Wednesday, 27 September 2017

'A Progressive Response to Rising Crime'

News of Tony Booth's passing serves to remind some of us with a few years under our belt of this and that over a long and varied career he played many roles. For those newer colleagues keen to understand how probation was done in the past, "was increasingly coming into focus as a progressive response to rising crime", I'd thoroughly recommend a trip down memory lane courtesy of the 3 disc set published earlier this year. 

ATV drama Probation Officer comes to DVD
An early hit for ATV, Probation Officer, starring John Paul and Honor Blackman aired on ITV from 1959 through to 1962.

Tony Booth appears in a later episode of Probation Officer from ATV

The saga is described as an ‘absorbing, rigorously researched drama’ which centres on the work of a team of probation officers based in London, and the lives of the men and women of all ages and backgrounds who come under their care.

Probation Officer sadly, like so many ATV programmes of the era, does not exist complete in the archive – this volume contains the twelve earliest surviving episodes from series one which was produced in the last year of the 1950s.

Drawing on the documentary skills of creator Julian Bond and produced by Emergency – Ward 10’s Antony Kearey, Probation Officer was broadcast at a time when the service was increasingly coming into focus as a progressive response to rising crime.

Guests include Alfred Burke of Public Eye fame, Susan Hampshire from Monarch of the Glen, Strange Report’s Charles Lloyd Pack, Richard Vernon as seen in Goldfinger and Peter Vaughan of Porridge fame.

Also in this first volume Earl Cameron and Lloyd Reckord star in a blistering tale of racism and intolerance which features one of the earliest interracial kisses ever broadcast on British television.

Probation Officer – Volume One (12) is released on the 30th of January 2017 with a RRP: £29.99. The three disc set has been complied from the ITV Studios archives by Network Releasing.


A reader has kindly sent me the following from a 1960's publication and quoting the actor Alfie Bass:-

In passing, one may note his praise of another commercial television programme, Probation Officer. John Paul was invited to take the role of a newcomer to probation work whilst working in Emergency Ward 10. If the show is little remembered now, it was one of the best "social reality" dramas produced in the 1950s and 1960s. John Paul had been a prisoner of war and had become interested in drama through involvement in shows produced within the prison camp. On demob, he secured a job with the Birmingham Repertory Theatre and there met his wife, Jean Kendall. Probation Officer, made in the days of black-and-white transmissions, showed a team practice, two older colleagues played by David Davies and John Scott. Great care was taken to reflect accurately the day-to-day life of probation work - including the frustrations and "brick walls" encountered in trying to elevate human attitudes and relationships. As with No Hiding Place, actual case-work was used as a basis for the programme. Many wrote to John Paul thanking him for his work; few people seemed to understand the nature of the probation service at that time, nor for that matter the kind of needs that many convicted people had. Alfie Bass complimented the programme for this, adding that he enjoyed seeing the programme "because it shows the background of many ordinary people's lives."                


  1. Just read the following article regarding the MoJs very troubled prison building program.
    I find it interesting that amongst the recommendations made by the prison reform trust is one that calls for a stop to the mandatory 12mth supervision of those sentenced to 12mths and under, and being replaced with a voluntary supervision period.
    Surely such a move would demonstrate an acknowledgement of the total failure of TR?


    1. Yes probably, but That could only be a good thing! It always should have been voluntary and amazed they ever managed to legally put this into practice.

  2. This has been mentioned on the blog some time ago, by several bloggers and is quite well known - I have a precious copy of this 1952 film about probation, called 'I Believe in You', with the Officer developing his knowledge and support of a wayward, unloved teenage boy. It was shown to us at uni, in 1992, when I was a student PO. Although it looked rather quaint and occasionally funny to us all, there was a very important message - to give your time to listen, understand and develop a 2 way trust, showing discipline and caring.

    My son scoured the web and found it in 'The Ealing Studios Rarities Collection', as one of 4 vintage films on a disc. Officers who care still exist, but Chris G, NPS and CRCs have made it virtually impossible for them to give the time that is needed in many cases, to gain trust and provide aid to lost and angry souls to turn their lives around. So desperately sad and frustrating.

    On a lighter note, Joan Collins was also in the film, as a cocky 18 year old!

  3. Probation "coming into focus as a progressive response to rising crime" - under a late Fifties/early Sixties Conservative administration. Where did it all go wrong (George)?

  4. Ryanair facing legal action for misleading passengers about their rights and not allowing them tobuse rival airlines as compensation. Is it not time that some of the failing CRC's faced similar legal action for misleading MOJ about how they would run the service during tendering bids? Also mistreatment of staff coping following sweeping cuts of up to 40 % as with , for example working links/ Aurelius? Also lack of effective service for the service users who agree to be placed on a community order when they are sentenced and are frequently getting a very poor service including supervision by phone only from inexperienced and unqualified staff, including many promoted admin staff? It amazes be that lawyers have not taken any test cases to court yet! For example ' our client wanted help and support to avoid further offending,we believed they would have face to face support from a qualified practitioner, what they ended up with was a phone call from a newly promoted admin assistant once a month..this increased their risk of offending and we now seek damages'.

    1. What's even more shocking is that the companies that are continually failing in outsourced public service contracts are just handed more and more contacts to syphon off tax payers money.

      Makes you wonder who's got shares in them?

    2. South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust has appointed Sodexo as its new soft services provider.

      The three-year contract, due to start in January 2018, will see Sodexo provide cleaning services to the trust’s community sites as well as patient dining and retail services at Springfield and Tolworth hospitals.

      Sodexo will work in partnership with the trust to support its clinical and financial goals, creating safe, clean environments; serving nutritious meals; and delivering caring, high quality and cost-effective services.

      The trust serves 1.1 million people across the London boroughs of Kingston, Merton, Richmond, Sutton and Wandsworth, employing more than 2,000 staff who provide care and treatment to around 20,000 people from south-west London and beyond at any given moment.

    3. Troubled support services firm Interserve was today handed a lifeline by the government, winning a place on an £8bn panel to build houses on public sector land.

      Earlier this month, Interserve delivered a double whammy of bad news, wiping 50 per cent of its market capitalisation away in a matter of minutes.

      Interserve warned costs to exit its troublesome waste business were spiralling out of control and revealed more general "disappointing trading" over the summer months.

      Today's announcement allows Interserve to bid for contracts in redeveloping state-owned land over the next four years.

      Investors welcomed the news with Interserve's shares jumping over four per cent in early trading.

      Interserve managing director Gordon Kew said the acceptable onto the framework "highlights our ability to deliver complex projects for our customers".

      "We look forward to advising panel users from the very start of their procurement journey to help solve problems, add value and ultimately deliver quality developments that achieve both time and cost savings,” he said.

      The redevelopment framework is part of a government initiative that has already delivered 45,000 homes across 250 sites. The latest four-year framework was launched at the end of July and doubles the amount of money available for investment from £4bn to £8bn.

  5. We rarely hear news about the challenges faced by colleagues in Scotland or NI. They have a different system in that its social work linked (it'll never catch on!) but they are still probation colleagues. This was a recent story from NI:

    "Sinn Fein is calling for threats from dissident republicans on Probation Service staff to be lifted immediately.

    Cllr Gerry Kelly made the call after it was revealed that staff in Northern Ireland have been told to review their security.

    Mr Kelly said: "This is a threat against staff, all of whom are social workers and over 70 per cent of are women.

    "The Probation Service plays an important role within the justice system, particularly in terms of preventing reoffending and keeping communities safe. They also assist in the rehabilitation and re-integration of former prisoners back into a more positive role in the community.

    "That is in stark contrast to the actions of the groups issuing these threats because they bring nothing but fear and misery to communities.

    "They should withdraw it immediately and they should get off the backs of our communities once and for all."

  6. News report from Dec 2015:

    - A Working Links spokesman said: “After careful consideration, we are starting to streamline our support services across the business and have opened up opportunities for voluntary redundancy for those wishing to leave our CRCs. This will be an enhanced package and it is our aim, wherever possible, to avoid compulsory redundancies. We are consulting with the unions and our people on our proposed new way of working across the organisation. At this stage we are simply looking for expressions of interest of those people who may wish to leave the organisation. Our front line delivery will not be negatively impacted by our proposed changes.”

    Sounds very reasonable *trying hard not to choke on breakfast*

    ¿I wonder how all those 'enhanced packages' worked out?

    1. Working links speak with forked tongue. They even had tbe audacity to admit they lied to us about not being bankrupt when they were taken over by aurelius. I heard this for first time at their ridiculous vanity project or travelling circus called 'the big picture'. I wouldn't believe a word they say.