Friday, 10 March 2017

SFO Lessons to Learn 5

The latest from Carl Eve of the Plymouth Herald:-

Breakthrough in Tanis mum's fight for justice following Westminster summit

The mother of Tanis Bhandari has claimed a breakthrough in her quest for justice following a summit with the Justice Minister. Andrea Sharpe took her fight to the House of Commons on Monday after Plymouth MP Johnny Mercer raised concerns over the case – initially highlighted by a series of articles in The Herald.

And as a result the Justice Minister will examine two reports into the death of Tanis Bhandari by the police and probation service. The report's findings – published in The Herald on the second anniversary of the Tamerton Foliot builder's death – highlighted a catalogue of systemic and human failures which led to one of Tanis' killers being granted bail, despite being caught threatening people in the street with meat cleavers two weeks before the murder.

Andrea said that during her meeting with Liz Truss, the Justice Minister said she would ask Michael Spurr, the CEO of the National Offender Management Service, to carry out a personal report on the Dorset, Devon and Cornwall Community Rehabilitation Company (DDC CRC).

The CRC oversaw Donald Pemberton's supervision after he was released from a Youth Offending Institution. He was later jailed for life alongside his co-accused Ryan Williams for the murder of Tanis, causing grievous bodily harm to three other men and actual bodily harm to another man.

Working Links, which runs the DDC CRC, controversially won the government's contract to manage low and medium risk offenders while the remaining Probation Service monitored high risk offenders. Andrea said at the meeting Mr Mercer crystallised the issues raised from the reports and the concerns of Tanis's family.

Andrea said: "Liz Truss said she would ensure Michael Spurr carried out a review. I got the impression it would be top to bottom." With the assistance of Mr Mercer, who detailed the battle Tanis' family have had to find out key information about the monitoring of Pemberton, Andrea explained how she had still to see the full Serious Further Offence report on decisions and actions taken by staff at Plymouth's DDC CRC office.

She said: "She seemed really shocked that it wasn't common practice to pass on this information. Johnny took over for me because I think I just ran out of steam at one point and it was a very long day. He went over the case for Liz Truss. I told her what it was like for the family, having to fight for the truth all the time, how the government had even lost my Freedom of Information request to get the full report. She got straight on to that and sent someone out straight away to find out what had happened. I came out on a high really [from the meeting]. Hopefully, I feel that somebody is listening to me."

The Freedom of Information request mirrored that submitted by Nadine Marshall, from South Wales, who Andrea recently met to compare their similarly tragic experiences. Her son Conner Marshall was battered to death in March 2014 by David Braddon. At the time Braddon was being monitored by another CRC run by Working Links after he was convicted of assaulting a police officer and drug offences.

Her own battle with the authorities, which included campaigns by the local MP, a petition and Freedom of Information request eventually saw them handed the full Serious Further Offence report which revealed that Braddon's supervision was unworkable and he should have been sent back to court.

The two mothers now remain in constant communication, exchanging support and advice, in an effort to see an improvement in the system which failed their sons. Andrea said Nadine texted her on Monday as she travelled to London, alerting her to yet another case where a young man had been murdered by a person under probation supervision.

The recent conviction of Rhys Barnes, from Newport, who admitted the murder of 36-year-old Rhys Jones, who died of his injuries last November, has again given weight to the call by victim's families for more transparency.

Rhys Jones was killed five days after Barnes had been released from prison. At the time of the murder Barnes was being supervised by the National Probation Service after his release from prison, having been assessed as a high risk to his family and a medium risk to the public. He had been readmitted to prison at the beginning of November for breaching supervision conditions, but five days after coming out, he murdered Rhys Jones following a row about a girlfriend.

A report by the BBC on Monday morning saw David Hanson, Labour MP for Delyn and a member of the justice select committee in Westminster, say it was important families and the public knew what went wrong in cases such as these. He said: "That means that the report has to be published for the victim, but also for those like myself who take an interest to make sure the system is working well."

Following her meeting with the Justice Minister Andrea said: "I got the feeling that there would now be a whole new investigation – at least I hope that's how I understood it. Johnny Mercer has been asked to speak with the IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission) about the bailing of Pemberton. Liz Truss seemed quite shocked that the police decided to give him bail on that night. She's also asked to see fresh copies of both the internal police investigation [into the circumstances surrounding Tanis' death] and the DDC CRC report into the decisions made. She wants to read them both."

Andrea was joined by her daughter Brooklyn in the public gallery of the Commons as Johnny Mercer paid tribute to her efforts and noted the government's assurance that it had taken steps to prevent errors in the recording of licence conditions on the Police National Computer. He went on to ask if the Justice Department would: "work with families to ensure that they get the support they need so that cases like that of Tanis Bhandari cannot happen again?"

Brandon Lewis, Minster for Policing and the Fire Service said the "process around post-sentence supervision has changed following the implementation of the Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014" but added that he was "always willing, as, I know, are colleagues at the Ministry of Justice – I think my hon. Friend has arranged for the family to meet the Secretary of State for Justice later today – to look at what more we can learn from the experiences of today and the past.

Andrea told The Herald Mr Mercer had suggested a further meeting, involving Michael Spurr of NOMS, to which she would be invited to attend.


  1. The NPS are side lining Snr Probation Officers, last heard in Teams of 3/4 to investigate serious further offences. There are so many numbers of these to justify this shift since the privatisation of Probation Services. There is no transparency here and the Government will never admit the breakdown in supervision arrangements for offenders is due to the need to save money to pay shareholders of C.R.Cs. The rise in serious crime by known offenders committing S.F.Os will only increase while boxes are ticked instead of face to face contact, structured support mechanisms and strict monitoring. All of this provided pre 2014 by a Gold service by trained, vetted and qualified staff without profit target considerations. Serious Further Offences are increasing and innocent victims pay the price sadly.

  2. WL delivering ' In Touch' telephone case management to lower risk cases. How is this working out in practice? Remember what SFO stats reveal - more likely for lower risk cases to commit SFO's. How can you monitor for subtle changes in acute risk factors over the phone? When individuals have regular face to face human contact, it's possible to see if someone's deteriorating e.g losing weight through substance misuse, not taking care of themselves through depression, rough-sleeping etc.

    As transformation comes to an end in WL CRC's, how capable are the new operational models of protecting the public?

    1. Not sure about this. Low risk equals no identifiable risk of causing serious harm. Granted low risk does not equal no risk. I would question thoroughness of assessment in order make low risk defensible. I would question pressure to reassess as low risk under circumstances. I would question quality of intervention to reduce risk of reoffending as being meaningful. My concerns were about high caseloads of medium risk of harm and ability to therefore manage these cases particularly domestic abuse and safeguarding. Areas which have been identified as lacking in inspection reports. Tick box approach in these cases not defensible. Comment made with respect and as part of wider debate.

    2. The Manchester inspection has already revealed that the CRC is not protecting the public. As with regards the interchange model it is not being implemented, even if it was its a load of bollocks, so the answer to your question anon 15:56 is that the operating models are NOT fit or capable of protecting the public and are only designed to make profits.

    3. Because monthly reporting is so effective- hi everything alright? brilliant ok cheers bye.

    4. Unfortunately the uncomfortable truth is that we have been ticking the superficial monitoring/reporting box for years. Telephone contact is just another way to tick a box but more efficiently. Don't kid yourself that seeing someone monthly will manage risk effectively - some of the best officers miss small risk changes when they see someone weekly. This is about defensible decisions not intensity/ type of contact with LR cases.

  3. Liz Truss - the 'buck has to stop with you'. Prove defensiblity of 'defensible decisions'. Stop cowering under your 'rhetoric' - you are responsible for the criminal justice system. Mere 'minions' like myself and my colleagues are fed up of 'towing the company line'. How can staff adhere to intrinsic values when the pay masters show lack of respect to anything other than balance sheets.

    Probation staff still in practice deserve so much more respect and praise than acknowledged by the whole society for struggling against restrictive policy and organizational forces never encountered before.

  4. Unfortunately 19:58 the Interchange model within CGM CRC is going to be rolled out again , even though like you said it's absolutely shoite ( I think your actual words were " a load of bollocks " ) !!!! Case managers are going to be out through their paces as it seems that they're in the firing line after the Inspection ( yet again it seems being blamed for being ineffective ) - SCM's are going to be responsible for the training of said staff - CM's are being expected to not only manage a case load but also be put through core skills training ( pass or fail accredited programme training ) with the expectation that not only will they hold case loads but also run all groups accredited and otherwise - resulting in an impossible task of being able to effectively risk manage the low to medium case they supervise , a great deal of which are DV cases - due to this stress levels are on the increase leading on to the fact that Interserve has introduced a new sickness policy ( 01/03/17 ) which it seems will allow them to " get rid of staff " much sooner than previously legistated that have been on sick leave that they deem not fit for work !!!!.
    It's absolutely soul destroying to listen to the powers that be bang on about " innovative ways of working " ( what the hell this means is totally beyond me ) - management seem to think that having all this new technology will enable staff to work more effectively - to date it's been nothing but a f*****g hinderence.
    I would like to hope that with the strength and bravery of the two mother's Andrea Sharpe and Nadine Marshall who were unfortunate to have tragically lost their boys that someone will stand up, take notice and responsibility for the mess that we are experiencing on both sides ( CRC and NPS ) of the criminal justice system - I know I'm probably hoping / dreaming for the impossible but it's the one thing the corrupt bastards can't take away !!

  5. I am a little encouraged by what I read from those two mothers who alongside such folk as Dean Saunder's family (prisoner who died at Chelmsford) seem to be doing the monitoring that Parliament were obligated to do, but failed.

    I also feel a sense of shame at my failure to campaign, as the ultimate effects of the probation split and wider mismanagement by Government of Criminal Justice are being painfully experienced and slowly exposed by the victims.