Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Woof Woof!

Justice Secretary Liz Truss suggests barking dogs could stop drones flying drugs into prisons

Justice Secretary Liz Truss left MPs baffled after claiming that barking dogs could be used to stop drones flying drugs into prisons.The gaffe-prone Cabinet minister raised eyebrows with her unlikely solution to the growing problem of the small radio controlled aircraft delivering banned items to prisoners.

One Labour MP, during justice questions in the Commons, shouted out: "It's the minister who is barking.” And Ms Truss’s deputy, prisons minister Sam Gyimah, could be seen smirking on the Government bench behind his boss. 

(Pic nicked from Twitter - Rest from Independent.)

This from the Guardian:-

Liz Truss calls for rapid completion of probation privatisation review

The justice secretary, Liz Truss, has ordered the rapid completion of an official review into the failing performance of the government’s privatisation of the probation service.

Truss told MPs that the review into the privatised probation companies’ performance introduced by her predecessor Chris Grayling would be completed by April and would include a major overhaul as well as measures to improve the service.

The announcement comes after highly critical reports by the chief inspector of probation, Dame Glenys Stacey, that found companies were struggling to deliver the supervision of 250,000 offenders a year.

Tory MP Bob Neill, who chairs the justice select committee, has said probation service “risks heading for a car crash” and the 21 community rehabilitation companies have reported they are making a loss on almost all their seven-year contracts worth £3.7bn.

Truss told the House of Commons on Tuesday: “Our probation officers do a vital job in turning offenders’ lives around. The prisons and probation minister is conducting a comprehensive review of the probation system focused on improving the quality of our probation services.

“As with our plans for prisons we want a simpler, clearer system with specific outcome measures such as getting offenders off drugs, improving educational standards and getting offenders into apprenticeships and work.

“We also want to see closer working with the prison service. We will set out our more detailed plans after our review is completed in April.”

A joint review by the chief inspectors of probation and prisons into the performance of the part-privatisation of the probation service in June identified multiple failings in “through the gate” services, including the release from prison of one in three offenders without anywhere to live and no one in a sample of 86 offenders being given help in training, education or employment.

The probation service was split in 2014 into 21 community rehabilitation companies, supervising medium- to low-risk offenders, and a public National Probation Service (NPS), supervising high-risk offenders.

The “transforming rehabilitation” revolution, as it was dubbed, was introduced by Grayling when he was justice secretary. It included a pledge to provide supervision for the first first time for 50,000 short-term prisoners on their release without any significant extra funding.

Stacey said last month that while the caseloads for the NPS were climbing, the companies’ caseloads were much lower than anticipated and they were supervising between 6% and 36% fewer offenders with a consequential loss of income. Many companies were considering whether they could continue to afford their current staffing levels. Very little innovative work was going on.

The justice secretary also confirmed she was considering a new specific offence of prison corruption after the disclosure of Ministry of Justice (MoJ) figures that showed a sharp increase in the number of staff working for prison contractors excluded for alleged smuggling.

The figures, released after a freedom of information request this year, showed the number of prison officers convicted, cautioned or dismissed for corruption over the last five years had remained relatively stable at 40 to 50 a year.

But at the same time the number of other staff, mainly contractors, excluded from jail in connection with corruption allegations, such as smuggling drugs or other contraband, had risen from 40 in 2010 to 110 in 2015.

A joint Metropolitan police and prison service investigation in 2006 suggested as many as 1,000 prison officers at that time were involved in corruption that ranged from accepting cash bribes to drug smuggling. At the same time, a corruption investigation into Pentonville prison in London led to the suspension of 14 staff.

An MoJ spokesperson said: “The vast majority of our prison staff are hard-working and honest, but we remain vigilant to the threat posed by corruption. We take swift action against the small minority who involve themselves in corruption, and those who put fellow members of prison staff in harm’s way will face the full force of the law.

“We have set out a range of measures in the recent prison safety and reform white paper to bolster our response to tackling this issue. These include closer working with the police, investing £3m in a new intelligence unit and developing a new corruption strategy in the new year. We are also considering options for the creation of a prison-specific offence of corruption.”


  1. Also in the Guardian that may amuse.

    1. Do barking dogs scare drug drones, or is it just another Liz Truss gaffe?

      Name: Liz Truss.
      Age: 41.
      Appearance: Deer in headlights.
      Specialty: Master of the salient detail.

      I know she’s very concerned about commas and that. That’s Lynne Truss. This is Liz Truss, the justice secretary.

      When did she come in? In the summer. She replaced Michael Gove, who replaced Chris Grayling.

      Yeesh. I guess it was time for a safe pair of hands. It would have been, yes.

      What do you mean? Is Truss not entirely on top of her brief? Let’s just say she has a knack for saying risible things at inappropriate moments.

      Can you give me an example? Speaking to parliament the other day about her visit to HMP Pentonville, she said: “They’ve got dogs who are barking, which helps deter drones.”

      You mean the contraband-delivering drones get frightened? The mechanism is unclear, but one Labour MP shouted: “It’s the minister who is barking!”

      I take it Truss has prior form. She was already known for a viral clip from her 2014 Tory conference speech in which she said: “We import two-thirds of our cheese. That. Is. A. Disgrace.”

      It depends on the cheese, surely. At last year’s conference she promoted reforms to ensure that children learn “the proper names of trees and animals”.

      I know a horse called John. It was a year ago. All those jokes have been done.

      I guess she is what you would call gaffe-prone. You would call her that, if the remarks weren’t scripted and read off a teleprompter.

      Some people just shouldn’t give speeches. Truss also turned in a woeful performance before the justice select committee in September, when she appeared to have little idea of what was going on in her department.

      I’m sure someone with her legal background will catch on quick. She is an accountant.

      Well, as long as she believes in our justice system. Last month, she was sharply criticised for her underwhelming defence of the judiciary, following press attacks in the wake of the article 50 ruling.

      How did she get where she is today? She was raised in a leftwing household, and went to a “trendy” Leeds comprehensive.

      So she’s a product of the wishy-washy liberalism that’s destroying this country. If you like.

      Do say: “Come back Michael Gove, all is forgiven!”

      Don’t say: “Come back Chris Grayling, all is forgiven!”

  2. Sorry to be so boring but I have added an important upper case amendment to clarify:

    "It included a pledge to provide MANDATORY, STATUTORY supervision for the first first time for 50,000 short-term prisoners on their release without any significant extra funding."

    In the dim & distant days of 'advise, assist & befriend' many short-term prisoners and/or those outwith statutory periods of supervision DID quite frequently receive informal non-statutory support from their Probation Officer. This fact must not be lost, otherwise Grayling's false claim becomes truth.

    And please no, do NOT bring back Gove!!

  3. "We are also considering options for the creation of a prison-specific offence of corruption.”

    How about considering a Cabinet-specific offence of deception? Or vandalism? Or fraud? Or a Government-specific offence of dereliction of public duty?

  4. Big fan of this blog but equally not a fan of taking the piss out of Ministers just because. Reminds me of baying hounds across the benches in parliament. Entertaining in a laddish banter sort of way, affords a smirk and a giggle but little else. Okay the thing about cheese, that was funny :)

    1. All of the actions by corrupt or corrupted prison staff, whether Prison Service or contractors, are already criminal offences. Its just another cheese or pork market moment. But to be fair you have a point, it is like shooting fish in a barrel.

  5. So the chair of the Justice Select Committee is the Tory MP who has just called for Grayling to be sacked,

  6. Context is everything so please indulge in a bit of time travel back to 2014 PAC hearing...

    *** How was TR evaluated prior to implementation?

    Margaret Hodge: But the Peterborough model, as I understand it, is voluntary.
    Antonia Romeo: That is correct.
    Margaret Hodge: And the model that you are designing [TR] is not voluntary.
    Antonia Romeo: That is correct.
    Margaret Hodge: Is there any international evidence on this payment by results stuff?
    Antonia Romeo: Very little actually.

    *** And what will TR mean for workloads?

    Dame Ursula Brennan: "It is worth bearing in mind, when you look at that under-12-month case load, that there is no requirement to do the kind of intensive service that you do with the other case load that applies to those people."

    *** But what happens if the CRC decides they are not making enough money?

    Ian Swales: What provisions will you make for the long- term ownership of these CRCs and what do you do if one fails?  This is not a service that we can have failing for any length of time….What happens if the supplier just says, “You know what?  We’re not making enough money out of this.  Bye!” and so they go?
    Antonia Romeo: They would not be able to change ownership without discussing it with the MoJ.
    Richard Bacon: As long as they talk to you about it, they can sell.  That is not what you meant, is it? Or is it?
    Antonia Romeo: I am deliberately trying not to find myself in a position where I reveal too much during the process of a live competition.

  7. If there was every an indictment against TR this must it. If you're released homeless, or know youre not getting any real help, and you know you're recall will be short (certainly for the 12mth and under cohort), then the 'opertunity' of quite a lucrative 'earner' is being created by government policy.


    1. Former inmates are deliberately getting sent back to prison to cash in on lucrative profits on offer for selling drugs previously known as "legal highs", according to a new report.

      Prices for the substances can jump 33-fold once they cross into jails - providing prisoners with an incentive to go back behind bars to make money, researchers claimed.

      A gram of synthetic cannabinoids, which mimic the effects of cannabis, can cost £3 on the outside but can fetch up to £100 when sold in prisons, the study said.

      It claimed to have uncovered strong evidence that the licence recall system - under which offenders can be brought back to custody - was "routinely and systematically" abused to bring the drugs into prisons.

      The paper, based on research conducted in an adult male prison in England, suggested that recently freed inmates committed minor infractions, such as missing probation meetings, in order to return to jail.

      Prisoners reported being able to make £3,000 in four weeks by bringing in an ounce (28 grams) of synthetic cannabinoids.

      One prisoner even claimed that another inmate had made £100,000 dealing the substances during a six-month sentence - although the report acknowledged that stated profits could be prone to exaggeration.

      It detailed a number of "novel" reported smuggling methods, including via drones or sprayed onto books, letters and children's drawings.

      Lead researcher Dr Rob Ralphs, senior lecturer in criminology at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: "It is no exaggeration to say that the synthetic cannabinoid market has exploded and unleashed a series of devastating impacts on prisons, prisoners and prison staff.

      "Traditional drugs have almost been wiped out and replaced with these extremely powerful synthetic cannabinoids because prisoners are attracted by high profit margins and their lack of detection in drug tests.

      "Our research found that prisoners' motivation for taking synthetic cannabinoids was to escape the boredom of prison life and to avoid positive drug tests but their impact is extremely serious."

      The study - published in the International Journal of Drug Policy - comes at a time when the state of jails in England and Wales is under intense scrutiny.

      New psychoactive substances, which were commonly referred to as legal highs before they were made the subject of a blanket ban earlier this year, have been identified as a "game-changer" as prisons are hit by surging levels of violence.

      The government is pursuing a number of measures to tackle the problem under its prison reform plans, including "no fly zones" to stop drones dropping contraband into jails and mandatory drug testing across the estate.

    2. Getafix - my recently released client was telling me all about this new enterprise He says it's rife amongst the youngsters who know they just have to do 28 days nice little earner !

  8. I've been risk assessing too long - I'm sat here wondering how much contraband could be concealed in that dog's long coat. Do dogs get searched when entering prisons? Arf arf.