Thursday, 26 October 2017

'Dogs Bark, But the Caravans Move On'

10 Reasons why the Panorama programme won't change anything

Last nights Panorama programme, (take note Working Links and MTCnovo - it's available for 12 months on i-player), although extremely hard-hitting and authoritative, was always going to be a tall order when trying to cover the whole of the TR omnishambles in just 30 minutes. To those of us whether 'in the know' or just casual observers, the case is clearly proved beyond doubt, but it won't make the slightest difference I'm afraid and here's why:- 

1) You just lie. The justification for 'reforming' the gold standard probation service according to the MoJ was "the right thing to do because 40,000 more offenders are now being supervised". This is an outright lie because they're not, a situation confirmed by inspections and even admitted on the official MoJ website thus:- 
"Offenders sentenced to less than 12 months also serve the second half in the community but are not actively supervised by Probation."
This from a joint inspection and quoted in the Guardian:-
“None of the early hopes for Through the Gate have been realised,” they said. “The gap between aspiration and reality is so great, that we wonder whether there is any prospect that these services will deliver the desired impact on rates of reoffending.”
“The overall picture is bleak,” they conclude. “If Through the Gate services were removed tomorrow, in our view the impact on the resettlement of prisoners would be negligible.” 
2) Never admit mistakes. When a minister in the shape of Chris Grayling decides that probation needs 'reforming', forces the policy through and it's subsequently confirmed to be an utter disaster, who has the bottle to admit it? There's simply too much invested in pretending everything is ok. It's fixed, isn't it?

3) Only admit mistakes when there's political advantage. Contrast the situation now with that reported in the Guardian in June 2009:-  
The brutal murder of the two French biochemistry students in June last year followed a catalogue of grave failings by the Probation Service, the police and practically every other part of the criminal justice system. The disclosure that Dano Sonnex was out on a parole licence after serving an eight-year sentence for violence and robbery at the time he committed the murders is a devastating blow to the London Probation Service.
It comes just three years after an official inquiry report into the murder of the Chelsea financier, John Monckton, found that there had been a "collective failure" and numerous blunders by probation and parole staff. The internal Probation Service reviews into the Sonnex case led to the resignation of David Scott, the chief probation officer for London, at the end of February, after allegedly being told by the justice secretary, Jack Straw, that he did not want a repeat of the Haringey social services fiascos.
4) Hide the truth. The government are fully aware that TR has been an unmitigated disaster because they've conducted a 'Probation System Review':-
"Darren Tierney has joined the NOMS Agency Board as the Probation System Review Senior Responsible Owner (SRO). CRC contracts became operational in February 2015 and the Probation System Review has been set up to assess progress against the objectives set out in the Transforming Rehabilitation Programme. The initial phase of the review has been undertaken by a small team led by Andrea Torode working to David Hood. This has found that while overall CRC performance has been steadily improving against the measures in the contract, actual case volumes are different to those which had been anticipated; there is variation in quality of delivery; and progress in some areas (such as Through the Gate support) is less than expected. The next phase of the review involves detailed engagement with CRC Providers to improve current arrangements."
and it's so damning, they simply refuse to publish it, despite the best efforts of Bob Neill, the Chair of the Justice Committee.

5) Everything is now secret. Since the imposition of TR and privatisation of 70% of the probation service, 'commercial sensitivity' and immunity from FOI requests effectively means the contracts can be 'renegotiated' at any time and the failing CRCs given shed-loads more tax-payers cash in secret. None of this is open to scrutiny and therefore informed challenge. This from Huffington Post:-
"An additional £37m was handed to Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) last year in a move branded a “bung” by probation union Napo and “rewarding failure” by Labour."
6) Everyone is in fear. Any employee of either the civil service in NPS or failing private CRCs cannot speak openly for fear of 'conduct likely to bring the service into disrepute', and thus effectively ensuring shit gets swept under the carpet and the public are provided with a polished PR image of everything being just fine and dandy. This from Helga Swidenbank, CEO MTCnovo on getting wind of the Panorama programme:- 
"The programme makers have put a number of allegations to us about London CRC's work which we have responded to. We have been working with them to present a more accurate account of the work that London CRC is doing to improve its probation services in London. I will update you once the programme has aired and respond to any specific allegations that are actually broadcast.

In the meantime, please remember that if you are approached by the media, you must not answer their queries or give them information about any of MTCnovo's organisations, employees or service users without first speaking to the MTCnovo Communications Team."
(It was revealed on the Panorama programme that two members of staff have been suspended.)

7) Try and keep control of HMI. Inspectors have an irritating habit of tending to be independent-minded, uncover what's going on and say it as it is. Despite sound advice and an earlier indication, I understand the MoJ are now refusing to let HMI have a major role in SFO investigations. I wonder why? This from Inspectorate website:-  
"From April 2017, HMI Probation will be responsible for reviewing work with offenders who are under current or recent supervision by providers of probation services, and who have been charged with a specified Serious Further Offence (SFO). Reviews will be published following conviction for an SFO."
8) Ignore Parliamentary scrutiny. The House of Commons Justice Committee are tasked with over-seeing the work of the MoJ and are in the process of inviting evidence for their inquiry into the effects of TR. Despite having both impressive powers and cross-party support in trying to root out the truth, history confirms that anything negative merely gets ignored by government and any responses are just so much warm words and meaningless waffle, like this from David Lidington about prison reform:-

"I also wanted to take this opportunity to reassure you that I am firmly committed to making prisons places of reform and rehabilitation, which support offenders to turn their lives around. I acknowledge that the current prison system has faced significant challenges in recent years. The prison estate is old and costly to maintain or modernise. Across the last five years numbers of operational staff have decreased while we have seen a significant increase in prisoner use of new psychoactive substances. Levels of violence, self-harm and self-inflicted deaths have also risen. A combination of these factors means leaders and their staff focus on immediate priorities and, as a result, many prisons have been unable to offer as effective a regime for prisoners as they would like."
"You will notice in our response to your recommendations that action is being taken to develop the performance management of prisons. Alongside this, extensive engagement with governors and staff is helping to direct our empowerment policies to ensure they are fit for purpose. Furthermore, it is important to me to increase confidence in the prison system and the reforms that are taking place. Publication of data will be essential to that goal and as you will see from our response, we are making plans to publish evaluation results and action plans as the reforms are implemented."

"It is my priority to continue building on the essential reforms that are already underway and to address the significant challenges to safety within our prisons. As set out in the White Paper, the reforms that have been proposed are radical and I am very aware of the need to monitor the progress of these reforms. We are currently developing an update to the 2016 White Paper which will outline what we have achieved since November 2016 and it will also set out our priorities and plans for further reform over the next 12 months. Alongside this 12-month forward look, we will soon be publishing a prison safety strategy and action plan that focuses on further enhancing our approach to making our prisons safe. This will include further detail on the Offender Management in Custody model which is key to our vision to improve safety in prison, and will help us to develop rehabilitative prisons that deliver a supportive environment for offenders."

9) It's all too difficult. The subject of probation is simply too complicated to explain easily to a mostly disinterested public, there's no sexy tv drama and as a consequence, the media either shy away from talking about it, or get things hopelessly wrong, like this from the first paragraph of an Independent article recently and still not corrected because the 'caravan moves on' :-
"Concerns have been raised over a major shake-up of probation after new figures revealed a sharp rise in offenders being sent back to custody for breaching bail."
10) Terrible to say, but nobody seriously famous has been murdered yet. 


  1. I felt rather depressed by the end of this programme (like I was in a cheerful criminal justice frame of mind before: not). A half hour panorama programme was never going to change anything. Unless the catastrophe is epic a news piece wont do diddly. But: Its more a yardstick: the cock up is big enough to warrant a Panorama programme. I do believe change will happen now. Whether it is in the right direction (and if I had the choice, we wouldn't be starting from here) is the question that bothers me.

    1. It's true there's no sexy TV drama, and Panorama couldn't cover all the failings in half an hour, but it has prompted the Sun to publish;
      "Everything you need to know about probation."
      I guess it's indictitive of the lack of understanding by the public and the press to the CJS, and if I might also say, if I was a probation officer, I would be sorely offended by the article.


    2. We tend to be a 'Sun-free' zone here, but clearly the author has constructed this short piece following a similarly limited internet trawl:-

      "Probation is the suspension of a jail sentence that allows a person convicted of a crime the chance to remain in the community, instead of going down."

      Love the pic:-

      "The Central Criminal Court of England and Wales, commonly known as the Old Bailey"

    3. No doubt the pic will please those who wanted more pictures in the Napo Journal.

  2. It looks like Tierney was with MOJ for 9 months only, he has published this about himself: -

    "Director General (interim)
    Company Name Ministry of Justice UK
    Dates Employed May 2016 – Jan 2017 Employment Duration 9 mos
    Location London, United Kingdom

    Interim DG for prison reform."

    1. To complete the picture of this busy little bee:

      Department for International Trade (DIT)
      Director of Strategy
      January 2017 – Present (8 months) | London, United Kingdom

      Cabinet Office
      Director - Civil Service Strategy and Efficiency
      August 2015 – Present (2 years 1 month)

      Ministry of Justice UK
      Director General (interim)
      May 2016 – January 2017 (9 months) | London, United Kingdom
      Interim DG for prison reform.

    2. Interesting ... the Modernisation Fund is administered & approved by the Cabinet Office. Now how lucky was that?

  3. I think the blog piece is a good summation of the situation, thank you.

    I am not very optimistic about the House of Commons Justice Select Committee really getting down to sufficient detail so they can come up with a plan they can put to Parliament who are the ultimate cause of the difficulties because they legislated as the Government wished in 2014 and have not rectified matters since.

    I note that Richard Burgon Shadow Secretary of State for justice has been busy on Twitter but I have not seem anything sufficiently detailed to convince me Labour have a well resourced plan to fix matters.

    I am a Labour Party Member and have not seen anything via the Party either though I have not looked particularly hard, maybe you dear reader have better information about the Labour plans?

  4. If it was the case that murders and mismanagement were unknown to probation, then I guess the Panorama programme would have been apocalyptic, but that is not the case. New probation will simply claim that lessons have been learnt and progress is being made. Individual tragedies and examples of incompetence will not bring down new probation. As long as there is money to be made the CRCs will stick around. And politicians like the private sector - it's a long list of them that have pocketed thousands and enjoyed junkets while doing consultancy work. These companies knows it pays to pay politicians. At root, it's all about money. A4E are still on the gravy train despite being labelled not fit for purpose at various times.

  5. Nowt will change, other than Wanky Gits & MTVRobo or whatever they're called will just be given more cash & more opportunities to take the piss.

    Remember how g4s & serco ripped us off over tags? Banished? Tarnished? Nope. Now they're going to be the New Police. This from 38degrees:

    "G4S and Serco could be about to get police powers of arrest. They’ve ripped off taxpayers and been accused of abusing people in their care - soon they could be carrying handcuffs and turning up on doorsteps to arrest people.

    The minister for Justice, David Lidington, is deciding right now whether to give powers of arrest to G4S and Serco as part of a police privatisation plan. So far the public has been shut out of the decision, but with our liberty on the line, it’s time to make our voices heard."

    1. Once G4s or Serco get powers to target, arrest and detain individuals, is it too far a stretch to assume that CRC private companies are extended the same powers to 'police' those they supervise?


    2. A perfectly reasonable assumption, Getafix, especially when transferred to the jurisdiction of the PCC.

      Quick, get those megaprisons built!! We'll have the greatest prison population in the whole wide world.

    3. or Superjail

  6. Ref David Hood (point4):

    "We are pleased to announce that David Hood will be appointed as the Managing Director of MTCnovo in mid-October 2017. David will join us from management consultants Veracity, prior to this he worked at the National Offender Management Service (NOMS)."

  7. John Wiseman Stinking Links reaches a new low by emailing all staff to tell them they have to get their Managers permission if they want to attend union meetings in case it impacts on operations. This is a man who claims to support and is willing to work with the Unions. Methinks he lies,

  8. It might be helpful if this report is provided to the Justice Committee to support their investigation. I don't think hope should be lost until that avenue has been pursued. At some point someone has to open their eyes and see what is happening with Wonky Legs, MTC Novo etc.

  9. A message to the public (not one that we are able to communicate successfully, regrettably), 'THEY ARE LYING TO YOU!.'

  10. And this today from SWM NAPO Branch...are RRP trying to screw us over?
    Members may be aware that RRP commenced consultation, in July 2017, with the recognised Trade Unions on harmonising a number of policies across SWM and DNLR including the redundancy policy.

    Napo and senior management agreed a timeline for completion of this by the end of September 2017, following the termination of the uplift element by RPP of the redundancy policy for SWM members.

    Napo entered into the consultation in good faith following reassurances for our members, from senior management, that there would be no imminent redundancies. Napo fully expected to conclude the consultation by the end of September, however for a variety of reasons the process was delayed.

    As of yesterday, 25th of October, 2017, it became apparent that the RRP Board were not prepared to compromise and properly negotiate a satisfactory conclusion for all. Napo believe that the redundancy package on offer is derisory and not reflective of the significant impact of organisational change and the hard work and commitment staff have provided.

    Napo consider that we have been placed in such a position that we are not able to, in good conscious, accept the proposed policy.
    Napo will be consulting with members with the aim of making a decision in relation to the next course of action to be taken. Further communications will follow.

    Kind regards
    Ralph Coldrick, NAPO SWM Branch Chair
    Debra Williams and Andrew Preston, Napo SWM vice chairs.

    1. Same old same old... Our old chum Andrew Selous confirmed that CRC owners were given money from the Modernisation Fund "pro-rata" to meet the financial requirements of shedding staff as defined by their bids, funded per EVR agreement.

      The CRC owners have subsequently spent every ounce of their beings trying to avoid giving that money to staff they want to get rid of; but determined to line the pockets of those they like, e.g. those who oiled the wheels, those who wielded the stick, but mostly themselves.

      Sod-You-Co, Wanky Limps, MTDildo, RecommendedRetailPrice ... they are simply cash machines for multinational bandits.

    2. Could someone please explain to me the logic of paying private companies money to reduce reoffending when those same companies are complaining from the outset that there isn't enough offenders to go around in the first place?
      I find it baffling that companies who are crying out for more offenders should be charged with reducing reoffending.

    3. SWM reps need to read the established protections agreements in place and they should realise the National protections agreement means they cannot do what they are suggesting.