Sunday, 31 January 2016

Serious Further Offence 3

Another unsettling report from the Plymouth Herald by their intrepid crime reporter Carl Eve:-

Report into authorities' treatment of Tanis Bhandari killer will not be made public

The Herald learned a Serious Further Offence review was carried out in the wake of Mr Bhandari's death on New Year’s Day, after it was found that one of his killers - Donald Pemberton - was arrested two weeks before the murder having been spotted on CCTV brandishing weapons the previous night.

Pemberton had only recently served two months of a four-month sentence – for having a sharp article in a public place – and had been released from prison in mid-November 2014.

Court records show Pemberton was listed to appear at Plymouth Magistrates Court on January 16, 2015 as a result of the December 15 incident, for failing to comply with the terms of his licence.

His licence terms stated he was “to be well behaved, not commit any offence and not do anything which could undermine the purpose of your supervision, which is to protect the public, prevent you from reoffending and help you to resettle successfully into the community”. The case was relisted for January 23 but the offence was then withdrawn “at the request of probation”.

The Herald made a Freedom of Information request to the Ministry of Justice to determine what – if any – action was taken by Pemberton’s probation officers between December 16 and New Year’s Eve, 2014 to modify his behaviour. Sources at Plymouth’s probation service told The Herald this could have included putting him before a magistrate for the breach of his licence within days of his arrest.

Pemberton was found guilty of murder following a trial and along with Ryan Williams, was last month jailed for life with a minimum tariff of 23 years.

The Ministry of Justice, passed the request to the National Offender Management Service who in term passed it to Working Links, a public-private-voluntary partnership which won the bid late in late 2014 to run probation services as a Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRC) in the South West.

Since the Probation Service was controversially part-privatised by the Government, debate has raged over how accountable and transparent the new system would be. At the time the probation union NAPO said it vehemently opposed the government’s plans, predicting chaos and risks to public safety.

Serious Further Offence reviews are not made public, but a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said families of victims were entitled to a summary of the review.

A spokesman for the Dorset, Devon & Cornwall (DDC) Probation CRC said the families of those attacked by Pemberton would first be contacted by the Witness Care Unit, based in Plymouth Crown Court and run by the Crown Prosecution Service and police. A Victim Summary Report of the Serious Further Offence review would be prepared – but only if it had been requested by the families of those affected by Pemberton’s actions.

The Herald has spoken to Steven Sharpe, the stepfather of Tanis Bhandari who revealed that the family had not at any stage been approached by the Witness Care Unit and were not made aware they were entitled to any kind of review of how probation officers dealt with Pemberton in the weeks leading up to their son’s murder. The Witness Care Unit has refused to respond to The Herald’s inquiries.

In response to requests about the decision making process following Pemberton’s arrest for affray and the subsequent murder two weeks later, a DDC CRC spokesman said: “We recognise the tragedy of this incident and our deepest sympathies are with the family.

“After being made aware of the arrest in December, processes were being followed to tackle the person’s behaviour. All decisions were made and supervised by fully-qualified and experienced probation workers. Public safety is our highest priority. It is our job to help people desist from crime but we will not be successful in every case. “We strive continuously to improve the effectiveness of our services so that fewer crimes are committed by offenders managed by us. But the person responsible for this crime is now convicted and serving his sentence.

“As we continuously look for improvement, we have rigorously reviewed the specific issues identified in the case and are implementing a plan of action. We have worked with the National Probation Service, police and other partners to review and enhance our robust processes. In particular, we have improved communication with partner agencies and we are working with the police to improve access to intelligence to help us monitor offenders better and further provide timely, relevant services tailored to their situation.

“In addition, as part of Transforming Rehabilitation reforms, our service delivery and subsequent results are now more transparent than ever, ensuring the government and taxpayers can hold us to account.”

The DDC CRC spokesman told The Herald that Working Links and the Community Rehabilitation Companies are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act and that Serious Further Offence reports were not “public documents”.

A successful petition was launched last year to ensure a full SFO review into the monitoring of David Braddon, of Caerphilly, South Wales was made public. Conner Marshall, aged 18 was murdered by Braddon in March 2015. At the time Braddon was under probation’s supervision for assaulting a police officer and drug offences.

The summary report released to Mr Marshall’s parents claimed that there was “nothing the offender manager could have done which would have predicted or prevented the offence”. Mr Marshall’s parents launched a petition to be allowed access to the full report and after thousands signed it, they were told by the Ministry of Justice the full report would be released to them.

The Herald has also learned that the Crown Prosecution Service were unaware Pemberton had been arrested for affray on December 16 – when he was seen with the two meat cleavers – until February 3, 2015 when a reviewing lawyer was asked to consider the murder charge. The paperwork for the December 16 2014 incident were sent later in February 2015 and a request for a charging decision on the affray matter was not made until February 26, 2015.

Devon and Cornwall Police have also launched their own internal investigation into the handling of Pemberton following his arrest on December 16, 2014. A spokesman said the force was “currently reviewing police involvement in this case and therefore are not able to advise further at this time.”


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The last time I last looked, the story had generated the following comment:-

What is clear is that Working Links against its contract, has siphoned off Probation funding to support its other failing units.....An example here appertains to administration structures meant to be kept in place should Noms wish too reintegrate the CRC. Due to under estimating the cost of running bid to the tune of 40%, Working links is now shedding 600 posts. To find a privitised but government funded organisation to say they cannot respond to a FOI request is ludicrous meaning one way propaganda is appropriate in the Criminal Justice System. Trust me the place is a sham with bean counters with no OM experience running the DDC CRC into the ground.


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I am aware the author and reporter Carl Eve reads this blog and has a keen interest in writing more about what exactly is going on in probation since privatisation.  

Stop Press 

This blog consistently warned the privateers that negative publicity would be a factor they would do well to take into account, that and the possibility of angry and disillusioned staff learning the art of spilling the beans, something professionally they have never considered before. Here we have an example from the Cambridge News concerning BeNCH:-     

Private probation service for Cambridge branded 'reckless' amid crime increase fears

The privatisation of Cambridge probation services has been branded "reckless" amid fears of increase in crime and offenders being jailed for breaching orders as they now have to travel to Huntingdon.

Offenders who once attended their probation appointments at Warkworth Lodge, Warkworth Street, near Parkside police station, must now travel to Huntingon sparking anger. About 45 staff were based at Warkworth Lodge and worked for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Probation Trust's at the main office in Cambridge.

Sodexo has been put in charge of probation services in Cambridgeshire under the most far-reaching privatisation in the criminal justice system.

Daniel Zeichner, Cambridge's MP, said: "I and many others warned that the changes made to the Probation Service were reckless and would cause real harm – and had Labour won the election we would have stopped them. We are now seeing the consequences of those foolish changes introduced by the Coalition Government. When people have to travel much further, out of their own community, we know that rehabilitation is more likely to fail. In recent weeks we have seen the disgraceful way G4S have been treating young offenders, and it is now very clear that there are substantial problems in the probation and justice system which the Government needs to address urgently."

A probation service insider in Cambridge, who did not wish to be named, said: "There is a lot of worry that because the low to mid-range offenders will now have to travel to Huntingdon to get support and to attend court ordered appointment there will be many more breaches of probation orders. Magistrates are handing out probation sentences but I don't know if they are aware the offender has to travel to Huntingdon now. There will be a lot more breaches and more people will end up in prison or will re-offend."

The contracts, worth £450 million handed over 70 per cent of the work of the public probation service to private and voluntary sector providers as part of Grayling's Transforming Rehabilitation programme. The public probation service retained control of services for high-risk offenders.

A Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Community (Bench) Rehabilitation Company spokesperson said: "We are moving out of our existing offices and into new buildings, as we are changing the way we deliver probation services.

"Part of our approach is to introduce new IT systems to support mobile working, where staff will have the flexibility to meet offenders in the community, in their home or out of locally-based buildings. It is not the intention to ask offenders to travel long distances, we will take the service to them. Our new approach aims to ensure the right resources are in place to reduce reoffending, protect the public and change lives."

25 comments:

  1. If Carl Eve reads this today, can I appeal to him to look at helping probation staff to get the truth out there. It is not just CRCs but what is happening in NPS with staff now gagged by being second class Civil Servants ( all the downside none of the benefits)is a real concern. Also isn't there a growing story about the true financial cost of Grayling being able to just spend excessive amounts of public money on failed whims? Not ontly his judgement but also his honesty with Parliament MUST be questioned.

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    1. Not wishing to speak for him, but I do know he is dismayed that nobody has been in contact despite appeals. You and I will no doubt understand the traditional and professional view of probation staff not to contact the press or media and the decision to break that is difficult.

      I think it's true to say that probation has always taken the need for confidentiality very seriously indeed and I'm not aware of any instance of a staff member leaking any information for personal gain, sadly unlike other parts of the CJS such as police and prison officers.

      I know we're not talking about personal gain here, but it's still a big step talking to the press and not in our nature. I suspect the MoJ have always known that and used it to their advantage.

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  2. NOMS should also investigate bGsw for their creative practices. In order to achieve timescales for recalls they simply adjusted the clocks on the computers. Genius, pure genius.

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    1. Thats wrong.recall timeliness is an assurance measure so no financial penalty attached so why would they do this. Another misinformed idiot who relies on fiction and not facts!

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    2. It's all about the money with you- recall timeliness is about ensuring a timely recall to take an imminent threat from the community without delay!

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  3. I totally agree with above comments about NPS being scrutinised. Of particular concern is the so-called E3 model being inflicted on NPS staff by that inept,bungling, beauratically laden, organisation of NOMS. The amount of time spent on completing meaningless, totally irrelevant forms post sentence, takes double the time it takes to interview someone and deliver a report. Things are getting so much worse in the courts - as no longer are pre sentence reports given the due time and consideration needed to thoroughly assess needs and predict risks - now court probation officers have to undertake almost all of them and on the same day! Oh, and by the way, E3 is determined to reduce qualified and experienced POs in courts to the bone, leaving unqualified staff to deliver orally and/or write PSRs in same day. Of course NOMs' get out clause is that these reports by unqualified staff will be overseen by qualified officers. Five court rooms, four unqualified officers and one Probation Officer. How can the PO oversee umpteen oral reports in five different court rooms? Court POs are now nothing but overseers and trainers - not what I came into this profession for. Our skills, expertise and abilities will soon become defunct once NOMs is satisfied we have passed on all of our skills to cheaper unqualified staff. Waiting with baited breath for an SFO to arise out of a poor risk assessment made at court because of the pressure currently put on court staff, qualified and unqualified,to perform.

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  4. Interestingly - some may think - the former LibDem Cambridge MP - Julian Huppert - was the only, or maybe one of very few LibDems in Parliament who did not vote so as to ensure the Ministry of Justice were able to split and outsource probation without full parliamentary scrutiny.

    I cannot precisely recall the details but it came down to NOT voting down a House of Lords amendment to the Offender Rehabilitation Bill 2014, in the House of Commons which meant that the Split and selloff went through without full parliamentary scrutiny.

    A brave attempt to save probation, but when it came down to the General Election Huppert was not re-elected along with most former LibDem MPs who unlike him did help wreck probation.

    I hope we hear more about the reality of being released from prison to go to a home address in Cambridgeshire - a vast county - but possibly needing to report to a probation CRC office in Huntington, on the day of release as well - who pays the fare and works out the journey by public transport? What about also registering for state benefits - are Grayling's "old lag Through The Gate mentors", actually meeting folk at the prison gate and escorting the released short-term prisoners throughout that first day - for example?

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  5. There is a whistle blowing policy in any office and any breach of this should result in instant suspension and dismissal. This journalist was the same idiot begging for info a few months. He is motivated by his own interests. Ask the police down his way.... if people really wanted to break codes of conduct there are better journalists out there!

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    1. Reference to 'idiots' says rather more about the poster of such comments me thinks.

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    2. All decisions were made and supervised by fully-qualified and experienced probation workers.
      I read this and wonder what they actually mean? Is that these people who were making decisions are not really probation officers at all or are they? Workers means something else. Can anyone clarify what this quote actually means? Was it Probation officers who are professionally qualified. Or was it some other workers doing the Probation officer work required?
      What does experience mean in the context of managing the type of situation we have seen in this tragedy. What could have prevented this situation and what should have been managed differently in hindsight? Would any other Probation officer have made different decisions, or if it was only a worker what should have been done. It is a bit difficult to understand while they are refusing to share the report and we can only speculate why.

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  6. He is an idiot if he wants people to risk their job! I know you are no longer a probation employee but others have jobs they need like me. If this journalist wants info then he can continue to go through the correct channels!

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    1. Agreed 13.31. Sorry Jim.

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    2. If journalists only ever went through the "correct channels", newspapers would be full of corporate bullsh*t rather than news. Ever heard of Watergate? Or the publishing of MPs' expenses claims? Major political scandals that were achieved through journalists taking a punt on unofficial sources who were brave enough to take the risk.

      Now I'm not advocating anyone risking their job - that's a decision each individual has to take - but if you think the truth would come out through official channels then you, 13:31, are the real idiot.

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  7. The DDC CRC spokesman told The Herald that Working Links and the Community Rehabilitation Companies are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act ............

    Not the whole truth, If the contractor holds the information for a public body it is not exempt from an FOI request. If the information is held solely for the contractors own purposes it is exempt

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    1. I wonder who the ddc spokesperson was . It's unclear whether it was someone from Plymouth,the CEO of that area or some high up bod in working links. I would tend to think it could be one of the last two options as their response is quite ambiguous

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    2. Probably media spokesman from Working Links - I think all the old Probation corporate staff from the DDC area have gone under EVR.

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  8. 'Serious further offence reviews are not made public" - really, since when? I distinctly remember downloading both the Sonnex report and Hanson & White direct from Google (open site to the general public)on my home computer, which I then took into work to read. What's changed (apart from the level of secrecy)?
    Deb

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    1. Hanson & White and Sonnex were more than just SFO reviews, they were separate investigations. That's why they were made available publicly.

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  9. Private company so new rules. You make a freedom request to apple and they would laugh you out of their office.

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  10. http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/Private-probation-service-Cambridge-branded/story-28632449-detail/story.html

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  11. In response to a few questions posted here.
    a) I don't want anyone to risk their jobs. I just want to try and get a clear answer to the question - what was done.
    b) the DDC CRC spokesman was a PR agency www.mattneedhampr.co.uk
    c) As for the Mr Anonymous and his "Ask the police down his way.... if people really wanted to break codes of conduct there are better journalists out there!" - Yes, there probably are much better journalists out there. I do know I have been a bit of a pain in the local police's arse for a while so I'm sure they'd not speak kindly of me. It's all those impertinent self-serving stories I write... http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/local-hero-carl-eve-holding-police-account-plymouth-over-flawed-paedophile-investgation
    d) I really do try not to be an idiot, but sometimes I just can't help it...

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    1. Thanks for responding Carl!

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    2. What is your email address Carl?

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    3. Ceve@plymouthherald.co.uk

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  12. Well done Carl that is what good journalism is all about. Holding people to account.

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