Friday, 8 January 2016

Serious Further Offence 2

From the BBC website:-

David Braddon's killing of Conner Marshall 'not predictable'

Probation workers could not have predicted a man under their supervision would go on to kill a teenager in a case of mistaken identity, a report has concluded. Conner Marshall, 18, from Barry, died four days after he was attacked at a Porthcawl caravan park in March 2015.

David Braddon, 26, of Caerphilly, who was being monitored at the time, was jailed for life for his murder. Mr Marshall's family claims he should have been more tightly supervised.

At the time of the killing, Braddon was being monitored by probation workers after he was convicted for drugs offences and assaulting a police officer.

A report by the National Offender Management Service found he had missed some follow-up appointments and there were times staff could have "monitored his community order more robustly". But it concluded staff could not have known he would go on to commit such a violent act.

Conner Marshall was found in a life-threatening condition after being beaten with a pole at Trecco Bay caravan park.

"Given the limitations of managing offenders subject to community orders, there was nothing the offender manager could have done which would have predicted or prevented the offence," the report said. "It is clear from the review that no one could have foreseen that David Braddon would go on to commit such a devastating offence.

"When an offender is being supervised in the community, it is simply not possible to eliminate risk altogether," it concluded. However, the review did make a number of recommendations including:

  • improving the way pre-sentence reports are written up
  • Wales Community Rehabilitation Company team managers should improve the way they supervise staff and risk management
  • better communication probation workers to support consistent risk management
Mr Marshall's mother Nadine Marshall claims the attack might never have happened if Braddon had been more tightly monitored.

"David Braddon was a time bomb... He should have had tighter controls, better management," she said. Mr Marshall's family have been given a summary of the report, but have collected a petition of more than 2,300 signatures calling for the full version to be made public.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said serious further offences were rare but each one is taken extremely seriously and investigated fully. "Public protection is our priority and we continue carefully to consider the findings in this case," he added.

RIP Conner.
This is the first time I've seen a headline like this for an SFO. Even if SFOs were assessed as 'not predictable' papers still tended to focus on improvements needed. Different for this CRC. Do they have their own public relations department to influence media? Or is MoJ helping them out at all?

There is a Change petition campaigning for the release of the full report into the management of a probation client who murdered Conner Marshall. I would urge all to support it. A summary of a report is unacceptable. There are always vested interests in any situation and when something goes tragically wrong it is essential that as much information as possible is in the public domain. How else can you benchmark whether anything changes for the better in the future?

I would hope that issues such as this even the Probation Institute would make representations to the MoJ. Academics need to know what actually happened if excellence is the objective of practice.

I'd like to see the report but I doubt the Probation Institute or any academic will have anything to say on the matter. Although the murder may not have been prevented, a better resourced probation service would mean better supervised offenders overall. The reality is the government has stripped, cut and sold off the probation service which removed much of the "excellence", and then stripped and cut some more. Interesting this has now led to reduced offender contact/supervision, poor information sharing and downgraded pre sentence reports now written by unqualified staff. These are so far areas that have been mentioned in the SFO article. I can see this blowing up for the MoJ.

I am sure you are right in saying it's unlikely there will be any pressure from the Probation Institute to disclose the full report. But you never know, they may imagine themselves in the shoes of the victim's family.

Equally, the unions should be calling for full disclosure. If the report, which has indicated areas of concern, points to failings that may be attributable to the break-up of the probation service, then these need highlighting as much as possible. If these reports are going to be hidden from public scrutiny, there is less likelihood of any lessons being learned. There were weaknesses identified in case management and these need to be shared across the public and private probation services, even if, in the case of the latter, they prove damaging to the share price of the conglomerates.

A sad story. This happened under the government's Probation TR cuts and changes. Details are scant but the recommendations seem to touch on the impact of TR - missed appointments, pre sentence report quality and managerial risk management. If more offences like this are to be avoided the Ministry of Justice needs to get rid of Community Rehabilitation Companies and return the probation service to what it was before the privatisation and cuts. It also needs to halt the current National Probation Service's current plans (E3) to replace probation officers with unqualified staff.

Update from the Change petition. MoJ will release full report to family.

'Dear Mr and Mrs Marshall,

Please find attached a letter from Andrew Selous MP formally committing to the release of the SFO review that you have requested. Please accept my apologies for the delay in being able to provide you with this affirmative response.'

I would venture to suggest the reporting of this tragedy is an example of how everyone has been misled for years, from the time when politicians made claims that probation was about "offender management" or its purpose is to "protect the public." TR and the b/s that accompanied it has only served to reinforce the deception & confusion. Even NOMS still don't seem to be able to know what probation services do, if their "report" is quoted accurately in the press.

Through the management of Orders &/or Licences &/or Formal periods of supervision imposed by the Courts, probation staff work with those convicted of committing offences, thus the various probation services - NPS & CRC - aim to reduce the risk of further offending by engaging with those individuals, and as such there is an element of public protection inherent in the role. I would also suggest this means we manage the Order, not the 'offender'.

Probation staff are not chained 24/7 to their caseload, nor is any probation member of staff I've ever known responsible for any of their caseload committing further offences, serious or otherwise. This should not mean staff are without accountability for their professional responsibilities.

Sadly many probation managers (pre-TR) seemed to swell with pride if someone uttered the words "public protection" or "offender management", and this was the very fuzzy, prickly stick Trusts used to beat staff into submission as preparation for the TR agenda. And because it was a political stick it never really existed, except in the minds of the ambitious or the ruthless.

It is nevertheless a dreadful & terrible fact that Mr Marshall was killed and no discussion here will ease his family's loss.

I agree with the principles outlined above. As probation staff we can't remove children, but we can (and are duty bound to) share information with those who can (safeguarding social workers); we can't detain anyone under the Mental Health Act, but we can (although we're not obliged to) share our concerns with those who can (approved mental health professionals); we can't arrest anyone, but we can (and are obliged to) disclose details of known or suspected offences to those who can (police).

We used to be able to prosecute breaches on relatively straightforward grounds but this is now not so as CRCs don't want to be penalised for failures. We used to be able to request revocation of Licences, but this is now not such a clear-cut procedure as political, financial & commercial elements have to be balanced by senior managers. Those who supervise standalone tags have more professional autonomy & integrity within the courts than a qualified probation practitioner.

NOMS has neutered, neutralised & made probation even more impotent than it has ever been in over 100 years yet it still has the bare faced cheek to point a finger at probation staff in such a serious & catastrophic situation.

Lets be clear - Noms policies diluted the quality & efficacy of the pre-sentence report; Noms policies removed the time, opportunity & capacity for staff to receive meaningful professional supervision; and Noms' double-speak, fudge & lack of clarity, allied to constant change over the last 16+ years, has hindered the ability of probation staff to communicate effectively with each other, let alone anyone else. TR has only served to confabulate, confuse & conceal the reality of NOMS' responsibility for fucking probation over, and over, and over, and over.

I can't wait for that unredacted report to hit the shelves.


  1. If the Community Order could have been monitored more robustly and he missed some appointments was he not breached? If not why not? Targets? Money? Workload? Lengthy and cumbersome new breach process that we don't have time to complete due to lack of staff? All these things are relevant and need to be considered in more detail. Of course we aren't to blame for his crime but as a profession out service is one big omnishambles and the MOJ know it. The public deserve better. And the Responsible Officer (did he have one) needs to know he / she was also failed by MOJ. I hope all parties concerned are receiving the support they need.

  2. How do we get details for all the SFOs committed in last 18 months? I have a feeling that combined they will have a story to tell. Are there no investigative journalists around nowadays?

    1. I was asking this very same question few years back, as the very idea of TR was floated. In the light of no planned testing or 'dry run' to see what the chances were of TR actually working, and using 'theory' to split the NPS and CRC 'widgets' (or, 'people' to the likes of you and me) into their 30/70 divide, it occurred to me that gathering that very retrospective data for, say, the previous 3 years' SFOs, and to see whether perpetrators would have been placed in NPS or CRC. And also consider such useful retrospective knowledge about how they had originally been risk-assessed - and in turn, how that assessment related to their future proposed placing and status in the new TR-World?
      That exercise might have been a crucial check and balance to have carried out - at the very least - before going ahead with the TR agenda. And done retrospectively the data was actually available to have assessed. A missed opportunity in my view; it may well have resulted to some intelligence-led caution! We may not now be in the situation we are all in.

  3. The BBC has missed an important point. Wales CRC is run by Working Links, it is not the "probation service" and has private shareholders such as Manpower. Private companies running "probation services" means that staffing and resources are stripped back to make profit. Working Links have already announced cuts and the stripped down practices are apparent. In the future offenders under these private companies will be "supervised" by Skype. Expect more of these stories, sadly.

  4. from previous post regarding RRP ingeus

    Familiar reading of reviews

  5. We know it's not possible to eliminate risk altogether. This is stating the obvious. All services to the public carry a duty of care and responsibility, all providers are required to have policies and procedures in place – not for window dressing, but as obligations and duties to be followed as a means of demonstrating that all reasonable steps are taken at all times to keep all known risks to a minimum and to take remedial action in the event of a raised level of risk. If the job is not done properly, then risk to the public is increased and this may contribute to a tragic outcome.

    It would seem that in this case there were failures, otherwise why identify the quality of pre-sentence reports, staff supervision, risk management and communication as areas that need improving. Were these failures down to individuals failing to carry out their duties or have management changes to policies and procedures created inherently unstable and risky practices? Were these new practices risk assessed by the organisation? Is there evidence that the organisation in cutting corners and making efficiency savings has, instead of protecting the public, actually transferred the risks to the unsuspecting public who do not realise that their human rights have become part of a cost-benefit analysis.

    1. Perhaps something that always needs to be emphasised about SFOs is that they do not result in independent reports. The MoJ effectively sits in judgement on itself. There is a risk of bias.

      In cases of such seriousness the probation inspectorate should carry out an independent report. Why this happens in some cases and not others is idiosyncratic and unfair.

    2. "If the job is not done properly, then risk to the public is increased and this may contribute to a tragic outcome."

      What is 'the job'? What is 'risk to the public'? Risk to the public exists every day in many forms. If someone misses a probation appointment does risk increase? No, to believe that is merely feeding the NOMS model of 'public protection' which was imposed to underpin NOMS' own self-importance & empire building. It was the fear factor created by the pseudo-science of Oasys and its been used as a straitjacket for keeping probation practitioners under the thumb. It has also been a very lucrative business model for some.

      Work with those convicted of committing offences is important, is often very valuable & in some circumstances can be life-changing for all, i.e. perpetrator, victim, public & probation staff members. But it needs skilled practitioners, properly resourced & paid a professional salary. It cannot be delivered verbatim from a shiny corporate handbook (or an app on a tablet) by anyone on the payroll.

      It saddens me that NOMS, senior probation management & the MoJ persisted in promoting the paranoia & politics of fear, reducing probation staff to rabbits frozen in the headlights of "risk". That is also a tragic outcome - for the service, for the staff and for those directed to work with probation staff.

      As predicted the CRCs are proving themselves to be incompetent as probation service providers, but most excellent asset-strippers. NPS will soon be fully digested by the Venus flytrap that is NOMS, and there will be no trace of a probation service by 2017.

    3. I agree with you -12.45 - about the pseudo-science of Oasys and it did the probation service no good to promote themselves as risk specialists. At the time when probation became risk-obsessesd there should have been more proportion in the rhetoric. In spite of these issues, when it comes to risk assessment and management I think the public probation service was always a safer pair of hands than either the police or prison service. But TR has degraded the probation skills base and there will be less quality all round.

      No one is suggesting that missing an appointment per se raises risk. It all depends whose missing it.

      There is a job to be done and for it to be done as conscientiously as possible by skilled and experienced practitioners, well-supported and well-resourced. This does not just apply to probation, but also the police, prisons, NHS and any other organisation that has a duty of care - if their errors or even sometimes indifference to good standards of practice contributes to tragic outcomes, then something has gone wrong. The job has not been done properly.

      There are enough reports out there to show that had other decisions been taken and risk thoughtfully assessed, then lives could have been saved. Zahid Mubarek, whose murder in prison led to an unprecedented public inquiry, found that he died because he was allocated to share a cell with well-known racist and violent cellmate. There were clear failures by the prison service. Had other decisions been taken he would still be alive.

      Risk assessment has always been, and will always be, a core part of the probation job.

    4. A risk assessment is an analysis of facts, factors & other relevant information in a bid to clarify in any given set of circumstances: (1) is there a risk, (2) what is it, (3) who is at risk & (4) how imminent is the risk. It is subjective & contemporaneous, it is not objective or definitive.

      However NOMS, via Oasys, simply made everyone a risk to someone. When I get in a car I'm a risk to someone because I'm in control of a potentially lethal weapon; if I'm male then...; if I'm female then...; if I use alcohol or drugs, if I have a mental health diagnosis, if I live in XX13 postcode... That is not a risk assessment, its a binary gate system that sets off a risk tsunami which generates scary statistics, a calamitous & very clumsy means of herding caseloads, of claiming to target resources and of controlling staff such that if/as/when something unpalatable happens they can readily blame practitioners for "failing" to meet the needs of Oasys & management targets.

    5. What a ludicrous media headline. How many killngs, murders or manslaughters - are predictable?

  6. G4S in the news again. Seven staff suspended over abusing children allegations.

    1. Seven staff members at a young offenders institution in Kent have been suspended over abuse allegations. The staff were working at the Medway Secure Training Centre in Rochester, managed by security firm G4S.

      Paul Cook of G4S said he was "shocked and appalled" and was supporting a police investigation. The allegations, made following a BBC Panorama undercover investigation, are said to involve unnecessary force, foul language and a cover-up.

      The centre is a 76-bed facility for young offenders aged from 12 to 18. Mr Cooke, managing director of G4S childrens' services, told BBC Radio Kent he was informed of the allegations in December and referred them that day to the Medway Child Protection team and the police. He said the BBC had referred to "staff hurting and inappropriately restraining young people, using foul and abusive language and failing to report... their actions".

      The seven members of staff named in a Panorama document, sent to Mr Cooke, were immediately suspended, he said. He said safeguarding had been stepped up at the centre while the investigation takes place. Kent Police said in a statement: "All necessary safeguarding measures have been taken and inquiries are ongoing."

      The Youth Justice Board has increased its monitoring activity at the centre and the presence of its independent advocacy service, delivered by Barnardo's, Lin Hinnigan, its chief executive said. The Panorama programme will be broadcast on 18 January on BBC 1 at 20:30 GMT.

  7. Update to the Where Are They Now? feature:

    Antonia Romeo - Her Majesty's Government's Envoy to the United States' Communications Service Providers

    October 2015 – Present (4 months) New York, USA