Sunday, 8 November 2015

News Roundup

Here's a compilation of news that's recently caught my eye. First up, notice of a House of Commons inquiry:-

Justice Committee launches inquiry into the role of the magistracy

Background to the inquiry
The House of Commons Justice Committee has decided to hold an inquiry into the role of the magistracy. The Committee welcomes views on any matters to do with the current or future role of the magistracy, but particularly welcomes submissions addressing the following questions.

Terms of reference

  • What should the role of the magistracy be in the criminal justice system, especially in the wake of a falling workload? Is the right balance struck between the use of magistrates and the use of district judges? Should any changes be made to the powers and responsibilities of the magistracy?
  • How have court closures affected the work of the magistracy? How will further court closures affect this?
  • Is the current method and rate of recruitment for magistrates adequate? How could the role be made more appealing? How could diversity be improved?
  • Is the level of training and continuous development and support for magistrates adequate? How could it be improved?
  • Should magistrates’ sentencing powers be altered in any way and, if so, how? How would such a change affect the efficiency of the criminal courts and the criminal justice system as a whole?
  • What will be the impact on the administration of courts and on the numbers and career structure of magistrates of current and proposed reforms to the magistracy?
Submitting written evidence
The deadline for written submissions to be made is 31 January 2016. Written submissions should be made via the web portal


More of the Grayling legacy here as we get news of how much money the MoJ has wasted on another failed project. This from the Law Society Gazette:-

Abandoned MoJ outsourcing project cost £8.7m

The Ministry of Justice has revealed that an aborted attempt to outsource court fine enforcement cost over £8.7m. The process began in July 2013 when justice secretary Chris Grayling began the search for a new provider of criminal compliance and enforcement services.

The bidding process closed in January this year and in July the department confirmed that international firm Synnex Concentrix had been announced as the preferred bidder for court enforcements. But a surprise House of Commons written statement from justice minister Shailesh Vara last month confirmed the policy was being changed.

A written parliamentary question from shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter asked for the total cost of the discontinued procurement process. Vara responded today to confirm that the total cost of the project, as of the end of September 2015, was £8.723m. The minister added: ‘We took the decision not to outsource HMCTS compliance and enforcement services to a single supplier because of the need to ensure that any contract we let provided the best value for the taxpayer.’

Last month Vara told the Commons that ‘in-house modernisation’ was the best option for HMCTS rather than outsourcing services to a single supplier. The U-turn was seen as another policy change from new justice secretary Michael Gove. In 2013 the Ministry of Justice had said that a commercial partner would ‘bring in the necessary investment and technology needed to help increase fine collection, reduce enforcement costs and importantly ensure more criminals pay’.

The government had already faced opposition to its plans for outsourcing fine collection. In June his year, an early day motion saying the privatisation should stop was signed by 27 MPs, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell.


Just to put into perspective the money wasted by the MoJ, Inside Time have pointed out the annual running costs of the following prisons (those in red have closed):- 

Embedded image permalink

The Huffington Post reveals how senior civil servants have been getting huge bonuses:-

DWP Staff Pocketed Almost Half Of A £90million Bureaucrat 'Bonus Bonanza' Paid Out By The Government Last Year

David Cameron has been accused of overseeing a “bonus bonanza” after Whitehall bureaucrats pocketed more than £90million in pay-outs last year. Figures obtained by The Huffington Post UK show that in the year to April, 12 Government departments forked out £89.4million in bonuses to staff. 

The most rewarding was the Department for Work and Pensions, which handed out £42.1million in bonuses to its staff - £38.1million of which went to Senior Civil Servants. The figures only relate to 12 out of the 20 Government departments, meaning the total bonus figure could soar to almost £140million if the average pay out of almost £7million per department continues.

Labour MP Andrew Gwynne, who uncovered the figures, said: “For all his talk of belt-tightening, these figures show that David Cameron is happy to splash the cash on bonuses. “Whilst the NHS is in crisis, this bonus bonanza would pay for thousands of new nurses.”


Even before we hear what cuts the Chancellor George Osborne has in mind, the Youth Justice Board has started swinging the axe. This on the Childrens and Young People Now website:-

Youth offending team inspections suspended as YJB confirms £9m cuts

Inspections of local authority youth offending teams (YOTs) will be suspended for a period as part of efforts to help them cope with £9m of in-year cuts that have been rubber-stamped by the Youth Justice Board.

The YJB said HMI Probation has agreed to remove three "short quality screening" inspections that had been scheduled to be carried out before January, as part of a range of measures designed to help YOTs adjust to the sudden drop in funding.  "This will enable those YOTs which were due to be inspected to manage the impact of cuts without concurrently being subject to inspection," a statement issued by the YJB said.

The YJB is also set to issue guidance to YOTs on how to merge services with neighbouring areas and has said it is exploring removing ringfencing of grants to enable YOTs to have "more flexibility in managing their budgets". In addition, reporting requirements on YOTs will be relaxed for the rest of the financial year.

The YJB's decision to plough ahead with significant cuts to YOT funding follows a consultation on proposals to reduce its overall spending by £12m for the current financial year after it was ordered to make emergency savings by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

YJB chief executive Lin Hinnigan said proceeding with the cuts had been an "exceedingly difficult" decision. "We share the concerns of respondents to the consultation that reductions to the YOT grant will put the successes seen in the youth justice system – including the savings they have generated – at risk," she said.

“We also recognise that these budget reductions falling as they do in-year are going to be particularly difficult for the YOTs locally to manage and will ultimately impact on outcomes for some of the most vulnerable children in our society. We are acutely aware of the impact these reductions are going to have on YOTs and in response to the requests made through the consultation will support them to minimise the impact.”

In addition to reducing the youth justice grant, the YJB will delay introduction of a new restraint minimisation system in Parc Young Offender Institution by two months until April 2016. Other savings will be made from staffing budgets for YOIs and measures employed by the YJB to reduce its internal costs.

The Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) and the Assocation of Youth Offending Team Managers have previously warned that cuts to the youth justice grant will have a direct impact on youth offending services. “The YJB grant has already been significantly reduced in recent years and some local areas have already lost up to 40 per cent of their overall funding,” a joint submission by the two organisations to the YJB said. “There is quite simply no more fat to trim.” 


Although the Serious Fraud Office investigation into the tagging activities of G4S and Serco has yet to be concluded, it looks like G4S are to benefit from further police contracts.This on the BBC website:- 

Forces consider G4S to handle 999 calls in East Midlands

Three police forces are considering outsourcing their control rooms to private security firm G4S. The Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Northamptonshire forces have asked G4S to carry out a feasibility study to see what it might be able to offer.

But Unison, the union for civilian staff, says it is "very concerned" about the move. One current police employee said it was "disgusting to try to turn a profit out of policing".

Leicestershire Police's Assistant Chief Constable Phil Kay said: "The approach has been made to allow the three forces to gain information about what G4S might be able to offer in terms of service delivery, in areas such as contact management [999 and 101 call handling]." He stressed that "no commitment" has been made at this stage.

'Justice not for sale'

Lincolnshire Police was the first force to outsource staff to G4S, in April 2012. John Shaw, of G4S, said: "The improvements we've made at the control room in Lincolnshire have reduced response times and increased caller satisfaction, meaning Lincolnshire Police now has one of the top performing control rooms in the country. We're looking at how Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Northamptonshire may be able to achieve the same improvements."

However, Unison's Dave Ratchford said: "Putting policing in the hands of multinationals like G4S is a step towards a very worrying future. Justice is not and never, ever should be for sale," he added.

One police employee, who did not want to be named, told the BBC he was "very concerned. Privatisation is false economics and should never be applied to front-line public services. It is disgusting that we should have businesses trying to turn a profit out of policing," he said.


Finally, there's some good news for the CRC's contained in the recently published MoJ reoffending rates. Russell Webster picks out the key facts here and the highlights are:-

Latest re-offending figures sound alarm bells

Every quarter, the MoJ publishes a bulletin of proven reoffending rates for adult and juvenile offenders. The latest bulletin (29 October 2015) covers offenders who were released from custody or given a community sentence (or any other kind of sentence, caution, reprimand or warning) in the one year period from January – December 2013.

The statistics always lag 21 months behind, because reoffending is measured in the year following release or the making of a court order and a further six months are allowed for the court system to process these new offences with a further three months to analyse the statistics and produce the report.

Therefore this bulletin doesn’t measure performance of the new probation system since the split into National Probation Service and 21 new Community Rehabilitation Companies did not take place until June 2014 with new private providers starting operation on 1 February 2015.

The bulletin does of course cover the period when these Transforming Rehabilitation reforms were being implemented and the probation service was in turmoil with staff unsure who they would be working for or even if they would still have a job.

Re-offending rates do tend to fluctuate with the overall rate between 26% and 29% over the last ten years. However, although the MoJ is keen to draw attention to the fact that figures are generally better than in 2003, almost all the figures are up on the previous year. The main overall findings are:

  • In 2013 around 514,000 adult and juvenile offenders were cautioned, received a non-custodial conviction at court or released from custody. Around 136,000 of these offenders committed a proven re-offence within a year.
  • This gives an overall proven re-offending rate of 26.5%; up 0.5 percentage points compared to the previous 12 months.
  • Around 421,000 proven re-offences were committed over the one year follow-up period, with those that re-offended committing, on average, 3.10 re-offences each.
  • The age group with the highest reoffending rate is 10-14 year olds at 38.4%.
  • Adult offenders had a proven re-offending rate of 25.4%, up 0.5 percentage points compared to the previous 12 months.
  • Unsurprisingly, adult offenders with 11 or more previous offences have a higher re-offending rate than those with no previous offences – 47.0% compared to 8.1%.
  • In the 2013 cohort, adult offenders with an index offence of ‘Theft’ had the highest proven re-offending rate of 42.9%. Those with the lowest rate had an index offence of ‘Fraud’ and re-offended at a rate of 11.3%.
  • The reoffending rate for those on a court order (Community Sentence or Suspended Sentence Order) was 34.3%, up 0.8 percentage points on the previous year.
  • The reoffending rate for those released from custody was 45.8%, up 0.6 percentage points on the previous year.
  • Those serving short sentences reoffended at a rate of 59.3% compared to 34.7% for those serving one year or longer.
This consistent upward (with the exception of juveniles released from custody) trend is worrying and many commentators will feel it reflects the substantial cuts in probation resources over recently years. Paradoxically, new private probation providers may be pleased to see the rates rise as these are likely to form the baseline for their payment by results targets.


  1. So the CRCs casinos may benefit from a rise in reoffending as 'market forces' determine baselines though perhaps there is some disappointment in the boardrooms that the rates were not higher.

    Game on! How long before CRCs hedge their positions or Paddy Power opens betting? Given the different categories of reoffending, it's ripe for accumulator betting or Sodexo sweepstakes.

  2. Presumably though the upward trend is a consequence of a number of factors, much of which will be outside the influence of the private companies. Would not the trend make it harder for them to achieve the reductions?

  3. One of the best lessons I ever learned as a PO was that you don't need to challenge everything, because some clients are just out to have an argument with someone - anyone - and the best approach is just to continue to be civil in the face of all the negativity until they just gey tired.

    Another good lesson to learn was to enjoy my time off work!

    This post may seem a little off topic once Jim wields his editing pen, for which I can only apologise.

  4. Are there any league tables on each CRCS performance? I wanna know if the one I work in is top?

    1. Yes. A few weeks ago the MoJ published the first set of performance figures for each of the criteria in all 21 CRC contracts.

      If you genuinely cared about your CRC, I'm sure you would already know this... I expect your manager to dock your pay accordingly!

  5. Why is Ian Lawrence still GS of NAPO? A man of integrity would have long since fallen on his sword. I suppose he wants to see the job through and be absolutely sure that no effective collective action is taken by members while the CRCs bed in and redundancies bite before he cashes in on whatever deal he made to make sure that we went down without a fight.

  6. Before we all get 'blown away' by Gove, he is weak on fundamental human rights.

  7. Since Woolworths closed their doors it seems they've been moonlighting as pick'n'mix statisticians. How do the reoffending figures above work? Is the reoffending rate 25.4%? Or 47%? Or 42.9%? Or 59.3%? Or 8.1%?

    Looks like the market's open to some creative accountancy by the well-paid bean counters in the CRCs, allowing them the opportunity to show the most impressive turnaround in reoffending rates ever. Do not fear, CRC shareholders, your windfalls are guaranteed. Mr Grayling made sure of that when he committed £Hundreds-of-Millions of public funds for your benefit & signed off the blank cheques, aka CRC contracts.

  8. A corrupt system now underpinned by money profit, of course re-offending goes up. No help now just tick boxes and bonuses. In the old days people joined probation to assist fellow humans now it's all about personal power and profit, bean counters and madmen are in control.


    1. And not just in probation mind. Let's not forget the power hungry hierarchical nut jobs at the MoJ, at NOMS, at the Parole Board and elsewhere. They have all been pushing for years to get probation under the thumb, and that's where we well and truly are. Not because of the PO's and SPO's but due to the probation senior management that eroded our values over the past 20 years and turned us into tick-box junkies.

  9. Lets not forget the ConDems changed the rules for collating reoffending rates:

    "The Ministry of Justice launched a statistical consultation on improvements to the transparency and accessibility of our information in 2010 and a response to the consultation was published in March 2011.

    The underlying principle of measuring re-offending (or recidivism, which is the most commonly used term internationally) is that someone who has received some form of criminal justice sanction (such as a conviction or a caution) goes on to commit another offence within a set time period.

    Measuring true re-offending is difficult. Official records are taken from either the police or courts, but they will underestimate the true level of re-offending because only a proportion of crime is detected and sanctioned and not all crimes and sanctions are recorded on one central system. Other methods of measuring re-offending, such as self report studies, are likely to be unreliable.

    Following the Ministry of Justice consultation on Improvements to Ministry of
    Justice Statistics (2010), a proven re-offence is defined as any offence committed in a one year follow-up period and receiving a court conviction, caution, reprimand or warning in the one year follow up or a further six months waiting period. The data source is the extract of the Police National Computer (PNC) held by the Ministry of Justice.

    Offences are counted as re-offences if they meet all of the following criteria:
    · They are recordable…
    · They were committed in England or Wales.
    · They are offences that were prosecuted by the police…
    · Offences are only counted if they are proven through caution (for
    adults), reprimands or final warnings (for juveniles) and court
    · The offence is not a breach offence i.e breach of a court order, since
    we are only interested in new offences

    - A re-offence is counted if the offence occurs within the "Re-offences" period shown. This is within 12 months of entering the cohort.
    - For a re-offence to be counted it must also be proven within the "Re-offences proven" period shown. This is within 6 months of the re-offence."

    From MoJ "definitions & measurement" document in Oct 2011

  10. Anyone recently read HG Wells' "The Time Machine"?

    Chapter One - Following the establishment of the new NPS Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    "What measures they are taking to improve the morale, staffing and funding of the probation service; and whether this would be cost-effective in relation to criminal justice as a whole.
    Hansard source
    (Citation: HL Deb, 12 February 2003, c118W)

    Lord Falconer of Thoroton, Minister of State replied:

    "The National Probation Service has developed through consultation a people management strategy entitled Achieving Through People. The strategy was launched last September and covers the period 2002–07.

    Achieving Through People aims to support the business strategy of the National Probation Service which focuses on improved performance and service delivery and nurturing of the service's staff.

    There are five themes to the strategy: (a) leadership and management development; (b) training and development; (c) HR policy and practice; (d) workforce planning pay and reward; and (e) developing the practice of people management.

    The strategy has been well received both within, by management and unions, and without the National Probation Service.

    A copy of Achieving Through People has been placed in the Library."

    Chapter Two - Following the establishment of the 'new' NPS, this from Jamie Reed: "To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment his Department has made of the effect on morale amongst staff of recent reforms to the Probation Service."

    Andrew Selous Answered on: 14 September 2015
    "We recognise that this has been a time of great change for probation staff and we have worked hard to ensure the probation workforce is effectively engaged and morale maintained. Staff in the National Probation Service (NPS) and Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) were provided with significant support both during and after the transition to the new probation structures. CRCs are now responsible for the welfare of the staff they employ, and we are monitoring the system closely through a robust contract management process, to ensure that performance levels are maintained."

  11. My written submission to the MoJ inquiry into the magistracy is: "itaque spe celerius iudicium praeiudicatum quo". My Latin is very rusty - to the point of collapse - but hopefully the point is made. Presumably Macropus fuliginosus will be in the Chair? It'll be win-win-win all the way for Murdoch!!

    1. Wonder how many others have Googled that - a kangaroo court or waltzing matilda?

  12. 'Significant support'.??.'morale maintained'?....Oh.. I must have missed that then...

    Research, (What Works/Desistance etc ) has emphasised time and time again the importance of a good quality central relationship between supervisor and supervisee when it comes to helping people to turn their lives around when they are ready to. The opportunities for this to happen have now been vastly reduced-due to workloads or a management/government who never understood the theories and believe anyone can do this type of work, (and there are a lot of 'anyones' who really think they can have a bash at it and will do a lot of damage in the process) Probation has been diluted. Police (PP units in our area)also diluted, magistrates courts closed. All this against a background of insufficient suitable housing, benefit sanctions, cuts and delays. So called 're-offending rates' may appear to drop but we all know in our heart of hearts that there will be more victims as a consequence of TR.

  13. I understand that Labour's Jack Dromie nicked the "omnishambles" phrase in HoC today, applying it to the police funding farce.

    We're edging ever closer to this blog receiving an explicit namecheck in either House.

    Good on ya, JB.

  14. I don't normally post at this time of night but I'm just catching up with 'Last week: Tonight' and to get parole in Pennsylvania, John Oliver has just revealed, you have to pay 60 dollars up front to get it!. What's more, he has a prisoner describing how he sold drugs in jail, to make sure he did!. Not usually a user or exclamation marks but satire sometimes is inadequate.

  15. New PSR 'short report' template = worst report template I've ever seen. Whoever designed and endorsed it has never completed a Pre Sentence Report.