Saturday, 25 February 2017

RARs - A History Lesson Part Two

Because I think the subject is so important in helping to understand why we are where we are, hopefully with your indulgence, I'm going to stick with it just a bit longer. The claimed architects for RARs won prestigious Butler Trust awards:-


AWARD WINNERS 2013-14: Mark and Liz from West Yorkshire Probation, and Janet from the Court Service, receive their Award for developing and implementing the Dynamic Change Model of offender management. The evidence-based model, under which sentence planning is postponed until after disposal, saved almost £1M in its first year, and has contributed to significant reductions in adjournments, breaches and re-offending. Their approach is now being rolled out nationally. 


[Liz Mills gives her account of the work for which she won her Award]

I won my Butler Trust Award for introducing an innovative approach called the ‘Dynamic Change Model’ (DCM) across West Yorkshire Probation Trust. DCM was developed in partnership with Her Majesties Court Service (HMCS) and enables practitioners to work collaboratively with offenders to develop a sentence plan and respond more easily to change. The model has produced excellent results including fewer adjournments at court, a reduced number of breaches and improved re-offending rates.

Prior to January 2012 the detailed content of a sentence plan for those offenders subject to a community order was determined by Magistrates and Judges at the point of sentence informed by proposals in a pre-sentence report. Sometimes this resulted in the right interventions for the offender however, increasingly this was not the case which was largely a result of three issues:
  • A desire to produce more reports on the day of sentence within a short time frame to avoid adjournments and delays in sentencing. This meant that the report writer often had only a very short period of time to interview the offender and make decisions about the right proposals based on the 12 requirements then available as part of a Community Order.
  • A increasing range of programmes and specified activities had been developed to address various aspects of offending behaviour each with its own targeting and assessment requirements, for example for those with an alcohol problem options could include alcohol treatment, Stop Binge Drinking specified activity, Addressing Substance Related Offending (ASRO) and Control of Violence for Angry Compulsive Drinkers (COVAID) accredited programmes. Selection of the right intervention within tight time constraints was becoming increasingly complex.
  • The attitude of some offenders pre-sentence can sometimes result in a lack of openness about the true motives for their behaviour or minimisation, for example in cases of domestic abuse or sexual offending.
As a consequence some offenders would be sentenced to court-ordered, named interventions that post sentence it became apparent were not the most suitable to address their particular offending related needs. This would mean either a requirement to return them to court or individuals undertaking interventions that were not the most appropriate for them. A practitioner made a comment about how helpful it would be if they could decide the content of rehabilitative interventions post sentence. It was from this that the idea of DCM was developed.

A first step was to establish the legal basis of any change and this was confirmed with the Board Secretary (a qualified solicitor), Director of Operations and myself. Rehabilitative interventions would be delivered through the existing activity requirement legislation but the specification would be the requirement to report to a named officer, named place, on a number of days and to comply with instructions rather than to specify a named activity. This would give practitioners the flexibility to determine the content of the intervention post sentence during the induction phase. The next step was to obtain agreement with the court service and this was achieved through an initial approach with local judges who agreed the legal basis and who were content to give probation practitioners professional discretion. Discussion with HMCS followed and although there was some initial reservation that magistrates may be seen to be relinquishing some ‘power’ in determining the sentence a focus upon joint outcomes and benefits i.e. more on the day reports and fewer adjournments and breaches achieved a positive outcome.

As a result DCM was launched across West Yorkshire on 1st January 2012 as a joint initiative with West Yorkshire courts.

In terms of preparing practitioners for the change I was responsible for project managing the introduction and I established a small cross-functional group to lead the implementation. This included:
  • Preparing a business case for strategic leaders
  • Agreeing a vision for practitioners to demonstrate the benefits in terms of best practice
  • Developing a SMARTA (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely and anti-discriminatory) action plan
  • Developing a training plan for Legal Advisors and probation staff
  • Designing a communication strategy which included material for key stakeholders, including internal and external partners
  • Agreeing an evaluation review with the Trusts research department
The model was reviewed 6 months and 12 months following the launch and findings included estimated savings of £860,000 in the first year through fewer court adjournments of 7% and a fall in the breach rate from 25% to 8.3%. There was also high levels of sentence satisfaction and positive feedback from offenders.

West Yorkshire Probation Trust was eager to share the learning from DCM with other probation trusts and interested parties and we held two open days for external partners and other interested parties to discuss out experience of implementation, what worked well and what, with hindsight we could have done better. Practitioners shared their experiences and the findings from the initial evaluations were shared.


[The following article appeared in issue 6 of the Butler Trust’s magazine, Inspire]

The Dynamic Change Model (DCM) was developed by West Yorkshire Probation Trust in partnership with the West Yorkshire Courts Service. An evidence-based approach to reducing reoffending, it was set up by Mark Siddall and Liz Mills for probation in liaison with Janet Carter for the Courts Service, and has already delivered reductions in court time and costs alongside reoffending rates.

Implemented in January 2012, the model changes the timing of an offender’s assessment so that in-depth assessments are conducted post sentence, allowing more time to go into detail and decide on the most appropriate interventions to address issues underlying the offence.

Mark had the initial idea and worked with Liz to develop the concept into something that would work in reality, persuading senior managers at the Trust and contacts at the Courts Service that it was a good strategy. Liz chaired the implementation team and sat on a number of working groups to ensure an effective transition between the concept on paper and roll-out across the service.

‘Because I believe that good assessment is the foundation of good practice, I was looking for a new approach to assessment,’ Mark tells Inspire. ‘I thought we were already pretty good at assessment but I wanted to become even better, so I asked some people to consider some potential models, and we tossed some ideas around. Undertaking a detailed assessment after sentence was one proposal that we worked on over a few months, and we developed it into the Dynamic Change Model.’

Research had shown that some offenders were being given group interventions that failed to address their offending behaviour, while others were either unsuitable for group work or agreeing to attend groups and then not turning up. DCM, however, used existing legislation that allows a court to make a generic activity requirement, and then conducted a detailed risk, needs and strengths analysis jointly with the offender to form an individual sentencing plan – an approach that means offenders ‘own’ their plans and are fully aware of why all the elements have been included. ‘The genesis of it was a desire to have the best possible way of doing good assessments that we could,’ says Mark. ‘We knew if we got that, our practice would be great as well.’

Mark and Liz approached Janet who helped to liaise with senior judges and magistrates to secure their buy-in. ‘I did have a strategy to get people onside, but the key issue was to focus on the benefits,’ says Mark. ‘In terms of who I would sell the benefits to, I was very clear that I was going to start with the judges – because of their status – and they saw the benefits pretty immediately. I’d spent quite a lot of time gaining their confidence in us as an organisation they could trust, because one of the cornerstones of this approach is that it transfers a lot of responsibility and authority from the sentencer to the probation trust, and I knew that we had to come across as trustworthy.’

Having secured their confidence, the strategy was to focus on selling the benefits rather than any questions of threat to their power and authority, he explains. ‘I told them that they would have more successful sentences, fewer breaches and that we would reduce reoffending. Once I’d got the judges, that was an important selling point with the magistrates, but again it was the same approach – it’s not important about who does what, just look at the benefits. That took the emotion out of it as well – the focus was on the outcomes.’

What sort of initial reaction was there from probation staff themselves, however? ‘The majority, intellectually, could see the benefits but emotionally were a bit concerned about the extent of the change involved, because it was utterly revolutionary. I had a number of staff say, “we really support the principle – it’s a great idea – but we’re just tired of change”.’

He also had to put in a good deal of work with the Ministry of Justice to persuade them that not only could his team deliver the new way of working but that it was legal, he says. ‘A lot of the senior legal people in the MoJ were very sceptical so we produced an absolutely rock-solid case, and once we’d got the backing of the judges – we spent an evening sitting with them going through various bits of legislation line by line – we could say to the MoJ, “the judges are fine with it, and if they’re fine with it that means it’s legal”. And in over two years we’ve not had the slightest sniff of any legal challenge.’

With the legal situation clarified, the next step was to train operational staff in the new approach, and convince them that DCM didn’t just represent change for it’s own sake. More than 20 new guidelines, manuals and other documents were developed, and 25 briefings were held for court and probation staff. Liz also produced postcards, leaflets and other resources to make sure staff had all the information they needed, and used feedback from a range of stakeholders – including offenders – to ensure the information was up to date. Meanwhile, Janet led the roll-out through the courts service, developing and delivering training for legal advisers and getting new magistrates up to speed with the approach.

DCM assessments use a ‘good lives wheel’ to engage the offender, asking them to evaluate their view of themselves in a number of categories – the more problematic the issue, the closer it’s placed to the hub of the wheel, giving the offender a clear understanding of why specific interventions are important. There’s also a group supervision approach, Action for Change, which encourages offenders to focus on their future and work with other members of the group to help achieve their goals.

So what sort of reaction has there been from the offenders themselves? ‘We’re an organisation that seeks out a lot of feedback from offenders,’ says Mark. ‘We’ve got various forums where we meet, and they take part in our recruitment selection processes for staff, so we get lots of feedback. We involved them in the piloting before we went live, and made some amendments in response to that. They’re really positive about the level of involvement and engagement they’ve got, they like the highly individualised approach as well, and we’ve absolutely slashed our breach rates, which speaks for itself. It’s been incredibly positive feedback – they just say that it’s so much more meaningful for them.’

The reoffending rate for West Yorkshire for October 2011 to September 2012 was, at 9.64 per cent, nearly 10 per cent lower than the predicted figure, with 450 fewer court adjournments, and the new approach also saved the probation trust £860,000 during its first year. ‘DCM has delivered everything it promised,’ said chair of the West Yorkshire Probation Trust board Stan Hardy. ‘The success and benefits are thanks to the careful planning and hard work of Mark, Liz and Janet’, while chief executive Sue Hall said their efforts had turned ‘an excellent idea into a workable reality’.

DCM has also been cited as ‘an excellent example of innovative practice helping to cut crime’ in a 2013 report from the Centre for Justice Innovation and the New Economics Foundation. The government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme, however, has meant that some plans have had to be changed.

‘We had plans to extend the model, and we will do that once the dust has settled,’ says Mark. ‘Some new legislation coming out builds on the Dynamic Change Model, and we have got an understanding from the Ministry of Justice that DCM will continue in West Yorkshire irrespective of the Transforming Rehabilitation changes, because they’ve seen that it’s effective and it’s cost effective. Because we’re the only organisation that’s actually implemented this, I imagine that we may have a role in advising or assisting other trusts in trying to get it rolled out and how they should engage with their sentencers, who are critical players, obviously. So there’s been a pause, but we’ll build the momentum up in the coming months.’

Winning the award has been ‘tremendous’, he says. ‘I know that the Butler Trust is very prestigious, and obviously probation is at a time of major, major change so it’s just great to have this validation of our work. It’s a real boost that something we’ve done has been recognised and hopefully will continue. It’s a real fillip.’


There were some great headlines. This on the Centre for justice Innovation website:- 

Probation innovation praised for cutting region’s crime rate

09th September 2013 Originally published in The Yorkshire Post

A NEW way of managing offenders in West Yorkshire has been hailed as an example of “innovative” practice which cuts crime. A report has highlighted the approach the probation service and the courts have taken in Yorkshire, which has reduced court delays and led to fewer breaches of sentences.

Courts normally expect assessments by the probation service to be delivered before sentence is passed, but in West Yorkshire, officers prepare detailed reports after sentencing. This, the report says, “not only helps courts conclude cases more quickly, but also gives probation time to do its assessment properly”.

The assessments, which work out what activities the offender must take part in, everything from education to one-to-one work, are done with the offenders’ full involvement. It has resulted in positive reviews from courts, staff and offenders, fewer breaches of sentences and 2,162 fewer adjournments over 10 months compared to the previous year.

The report, Better Courts, authored by Phil Bowen, Director of the Centre for Justice Innovation and Stephen Whitehead, of the New Economics Foundation, says some courts are coming up with their own improvements, but they are “still too few and far between”, and encounter obstacles when they try to make changes.

Mr Bowen said: “The criminal courts of England and Wales have many strengths but are under increasing pressure to reduce their cost. In this drive for efficiency, we believe the Government is in danger of forgetting the valuable role courts can play in reducing crime. This report sets out practical steps that courts can take to reduce crime, using existing resources and building on current practice.”

West Yorkshire Probation Trust has more than 11,000 offenders on its books, with around half on community orders, meaning the whole sentence is carried out in the community.

Director of Operations Mark Siddall said: “We have been delighted to work with West Yorkshire Courts to develop and implement Post Sentence Assessment to continue our innovative approach to cutting crime. The most recent Ministry of Justice statistics show that West Yorkshire’s reoffending rate is 11.23 per cent lower than the predicted rate. This is double the national fall in reoffending.”


But according to this comment left yesterday, there might have been early signs that Post Sentence Assessment and RARs were not the universal panacea after all:-
"A number of contributors have enquired about PSA effectiveness. I made some investigations of the two year re offending outcomes at the time, monitored by WY research staff and was advised that the details were supressed by MS due to the rather concerning situation (in his view) that PSA made no difference at all to effective supervision of service users!"

It was of course the introduction of OASys that virtually doubled the time it took to write a PSR, and I'm pretty sure Sue Hall had a close involvement in it's development, but apparently admitted at a staff conference she hadn't a clue how long it took to fill in. No wonder then that West Yorkshire unashamedly began to pitch PSA and RARs as a way of doing away with PSRs:-

Thursday 8 March Welcome to PCA 2012 Conference and PCA Update 
Sue Hall, PCA Chair

Leading and shaping the future of probation: presentation links

10.15 – 11.15 Parallel sessions: Innovation in probation
Post sentence assessment – a move away from PSRs Mark Siddall & Liz Mills (West Yorkshire PT

(That's enough on RARs - Ed)


  1. I heard that it was Sarah Jarvis;s brainchild as she was the wonderkinder at that time but that she quickly realised that there were some serious inbuilt flaws and quietly took a backward step.....

  2. Okay, so now what? Sentencers in both court arenas ought to be kicking up a stink about this, but are quietly complying. Jezza Wright & Grayling seem to have been the perfect tag team when it comes to fucking things up.

    Judges & magistrates - you have been hoodwinked, disarmed, humiliated & criticised during the last few years of (essentially) Tory "justice" policy. This RAR nonsense removed your access to intelligent pre-sentence information and thus left you sentencing blind & both arms tied behind your back. Alongside the equally stupid PSS the RAR has handed the power of the sentence to Grayling's chums in the private sector who, by running both community & custodial businesses, benefit all ways round. The NPS are allegedly the gatekeepers of this new procedure but, as far as I can tell, they don't have the staff - or the motivation to give a shit.

    Once over you, as sentencers, could request a detailed assessment of the defendant such that the professional, independent informed view of a Probation Officer could be considered in the context of the adversarial (& thus unforgiving) opinions from prosecution & defence. That might also include a professional opinion from a relevant specialist. At least then, as sentencers, you were handing down a sentence based upon known information.

    Now, it seems, you look at a series of tick boxes, ask a member of probation if the calculations are about right, get a nod of approval &, if I can directly quote a local court clerk who remains nameless, you "impose an order that requires someone to do stuff that has yet to be worked out, so when they come back here in breach we haven't a bloody clue what's happened."

    The politicians have neutralised the judiciary. Just look at Truss's contemptuous silence when elements of the press were lambasting the judges & inciting hatred.

    Sentencers, Rise Up and Be Heard!!!

    1. I think the sentencers have been heard.
      I know it's off topic, but it makes my blood boil. Everything's stripped back to the bone, prison budgets, public service pay, even travel expenses have been cut or abolished. There is no money, especially at the MoJ, where austerity cuts have cut deepest.
      But Liz Truss has obviously been down the back of the sofa. But don't tell anyone.


    2. Some of the country’s most senior judges have been awarded sweeping pay rises of 11 per cent in a deal quietly approved by ministers, it was revealed yesterday.

      The salary hikes, which follow a loud and public campaign by leading judicial figures, will add nearly £20,000 to the pay of a High Court judge this year, and more than £22,500 to that of an Appeal judge.

      They have been granted by Justice Secretary Liz Truss despite a continuing pay cap for other public sector workers which means that most are held down to rises of 1 per cent a year.

      The decision to give some of the highest-ranking judges a pay boost was said by Miss Truss’s officials to be ‘necessary to make sure we attract the very brightest talent and help stop our exceptional judges from leaving early.’

      But critics questioned the evidence that judges are quitting the bench and said the judiciary has been singled out for special favours that should not have been granted.

      Those who have been pressing for more pay include the country’s most senior judge, Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, who published a survey two weeks ago in which the most senior judges agreed their £200,000-plus salaries are ‘not reasonable’.

      Lord Thomas said that judges could not make as much money as barristers, from whose ranks most judges are drawn, and who in some cases earn millions in a year.

      ‘In the light of the substantially greater remuneration available to the most able practitioners in private practice, these matters are vital to our ability to attract candidates and retain judges of the highest calibre,’ the Lord Chief Justice said. Lord Neuberger, President of the Supreme Court, also joined the chorus of complaint.
      Lord Neuberger, who earlier this month declared that some press criticism was ‘undermining the judiciary for no good reason’, said in a speech this week that ‘there is no doubt that the heavy workload of a judge coupled with the increasing gap between judicial pay and the rewards of successful private practice means that appointment to the High Court is significantly less attractive than it was.’#

      The pay rises have been styled by Miss Truss as a ‘temporary recruitment and retention allowance.’
      They will go to an unknown number of the 25 Appeal Court judges and 100-plus High Court judges who are calculated to have lost out in reforms of the judicial pension scheme pushed through by David Cameron’s government in 2015.

      Other public sector workers have seen their pensions made less generous in recent years as ministers have tried to reduce high and rising costs to the taxpayer, and very few private sector employees have escaped major pension reductions over the past decade.

      But only judges have won any compensation for reductions to their pensions. Last autumn more than 200 judges took their pension complaints to an employment tribunal, with some represented by the controversial law firm Leigh Day, where a founder and another partner face misconduct charges over discredited claims of abuse by British troops in Iraq. An employment judge ruled in January that the reforms discriminated against younger judges.

      Miss Truss’ pay hikes will apply to judges who were affected by the pension changes, including those appointed to judicial posts since April 2012, or those who were in their jobs in April 2012 but aged under 51 years and six months at the time.

      High Court judges are now on £179,768, so with the new £19,774 allowance’ those who qualify will earn £199,542 this year. Court of Appeal judges get £204,695, so with the temporary allowance of £22,516 and they will if they meet the right criteria get £227,211 this year.

      The allowances will be paid up to June next year, when the Senior Salaries Review Board will publish a review of judicial pay, which is widely expected to be sympathetic to the judges’ claims.

    3. Am I right in thinking that making it an allowance also makes it tax free?

    4. Remember that heartwarming, tearjerking speech of 13 July 2016?

      "... When we take the big calls, we’ll think not of the powerful, but you. When we pass new laws, we’ll listen not to the mighty but to you. When it comes to taxes, we’ll prioritise not the wealthy, but you. When it comes to opportunity, we won’t entrench the advantages of the fortunate few..."

      Yeah, yeah, yeah. Fucking pisstakers.

    5. "We're all in it together" Cameron Swineshagger showed Tearjerker May how to do it properly. Thus from The Guardian:

      "David Cameron gave some of his special advisers bumper pay rises just months before they were given generous severance packages, it has been reported.
      The former prime minister upped the salary of some of his advisers by as much as £18,000 – or up to 24%, according to an analysis by Civil Service World."

      And our MPs' favourite regulatory body IPSA, which now legitimises their eyewatering expense claims, is pressing ahead with yet another MP salary rise in excess of the payfreeze for public sector staff until 2020. I need to check but I reckon this is the third increase for MPs since the public sector freeze - the first being 10%, then 1% a year later, now 1.4%. The greedy bastards are still claiming £££'s in expenses as well, despite the argument for the 10% increase being to drastically reduce the need for expense claims. And a fair few of their Lordships are enjoying £300 daily just for signing-in. But there's always money for HS2, new nuclear, outsourcing, pointless court hearings, bonuses & payrises for SENIOR civil servants & SpAds, etc.

      Well spotted Getafix.

    6. Checking complete and I was right. The basic annual salary for an MP was increased from £67,060 to £74,000 on 31 July 2015, backdated to 8 May 2015. From 1 April 2016 MPs received a 1.3% rise putting their basic at £74,962. Now they're due a further 1.4% (calculated on the £74,962 figure of course) putting their starting salary at £76,011. That's a £9,000 increase in two years, but with no reduction in expenses or allowances and they retain a generous final salary pension scheme.

      To be fair to their Lordships, if they feel they aren't pulling their weight they can opt to claim the semi-skimmed £150 daily allowance - which has a far lighter impact upon the public purse, of course, i.e. only a mere £750 a week as compared to the full-fat £1,500 a week.

  3. A really good comment. And, as ever looking for the hidden agenda, it's occurring to me.... Get rid of pre-sentence assessments and who needs those superfluous Judges and Magistrates...

  4. Liz and Mark - too wrapped up in their own self importance to have considered the consequences of their great idea. No reports, no interventions, more private companies unethically lining their pockets through electronic tags, and unpaid work; more failure, more jail, and a reduction in Public sector and compassionate justice.

    1. Unpaid Work now totally unethical.Priority is finding work that will bring in money per day.To be used towards the reduction in 're-offending.Yes right, I believe you.

  5. Unfortunately we are surrounded by people ( gov , management, Judges ) that are Narcissists with fragile egos , who are not willing to stand up and be counted and actually admit that TR is a total train wreck and that we need to get back to doing the job we were actually doing well before all this shoite in protecting the public and reducing re offending.