 11 January 2016 in order to support firms as the new contracts are introduced. However, this suspension is contingent upon the profession continuing to engage constructively during the transition to the new contracting system.”


  1. This makes shocking reading about the Charities eagerness to engage in a process they appear to have been destined to fail....but what comes across to me is the COST to the charities of the bid if it was wasted who is accountable for this? What good cause what that money diverted from supporting?
    It appears to have been a reckless gamble with charity funds and although I have been critical of charity involvement I am now furious. Valuable charity funds appear to have been WASTED in this process.
    Do the people who donated/fund raised have any idea of this? That sits aside from the morality of what the charities did.

  2. Boring blog today. Any word on NAPO AGM?

    1. If I had any I wouldn't tell you!

    2. Only 1 comment on the topic kinda backs up 17 44

    3. How fascinating some people are. Jim writes a blog, just because he/she wanted too. TR comes along: people find the blog and find it very very helpful. Now some people or maybe just one, seem to have developed the impression that Jim is providing the blog for them and , it would seem, on some kind of paid or other obligation basis. How very bizarre of them, how concerning if they work in probation somewhere; how very strange that their ego is such that they think threatening to take their readership elsewhere is of any importance to anyone.

  3. Get over yourself.

  4. Spending review..'....Ministry of Justice research has concluded that suspended sentences and community sentences are not only cheaper, but also result in less reoffending....' probably based on figures before BR (Buggeringup Rehabilitation) . Wonder what the rates will be now or when the main contact is a kiosk....

    1. Kiosks work in the supermarkets and banks so why not with the lowest risk people who commit an isolated incident offence like benefit fraud, drink driving, fraud etc. It can work and there is no evidence base that it does not so let the PI do its business. It can work!!!

    2. 1951 - would you want to spend a 10 min appt with your GP in a kiosk? (It's bad enough going up to the receptionist and having to explain why you want an appt) Probation supervision sessions can emotionally be equally personal (or even more so), and much longer.

    3. What u on ml. I've never gone to a GP receptionist and said "hi. I need to see Dr Roberts as I've got...". You just book in. Similar to supervision. I've never heard someone go to a probation reception and say "I'm hear to see Jones as I committed an assault on... because. ...". People just ask for to see their OM and that's it. So your argument is weak

    4. If someone is genuinely such a low risk that they are deemed suitable simply to turn up at an office, press their finger on a screen and answer a couple of questions, then what's the point of them reporting to the office at all?

      Often the cases which present the lowest risk of harm and re-offending have quite substantial needs, i.e. the gambling problem that led to defrauding their employer, or the mental health problems that contributed to the benefit fraud, or the abusive partner they were trying to escape when they took the car after drinking alcohol. You need a careful assessment - by a human professional - to determine that. Not a machine.

    5. The assessment would have been done at court along with a report, CAS, RSR etc so there is enough to determine who needs what. The human does the assessment? The machine the monitoring. An increase in machines could lead to a decrease in SFOs if used properly

    6. That's true. Because no-one ever lies in their PSR interview, or tries to cover up the truth. And the CAS is always completed accurately, based on all the information. And the RSR isn't worse than useless.

      And no-one's circumstances ever change, and they don't try to cover up that either.

      And machines can tell you precisely which young man is going to go out on a Friday night, get tanked up with his mates, get in a fight and throw a punch which causes the victim to crack his skull open and die.

    7. 19:51 , I'll pick just one if your "isolated incident offences''. - drink drive. Evidence shows that for every conviction, the perpetrator will probably have DRI in under the influence around 200 times previously. Hardly an isolated incident offence. That is entrenched and very risky behaviour, which a kiosk would do nought to change. If you're going to try to run probation, you better do the learning.

  5. I think probation is approaching the ultimate question of "Is a machine better at rehabilitation than a human"

    1. If anyone thinks the answer to this question is 'yes', then I would humbly submit that they are either a) a machine or b) the owner of a company that makes such kiosks.

  6. But what rehabilitation is needed to someone ego commits ab isolated incident? Resources should follow risk and human experience should be given to those who have multiple needs. Those who commit isolated incidents are only reporting so why can't the reporting be to a machine. That saves time, money and reduces workload pressures meaning work is more focused and targets on those who need it

  7. "Resources should follow risk"... "work is more focused and targets on those who need it." This is the type of soundbite bollox I fear will win through.

    Every case is a unique human being. "Risk" is a much-hyped industry, of smoke & mirrors & matrices, which has lined the pockets of a few clever individuals, e.g. Kemp, Thornton, Clarke. There are innumerable examples of "low risk" cases committing the most serious offences without warning. The analysis of circumstances around serious offending behaviour in an attempt to identify risk factors is necessary & welcome BUT there is no formula which predicts offending behaviour, the winning lottery numbers or which horse wins the Oaks, the Derby or the Grand National.

    So how many different definitions of high, medium & low risk do we need? And the risk of 'what' is being defined? Risk of loss of life? Of loss of money? Of loss of dignity? Of being physically harmed? Of being psychologically harmed? Of someone committing an offence? Again? For the first time? For the last time?

    The privateers are undoubtedly going to commission their own risk & needs research, with their own definitions, e.g. They already have MoJ/Noms blessing to move away from Oasys & use their own systems.

    So what resources should follow what risk? What constitutes "an isolated incident"? Do we save money by giving it to the shareholders of global privateers?

  8. Someone with that low a risk of reoffending shouldn't be reporting at all. For a minor, isolated offence they should be cautioned. So why kiosks? This is all just money-motivated crap. Supervision, PROPER supervision is what probation was doing, when it was waranted., decided by quality reports, not the garbage being churned out currently.

  9. A low risk offender in Wales CRC is currently on the run for a SFO for causing life threatening injuries to another male. All offenders should have face to face contact with a officer so they can be monitored properly. Many low risk offenders commit SFOs

  10. Machines or not, there is a lot of powerlessness. How often have you heard someone come back from a RAMP or MARAC saying 'we can't do anything until he kills someone'?.

  11. You lot ought to be giving machines some respect. There our colleagues :)