Thursday, 18 May 2017

Probation Reforms in the News

Criminal justice matters don't seem to be featuring much so far in the election campaign, but here's two stories that might help, the first from the Daily Mail:-

Ten criminals a WEEK commit a serious offence - including sexual and violent crimes - while they are on probation

Ten criminals a week are committing serious violent and sexual offences while supposedly being monitored by the authorities. The public is being put at risk by offenders who are meant to be under supervision in the community but end up before the courts accused of crimes including murder, rape, kidnap and robbery.

Some 1,021 serious further offence (SFO) reviews have been triggered since February 2015 after the Government introduced its flawed probation revolution. A review is carried out when a prisoner is charged with a major crime while being watched by the struggling probation services.

The findings will be embarrassing to the Ministry of Justice, which shook up the regime for managing offenders in the community in 2014. David Spencer, of the Centre For Crime Prevention think-tank, said: ‘It is shocking that so many dangerous criminals are being released to offend again. Probation should be solely reserved for low-level offenders.’

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: ‘Failures in the new system mean innocent people are being left in danger. Unless the Government is willing to substantially invest in our prison and probation services then the crisis will only get worse.’

Bob Neill, who was Tory chairman of the justice select committee in the last Parliament, said: ‘We need to look much more carefully at how we follow up on people who are on community supervision.’

Ian Lawrence of Napo, the probation officers’ union, said thousands of staff had been laid off since the ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ shake-up. This meant staff increasingly supervising offenders remotely.

He said: ‘Offenders are being phoned up and asked, “Have you committed a crime since I last spoke to you?” The lack of face-to-face meetings mean people fall back into their old cliques, and struggle to turn their lives around. The so-called rehabilitation revolution has been an abject failure.’

Plaid Cymru’s Liz Saville Roberts, who unearthed the figures, said: ‘We are approaching an average of 100 Serious Further Offence reviews a month. The Government cannot seriously claim the system is working.’

The statistics, which run from February 2015 to January 2017, were dragged out of the Ministry of Justice using Parliamentary questions.

The Transforming Rehabilitation overhaul created a National Probation Service to deal with high-risk offenders, with the remainder assigned to 21 partly-privatised Community Rehabilitation Companies. The reforms saw all prisoners sentenced to a year or less having 12 months of supervision on release. The extra 50,000 individuals being supervised represent an increase of around 25 per cent.

Under a payment-by-results scheme, the CRCs check whether criminals are complying with court requirements and help rehabilitate them. Justice Secretary Liz Truss has ordered a review of probation privatisation. A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: ‘Keeping the public safe remains our absolute priority.’


Selected comments confirm that it would be wrong to characterise all Daily Mail readers in a particular way:-

Successive governments have slowly destroyed the probation service. Staff have been deskilled, demoralized and dumbed down. Probation assistants have been employed in place of probation officers. They are less skilled at understanding and managing risk. 20 years ago an offender had weekly meetings where they were challenged (and helped) over finding accommodation, employment and turning their lives around. Today, supervision is classed as turning up outside the office, scanning your hand on the scanner and going home. The justice system is a box ticking excercise.

It is very worrying that even though the government were warned in advance that this was the likely outcome of these so called reforms, they choose to ignore the advice of the professionals doing the job on the frontline. If the press were any way serious about these stories they would put some of their best investigative journalists on the case. If you really want to know what the Judges or Magistrates think why not ask them. The answers will making interesting script. The public concern should now NHS." Watch this space!"

Sorry, forgot to mention, rumour has it that the private companies are all failing their targets, have returned to the MOJ for a re-think/re-drawing up of the contracts. The information already known about failures is damning. The review is likely to be hidden form the general public and slipped out in the summer to avoid media scrutiny.

This is an example of the worst kind of risk management driven by the desire to save money. The government is fully aware that under the current system, from time time, such things are bound to happen but they weigh this against the extra cost of a more robust system.

Not a very in depth analysis by the Daily Mail. There are undoubtedly flaws in the system, caused to a large extent by the changes initiated by Chris Grayling when he was Justice Secretary, and there are bits of poor practice by supervising officers. However the Community Rehabilitation Companies only supervise offenders who have been assessed as being low risk. If they committ a serious offence, this is likely to be unpredictable and so blame cannot really be ascribed to the CRC. Criminal behaviour is not always predictable - murders tend to be committed by people who have never been in trouble before.

Well what do you expect when you take 24% out of the Prison and Probation system, cut real officers on the beat and the situation isn't helped by those on probation being thrown off benefits at a whim in an already wary employer and housing market . There have been many noteable people that have reformed their character, shown regret and taken the world forward, would hate to think the world missed out on the next Mandela because they fell through a preventable trap.


From Private Eye:-


  1. Hope earlier anon doesn't mind re-post of their comment from previous blog:

    "Anonymous18 May 2017 at 06:14

    Go here to see Liz Saville Roberts' questions & Sam Gymiah's answers:

    *** 1,021 SFO reviews in England (529NPS+435CRC) & Wales (33+24) over the two year period 1/2/15 to 31/1/17... that's about ten a week over 104 weeks ***

    Anyone able to provide contrasting figures for 2013-2015, 2011-2013, 2009-2013?"

    1. So, 562 SFOs for NPS & 459 for CRC. Not very representative of the artificial layers of "risk" per the "sifting" of cases on a 30/70 NPS/CRC basis. But the risk-industry was always a dodgy route n my view, as was the culture of the risk exciteable practitioner &/or the risk averse manager. None offered helpful ways forward.

      These figures simply expose the futility of using a 'risk' hierarchy as a means of determination of the likelihood that something serious will happen.

      And the CRCs are NOT properly resourced to manage the situation, however you look at it. Mostly because they have chosen to jettison skilled experiencd staff, reduce budgets, cut corners, etc. But also because they've been seriously misled by the MoJ and their tame academics who peddled the myths of risk management hierarchy.

  2. I've head that one of the recently departed ACOs in London has written an expose on MTCNOVO and London CRC. This could make for interesting reading.

    1. If true and not just yet another rumour or bit of 'fake news', it'll be the first time any senior exiting officer has been willing to put their head publicly above the parapet. I won't be holding my breath.

    2. Definitely true. I've spoken to the person myself. They're looking at submitting to the Guardian. This person actually has morals.

    3. The person may have morals and/or wish for revenge. Departed/pushed out/chose to leave? But what can that person say that hasn't already been said. Look at the private eye article above. That gives quite a true insight into all the chaos. Maybe the scale of the chaos will be revealed, not just examples of the chaos. Maybe the extent to which people in high places lied to each other and to their employees? But however scandalous, however revealing of the official corruption and depravity who will bat an eyelid? Who will take responsibility for making the changes needed? Who will create the long term strategy or the financial investment required to create a criminal justice system fit for purpose?

  3. A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: ‘Keeping the public safe remains our absolute priority.’
    Any second now, a Ministry of Justice IT operative will kick the gramophone, the needle will jump, and the next press coverage of the probation omnishambles will end with the words "A Ministry of Justice spokesman said 'A strong and stable justice system is our highest priority'"

  4. I am the reporter who wrote the Private Eye article.
    If anyone would like to get in touch, you can contact me on: