Sunday, 30 April 2017

Where Did It All Go Wrong?

I'm still ploughing through stuff kindly highlighted by readers while I was away last week, such as this:-
"Article in The Times today Thurs 27/4 citing report by criminal justice think tank Crest Advisory. 66% of magistrates lack confidence in community sentences. Less use made of community sentences in 2016 than in anytime in the past 13 years! Eg: Just over 100,000 orders made in 2016 compared to nearly 200,000 in 2006."
An astonishing statistic and in case there are still any doubters out there, here we have further evidence of just what a disaster the TR omnishambles has been:-

Community sentences: where did it all go wrong?

A study into the use of community sentences in England and Wales

Despite crime falling overall, our criminal justice system remains under pressure, particularly in our prisons, which are, in the words of the former Chief Inspector, ‘in their worst state for a decade’, with violence, overcrowding and self-harm higher than at any point on record.

The notion that community sentences can be a more effective, cheaper alternative to prison is supported by a strong body of evidence. At their best, sentences served in the community can offer a powerful tool for addressing the root causes of offending behaviour, reducing the rate at which an offender reoffends and thus lowering demand on the system overall.

Yet despite their obvious potential, community sentences are being used less than at any point over the last 15 years.

Where did it all go wrong? is the first systematic attempt in over a decade to understand what lies behind this phenomenon and reveals some of the reasons for this loss of confidence.

Crest Advisory has explored the current use of community sentences in the context of the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme and the ongoing and challenging fiscal context. Whilst there are no silver bullet solutions, the report sets out a number of measures the government could implement to make a difference.

Key findings:

The report reveals that community sentences:

  • are implemented in a way that bears little resemblance to the evidence of what works: they are neither intensive, swift, nor punitive enough to act as a proper deterrent. Most importantly, offenders are not held properly to account for complying with their sentence;
  • are failing to transform lives, acting as little more than a stepping stone on the path to prison: 35% of those sentenced to custody have received at least five previous community sentences;
  • have lost the confidence of magistrates: a new survey of magistrates commissioned for this report reveals that over a third of magistrates (37%) are not confident that community sentences are an effective alternative to custody, and two thirds (65%) are not confident that community sentences reduce crime. As one magistrate we interviewed put it: “It may be wonderful what is going on but we want to know what’s going on”.

The report recommends eleven policy changes, to do with sentencing reform, the role of magistrates, the role of probation and justice devolution:
  1. A ‘Project Hope’ for England and Wales
  2. Greater flexibility for magistrates to administer innovative punishments tailored to the offender/offence
  3. Amend sentencing guidelines to introduce a presumption of intensive community orders for young adult offenders facing custodial sentences of 12 months or less in magistrates’ courts
  4. Amend sentencing guidelines to remove the assumption that suspended sentence orders are less onerous than community orders
  5. Extend the power to undertake regular court reviews for prolific offenders serving short custodial sentences and/or community orders to all magistrates’ courts
  6. Enhance magistrates’ training to improve their understanding of community sentences
  7. Improve the quality of pre-sentencing advice
  8. Provide feedback about the outcome of sentences to magistrates
  9. Support greater transparency of community sentences, particularly the nature of unpaid work
  10. Require a new target to ensure that the NPS allocates cases to the CRC on the same day as the sentencing, and that requirements are commenced the week afterwards (or at least no later than a month after sentencing for specialist requirements)
  11. Enable PCCs and mayors to co-commission offender management services locally

About Crest

We are a team of policy, communications and brand specialists who care about building safer communities. We work with organisations across multiple sectors – helping them think, speak and act more clearly to improve criminal justice and policing. Unafraid to challenge, we take time to understand your needs and offer the right blend of support for you to navigate change and drive success.

Why are we different?

Because we know criminal justice and policing inside out, we provide bespoke advice tailored to your needs, rather than generic solutions. Our range of skills, perspectives and networks also means we are able to offer a unique blend of insight, analysis, communications and brand expertise. And with a team based across the UK, we are able to work alongside you in your communities.


Gavin Lockhart-Mirams
Managing Director

About Gavin

A specialist in criminal justice, Gavin has more than a decade of experience working with government, police and public safety organisations. He worked in No.10 Downing Street advising the British Prime Minister and worked closely with other governments to cut crime.

By combining his experience in management consultancy with public policy-development, Gavin founded Crest Advisory in 2011. As a father of two, Gavin is committed to making the world a better and safer place for all.

Key achievements

  • Senior policy adviser to the Prime Minister David Cameron on criminal justice, counter-terrorism, public services and crime.
  • Advised on ways to shift power to individuals and communities (including introducing legislation paving the way for elected police commissioners in 2012).
  • Pushed forward work to increase transparency across the justice system (for example publishing local crime data).


  1. Where did it all go wrong? Well Labour started to drive for privatisation and the Tories sealed the deal. Then Chis Grayling, the Ministry of Justice and the Probation Chief Officer group made it all happen.

    Why this push to give probation to PCC's and the Mayor? This 'Thinktank' stinks of the usual backhanders and corruption. Probation was doing fine until it was privatised. We all know that private-run Community Rehabilitation Companies are only after the money. To create profit the CRC's have continually reduced their capacity for delivering community sentences properly.

    The state-run National Probation Service is no better as it has dumbed-down probation as opposed to effectively resourcing it. Pre-Sentence Reports are mostly now a few pages or spoken on-the-day, qualified probation officers have been replaced by unqualified PSO staff and workers are leaving hand over fist. Where's the think tank report on why probation officers are not qualified social workers as they are in Scotland and the Youth Service, why probation staff being paid peanuts, that the majority no longer recognise the job and nobody knows what a RAR is!!!

    1. You know it's broken beyond repair when the broadsheets are carrying articles about the justice Secretary getting the boot even before the election has been run.
      I don't think there's any doubt she'll go, but I'm not enthused by the possible replacements being flagged up.
      Infact, I can't think of any member of the current government that's up to improving the system. Maybe Grayling could find himself back in the hot seat???

      ' Getafix

    2. The race to replace Liz Truss as Justice Secretary is already under way as allies of potential candidates anticipate a post-election reshuffle.

      Tory MPs have said that Ms Truss, who has repeatedly clashed with the judiciary, is “on borrowed time” and are discussing the merits of her possible replacements.

      Sir Oliver Heald, the justice minister, is seen as well placed given he has the trust of the judiciary after more than two decades of experience as a barrister and QC.

      Also considered frontrunners are Jeremy Wright, the Attorney General, and Dominic Grieve, chairman of the Commons Intelligence and Security Committee.

      Ms Truss has been involved in a series of damaging public rows with senior judges who questioned her suitability for the role of Lord Chancellor, the head of the judiciary.

      She has also been criticised over rising violence in Britain’s prisons and increasing probate fees on estates since taking over the Justice Department last July.

      A senior Tory told The Telegraph: “The general mood is that I don’t think people would be surprised if she went. She is on borrowed time.

      “There have been too many clashes with the judiciary. There is a sense she hasn’t got the weight and punch that you would expect in that job.”

      “She is a perfectly competent minister but in this particular role you need more than that.”

      Concerns are being raised about the suitability of Mr Wright, the Government’s most senior legal adviser, given his record as prisons minister under David Cameron.

      The number of prison guards was slashed when he held the role while a clampdown on sending books to prisons – which triggered a damaging public row – also happened under his watch.

      Sir Oliver, who was solicitor general , is seen by MPs as an “experienced barrister” who “knows the legal system through and through” and can heal the rift that has emerged under Ms Truss.

      He has been an MP since 1992 and held a series of front bench roles for the Conservatives under numerous party leaders.

      Mr Grieve, a former attorney general, is also being talked up but is believed to have clashed with Mrs May during her time at the Home Office.

      Allies of Ms Truss dismissed the speculation, saying no one should “put their money” on her being moved after the snap election.

  2. My social work qualification has served me well for 20 plus years. So much of what we do IS social work and will always be social work if we actually want to stand a chance in moving people away from crime. Bring back the social work qualification with probation emphasis and placements. Scotland were very wise to hold firm and avoid trying to fix what isn't broken! Would be great to hear from some colleagues in Scotland.

  3. Hacking things to pieces with the idea that austerity driven innovation and creativity, that only a profit orientated market in services could provide, would enable the sum of those part to coalesce once again as somehow greater or equal to the once whole always seemed bonkers to me.

  4. From The Canary April 28th:-

    Weeks before the general election, Scotland sends an almighty f*ck you to the Tories

    The Scottish government has just essentially fired all the private companies involved in benefit assessments. And coming weeks before the general election, the timing couldn’t be worse for the UK government.

    Jog on

    Holyrood is banning companies like Atos, Capita and Maximus from carrying out Scotland’s benefit assessments. Instead, the Scottish government will carry out assessments through its new Social Security agency. The Scotland Act, drawn up following the country’s 2014 referendum, gives Holyrood a new raft of powers. And the Scottish government is setting up the Social Security agency as part of those reforms.

    Speaking about the ban on private companies, Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman said:

    One of our fundamental principles is that profit should never be a motive nor play any part in assessing or making decisions on people’s health and eligibility for benefits…

    We are building a system based on dignity and respect – this means an assessment process which isn’t demeaning or deliberately difficult.

    I am very clear that assessments should not be carried out by the private sector and I want to give people in Scotland this assurance as we take forward our new social security agency.
    Pauline McNeill, social justice spokeswoman for Scottish Labour, applauded the plans. She said:

    People across Scotland have often suffered humiliating and damaging treatment at the hands of profit-driven companies – and it is absolutely right that will be brought to an end.
    Good riddance

    Private companies’ involvement with the benefit assessment system and the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is controversial. Initially administered by Atos, and later Maximus, the WCA decides the fate of benefit claimants. And private companies have raked in millions for carrying them out.

    In 2011, however, the Department of Work and Pensions’ (DWP) own figures showed that, during an 11-month period, 10,600 people died within or during a six-week period of undergoing the WCA. Studies have linked the test to hundreds of suicides, and thousands of cases of mental illness.

    Meanwhile, stories of how the DWP and these companies treat and assess claimants are shocking. Such as the DWP informing a dead woman she was too healthy for payments. Or interrogating a 7/7 survivor for ‘proof’ he had disabilities. Or declaring a woman ‘fit for work’ who can’t read, write, walk or talk. And assessors asking people why they haven’t killed themelves yet during assessments. The list goes on and on.

    Overhaul, not tweaks

    Of course, private companies’ involvement in the system isn’t the only issue. The UK currently has a government that has chosen for the system to work this way. But getting the profit motive out of assessments is a very productive step. It’s not one, however, that the Conservative government is likely to take.

    1. I think that's great. And the EU has just told the UK that in order to retain the same level of cooperation on security issues the UK will have to accept the jurisdiction of the European Court! And the Tories are engaged at the moment with a festering internal argument because 10 Tories have been hand picked to sit in safe seats that haven't been selected in the normal way!
      And let's not forget that some Torie MPs could be about to be prosecuted for illegally funded campaigns!
      Wouldn't it be great to see their faces if JC actually did win the election?

  5. Now that would be a day to celebrate! Scotland has the upper hand.

  6. These two articles just seem to go together.


  7. Draft New sentencing guidelines include this
    "Breach of a Community Order
    The guideline should remind sentencers to consider the offender’s individual circumstances, including the reasons for the breach taking place and any shortfall in the quality of supervision by probation services which may have contributed to the likelihood of a breach...." Just makes me want to weep

    1. "and any shortfall in the quality of supervision by probation services which may have contributed to the likelihood of a breach...."

      Both acknowledgement and acceptance that probation services are in such dire straights.

    2. Public recognition that probation is a failure, and badly managed. And this means every solicitor in the land will advise to contest the breach and will win on the basis ...

      "My client is supervised by the underperforming and under resourced NPS / CRC and cannot be considered to be at fault. Please see latest inspection report and released media articles for information".

      As soon as the precedent is set for community orders, this will be applied to recall oral hearings too.

    3. Where there's blame, there's a claim.

      Start checking your professional indemnity & public liability policies folks.

  8. In short, this new breach legislation means if you work for an underperforming CRC or NPS then anything that could lead to breach or recall is YOUR fault not the offender!!

    On the other hand we do accept this type of thinking when applied to underperforming schools and hospitals!!

    Taking it a bit further, should every released prison be able to blame their underperforming releasing prison every time they're arrested?

  9. The whole Criminal Justice System has been a political football for so long and kicked about so much the ball is now burst.
    Now no-one wants to play with a burst ball.
    Given the crisis that exists, whether probation or prisons or courts I think it very telling that no party has even mentioned crime or punishment during this election campaign.
    Match postponed?

  10. My balls burst along time ago but I have to fix them and pump them up before I head off to work each day. However they tend to be deflated again by the end of the day. Puncturevrepair kits will only go so far. What we need in CRC are a brand new set of balls and less of the bollocks we have now.

  11. At some point a case of corporate manslaughter is enevitable. Will this be the one?

  12. FT.

    The government has spent more than £11 million on utility bills for empty prisons over the past five years.

    The Ministry of Justice has paid £11,241,261 to provide heating, water and electricity to defunct prisons since 2012.

    The figures were revealed by Sam Gyimah, the prisons minister, in a written parliamentary answer.

    The government has closed a dozen jails since 2012 as ministers try to modernise the prison estate. Some, such as Shepton Mallet prison, which first opened as a jail in 1625, have been sold to developers but the rest remain owned by the government.

    Mr Gyimah said that the heating and electricity in defunct prisons was kept at a level necessary for the buildings’ upkeep: “Where the Ministry of Justice has closed prisons,…

  13. it all went wrong the day i became a civil serpent :(

    1. So it was a doddle for everyone sifted to the crc.

  14. I see that one of things the Labour Party are promising in this Election is the return to sector based collective bargaining. This, of course, is as a result of pressure from trade unions. Except for NAPO top table who want to go the other way.

  15. Totally off topic, but the article (and associated links) makes fascinating reading. But it also makes the blood boil!