To be honest I'm just treading water at the moment due to a seeming dearth of something new to say about the TR omnishambles. It does however give us time to examine related matters, such as the following article on the 'Digital by default news' website which caught my eye. Although on the face of it, it sounds eminently sensible, along with practitioners being forced to conduct sensitive interviews via video links, my heart continues to sink in relation to the prospects for good probation practice.
Parole Board continues digital transformation
The Parole Board has issued an update on its move to digital and the introduction of paperless hearings by October 2017. The body is undertaking a large project to overhaul the way it works, in line with its strategic objective of reducing the backlog due to constraints and ensuring more efficient ways of working.
As an organisation it says it has looked into new ways of electronic working. Previously, all dossiers for Parole cases (which average between 300-500 pages for reviews) were printed at its office in London and couriered out to Parole Board members around the country. This process was expensive, time consuming, and not environmentally friendly.
The E-dossier project was launched last year, with 17 members trialling the new system at first. This has now been rolled out to 176 members (85%), with the target of having 90% of the membership accessing their case information electronically by April 2017.
The Board says it will be completely paperless for hearings by October 2017. At present 102 members are conducting completely paperless parole reviews across the country (50% of the entire membership).
The members have all been provided with a tablet laptop and access to the secure ‘Web Access Module’ to see their cases and download the dossiers. Project staff have worked closely with prisons to ensure access with the devices went smoothly at the prison gates, and have taken on board feedback from members to make improvements to the new system.
The courier and printing cost savings that will come from this project alone mean 250 more prisoners will be able to have hearings each year. The next steps of the project are to work with the courts and ensure members who are current serving judges can access Parole Board dossiers through their digital judiciary accounts.
The second cohort of new members will join the organisation in June 2017 and they will be trained to conduct paperless hearings right from the outset. Once they start to conduct parole reviews we will be a fully operational digital organisation.
In other news, this drew a wry smile as yet another of Grayling's big ideas bit the dust yesterday:-
London Central Employment Tribunal upholds the claims of over 200 judges for unlawful age, race and sex discrimination and equal pay
London Central Employment Tribunal has today upheld the claims of over 200 judges for unlawful age, race and sex discrimination and equal pay against the Lord Chancellor and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) in relation to changes made to their pension entitlements.
The judgment from the Tribunal held that the MoJ and the Lord Chancellor had discriminated against younger judges by requiring them to leave the Judicial Pension Scheme in April 2015 whilst allowing older judges to remain in that Scheme, and that this discrimination could not be justified.
Shubha Banerjee from the employment team at Leigh Day who is representing 204 of the judges said:
“This is a great victory for our clients, many of whom sit alongside older judges who were appointed some years after them but who are, in effect, paid more purely because they are older. The fact that there is a significant number of female and BME judges in the younger group simply compounds the unfairness of the changes that were made to judicial pensions. According to Judicial Office Statistics, about one third of all judges in England and Wales last year were female, and only 7% described themselves as from a black or other minority ethnic background.”
The Tribunal found that the changes caused younger judges to suffer a disproportionate loss to their pensions purely because they were younger. The decision could have ramifications for other public sector groups, such as police officers, teachers, firefighters and prison officers, who have been subjected to similar negative changes to their pensions.
The legal team were Shubha Banerjee and Chris Benson from Leigh Day and Andrew Short QC and Naomi Ling from Outer Temple Chambers.