Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Going Digital

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.

Going paperless

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.


  1. This government are all about reducing public sector terms and conditions including pensions. People who chose a career in the probation service 20 or more years ago are being continually punished and chased to leave probation without their entitlements, giving whole life career service in many cases. Probation staff have always paid their own pension contributions unlike civil servants yet these funds are being diluted and stolen by the M.o.J. Thank goodness they have been successfully challenged and hopefully this will encourage many more people to go to tribunal to halt the rotten skulduggery we are suffering. Original contracts, terms, conditions and pension entitlements need to be honoured where they exist.

    1. Ah, but the government wants to encourage enterprising individuals like Mr Gove, who moonlights as a journalist whilst being paid as a Member of Parliament, or Mr Hammond's beginner's luck as an investor, or Mr *unt's £15m windfall, or the endless other thieves & charlatans taking the piss whilst paid as MPs or senior civil servants.

      Won't be long before Mr Cameron reappears as Head of Something or Other (United Nations, maybe?) and then the fascists will have a Trump-like hold on the checks & balances as well.

      I'm just waiting for Trump to tell PM May to get shot of Boris (he can't stand the competition). For all of his dreadful bluster Boris is made of stern stuff, he certainly isn't afraid to change tack & fatally wound his enemies; there's still a very painful score to settle with Trump's new BFF, Gove.

      Napo seem to have gone to ground again, e.g. the south west CRC issues seem to have 'disappeared'. Anyone out there have any updates?

    2. Gove embarrassed the PM by his foolish looking demeanour and thumbs up Picture. Taking two pay cheques what is he elected to do . That should be working as a member for the public. I doubt the s west Napo have gone to ground just yet.

  2. Grayling has to go down in history as the most incompetent nitwit to ever sit in parliament. I can't think of anyone else who has had so many of their policies over turned in fairly short order either by his successor or the courts. The Tories need to stop giving this idiot a job of any kind

    1. Well don't give the tories a job then too many probation actually voted for them.

    2. I can't why they would do that

    3. Many 'middle class professionals' - including many probation staff - voted Tory in 2010 & 2015 because they believed the media hype that they'd be better off under Cameron, even though Grayling was carbing up the service before their very eyes. Just like the Leave EU voters they were desperately grasping at empty promises, misdirection & blatant lies in the hope things woukd change. Now the electorate are reaping what was sown by the Tories, a very profitable crop for a priveleged few but empty husks that taste bitter as hell for the vast majority.

    4. Apologies - for 'carbing' read 'carving' (fat finger syndrome)

  3. So the Parole Board are paperless but will this mean they'll actually read Parole Reports and stop demanding addendums?

    Will this mean Probation Officers will no longer be expected to lug huge files to hearings or travel huge distances to answer a 30 mins of mostly pointless questions of which the answers have already been provided in their already submitted Parole Report that wasn't read?

  4. If parole boards embraced technology, utilised video links and read Parole reports then probation officers ...

    1. Would not have to submit constant addendums to their reports to repeat what has already been said.

    2. Would not have to travel huge distances to attend parole hearings to say what has already been said in their parole report.

    3. Would not have to spend whole days at parole hearings to answers questions for a mere 30 minutes to repeat what has already been said in their parole report.

    Release decisions are the responsibility of the parole board and so the should take more responsibility in the decisions made, meaning paper reviews should be the norm in all cases.