Sunday, 31 December 2017

A Trip Down The Happy Valley

As another year draws to a close, it's sort of expected for blogs to sign off with some relevant thoughts and reflections on the past 12 months and those that know me will be fully aware that I'm a sucker for tradition. Having said that, this Christmas has seen a significant departure from the norm at blog HQ. Apart from the 'Call the Midwife' special and in the absence of 'The Great Escape' from every channel's offerings, a collective decision was made to indulge in some personal programming and have a massive blow-out on BBC Boxed Sets instead.

It started with 22 hours of 'Line of Duty', not consumed in one session you understand, and has just ended with both series of 'Happy Valley' Yes, it did feel a bit like work in quite a few places, because all probation staff recognise most of the story lines and characters, but oh doesn't Calderdale and that magnificent millstone grit just look wonderful? Surely the series is sponsored by the Yorkshire Tourist Board, even though the behaviour of some of the inhabitants might be a tad scary for some?

Like many I suspect, I've always loved a good crime drama since growing up on Lockhart, Dixon, Barlow, Watt, Fancy Smith and Bert Lynch. Of course there's been many since and Sergeant Cawood is but the latest to don a uniform as part of a very long and illustrious pedigree of gripping British police drama. I know it's only a story, but I just can't help mentioning that any guy coming out on licence from 8 years of a determinate sentence would almost definitely be a MAPPA case and therefore unlikely to be AWOL for very long before considerable effort was put into being apprehended and returned to prison. But I'm not a scriptwriter.

And there's the rub, probation never seems to get a fair outing in drama and even in 'Line of Duty' we all had to cringe at the 'offender manager's' hostel visit that got him a well-deserved kick in the goolies. Probation just seems too hard to portray and we all remember the dreadful 'Public Enemies' series in 2012 which thankfully never got repeated. 'Hard Cases' from back in 1988 was better, but before that you have to go back to the late 1960's and 'Probation Officer' to get any reasonable portrayal of believable Probation practice. 

I sympathise with screen writers though as the pace of change is so great. I couldn't help but be amused at the 'front desk' scenes in 'Happy Valley' and am reminded of the expression 'what are those grandad?' It's sobering to reflect that as we come to the end of 2017, I'm told there isn't a single police station in Wakefield city centre, let alone a 'front desk', the very home and administrative HQ of the West Yorkshire force. 

Ironically, the 'nick' portrayed in 'Happy Valley' closed several years ago, along with other stations all down the Calder Valley, but in a neat twist, was therefore available to the film production company. I think Sergeant Cawoods former station at Sowerby Bridge is still available to live in following its recent sale.

It's almost certainly too late to get a decent portrayal of what probation was all about and I'll have to be content with waiting for another trip to the 'Happy Valley' scheduled for 2019. In the meantime, lets enjoy 2018.

Happy New Year!      





  1. HNY JB & readers.

  2. Happy new years eve/day, then back to the grindstone on Tuesday for more of the same

  3. about writing a crime drama with a probation officer in a key role? I think this could work. Probation officer turned detective to solve a murder case. The prime suspect is one of their service users. But who was it really and who is being protected by framing the obvious?.


    Shazam - crime drama with probation officer in key role. Of course, now that we have OASys and MAPPA this would never happen in the UK.

    1. 27 years in and its killing me.

    2. August 4th 1991 Chicago Tribune

      While Jeffrey L. Dahmer was cruising Milwaukee`s gay bars and downtown mall for many of the victims he has confessed to killing, he was telling his probation officer of his struggle with his sexual identity.

      Dahmer was on probation for sexually molesting a 13-year-old boy in 1988. He met twice monthly beginning in February 1989 with probation officer Donna Chester, whose censored log of his visits was made public last week by the Wisconsin Department of Parole and Probation.

      As the visits continued, Dahmer`s mental and physical deterioration grew- and so did his list of victims. He has told police he killed 17 people, 15 of whom have been identified or named. Steven Hicks, 18, who was killed in Dahmer`s boyhood home in Bath Township, Ohio, was the first in 1978.

      Throughout the time Dahmer was seeing Chester, he also was seeing a psychiatrist as part of his court-odered treatment. References to those sessions have been deleted.

  5. Happy New Year Jim and all your readers. Thank you for your blog.


    1. A FORMER convict has been recognised for turning his life around by claiming a prestigious accolade at this year's National Probation Awards.

      Aaron McCabe, who lives in Shirley, got the nod after he turned his back on crime and started work as a health trainer for the Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC).

      The 36-year-old was released from prison in 2013. He is employed by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Community Rehabilitation Company (HIOW CRC), an Interserve-led company which delivers probation services to low and medium risk offenders and in November was given a promotion - becoming a case manager at the firm.

      Interserve’s CRCs had three finalists at the annual event.

      Aaron and Suhail Nawaz were finalists in the Fairness, Decency and Respect category, while HIOW CRC’s Rob Marsh was a finalist in the Change and Innovation category.

      Aaron won his category at the finals for his work as a health trainer, a position he held with HIOW CRC prior to taking in his current role.

      He said: "I felt very special being nominated but it was amazing to win. I am moved when I think about the support I’ve received from managers, staff and community services - in my role as health trainer, now as a case manager and previously as a service user.

      "I met many passionate and positive people from across the country at the event. It’s really exciting to hear about all the good work taking place and to see how probation is changing and becoming more creative and tailored to service users."

      The Awards, which are organised by HM Prison and Probation Service, recognise some of the outstanding work which takes place within the probation sector.

      The award for Fairness, Decency and Respect is given to those who have benefited the service user, their families or the victim. This category also recognises staff for their work in relation to diversity and equality.

      Kim Thornden-Edwards, HIOW CRC’s chief executive, said: "I am thrilled that Aaron has won this award, it is richly deserved. His positivity and commitment to inspiring others is infectious.

      "Both our Hampshire finalists, Aaron and Rob, represent the excellent work we do in probation and were recognised for projects where probation staff and service users work together to bring about successful rehabilitation and closer integration with their local communities."

      Prisons and Probation Minister Sam Gyimah added: "I want to congratulate Aaron for his dedication to Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service.

      "t is vital that we celebrate the committed staff in the Prison and Probation service who on a daily basis go above and beyond to help reduce the risk of reoffending and to work in what can be a challenging but ultimately rewarding environment."

    2. How about celebrating the committed staff by giving them a decent pay rise.
      It is certainly challenging but hardly financially rewarding.
      Sam is full of wind

    3. Interserve's Cheshire and Greater Manchester CRC made all their health trainers redundant , those who had been contracted for 5yrs + and legally entitled to be offered permanent roles were treated shoddily having to battle for what they were entitled to , they had to apply for case manager roles that he'd been advertised and those that were successful have been dropped into roles that they had not been prepared for and left managing large case loads - I congratulate all those that won awards however more care to ALL staff who desperately try and do the best possible under terrible working conditions wouldnt go a miss - oh and I do hope that Grayling , Johnson , Gove and the other bumbling buffoons that are ruining our country get a right royal sacking as it's nothing more than they deserve

  7. I've just watched a scathing attack on Teresa May regarding police cuts. 4 people were stabbed to death in London last night, all in separate and unrelated incedents. Teresa May, has according to the person being interviewed got blood on her hands. It would be an outrage if it happened in Maidenhead or another affluent area, but she dosent give a shite as its happening in inner-city areas that are poor the interviewee said.
    There's also a call for HMP Northumberland to be renationalised. Sodexo, keep asking for time to sort the issues, and keep getting it. But now it's being argued that they've had enough time and it's still chaotic.

    I've also been following Graylings chaotic and dodgy management of our transport system, and I'm pleased that he starts the new year in a bit of a pickle and may even have to be removed from office.
    Graylings problems also create a significant problem for Teresa May. Patel, Fallon, Green all gone, Lord Adonis has fanned the flames for more change, and there must surely be a reshuffle around the corner.
    If Grayling should be removed, then he'll sit with the hard right Brexiteers, and will be unlikely to forgive May for his removal.
    I start this new year with hope. Hope that this government will fall. Hope that Grayling could be partly responsible for the fall, and hope that the next government set us on a path to a fairer more equal society, less brutally austere, and the removal of the privateer pirates from the public sector.
    Those are always my hopes for the new year, but I really do feel that this year is the one!
    Here's hoping!


    1. I agree Getafix, too much bad water has passed under the bridge and too many people are now watching the debacle.
      “We have good relationships with trade unions and now Sodexo is responsible for Northumbria CRC, our staff are in a unique position to make a positive impact on offenders’ lives when they’re in the prison and when they’re being supervised in the community."
      Beggars belief.

    2. The Sunday Times predicts a reshuffle in January, with five prominent front benchers set to lose their jobs, Grayling being one of them.

    3. Boris Johnson could lose his role as foreign secretary to take on a tougher gig involved with Brexit delivery, although allies have told the Sunday Times the Leave-backing minister would fight this.

      Transport minister Chris Grayling, party chairman Patrick McLoughlin and education secretary Justine Greening are also thought to be for the chop, alongside Commons leader Andrea Leads om.

  8. There's an acute crisis in social care. The private sector have taken all they can and are now leaving the sector in droves.
    Social care is in meltdown.
    So I'm a bit bemused and a little amused by an article in todays Times.
    (Can't get the whole article but here's an extract.).

    Elderly inmates could be let out early to relieve pressure on overcrowded prisons under plans being considered by ministers.

    Moving the oldest prisoners to secure care homes is being looked at in an attempt to deal with the rising cost of looking after them.

    Criminals with mobility difficulties or severe health problems are considered less likely to escape or reoffend but keeping them locked up is extremely costly for a short-staffed prison system. Prisoners over the age of 60 cost three time as much as younger inmates to accommodate because they have health problems that Britain’s Victorian jails struggle to deal with.




    2. Interserve has topped the list of the Government’s strategic suppliers in 2017 despite a turbulent few months in which it risked breaching its debt covenants and halved its profits.

      The company won £938m of contracts issued by the Government this year, equivalent to 11pc of the total, according to data firm Tussell.

      Infrastructure firm Amey was next on the list, winning £928m, followed by Carillion with £897m. Strategic suppliers have contracts across a number of departments and are deemed significant suppliers in their sector.

      Interserve said earlier this month that it had secured additional short-term funding, offering a welcome reprieve for the company after it warned that it was in danger of breaching its financial covenants.

      Weeks earlier, the company had said that it expected this year’s profits to be half what they were a year earlier, in part due to a £195m provision for an energy-from-waste contract.

      Recently appointed chief executive Debbie White has outlined a transformation plan called ‘Fit for Growth’ which intends to cut overheads and bring Interserve’s margins in line with the rest of the sector.

      Carillion too has been floored by shock profit warnings which has knocked 91pc off its share price since July.

      The data shows the extent to which the Government relies on large outsourcing companies for many of its services. This year contracts given to Interserve have included cleaning and other building management services for the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Transport.

      Carillion, meanwhile, won a contract for work on the new High Speed Two rail line, and facilities management at hundreds of military sites for the Ministry of Defence.

      A report from professional services firm EY earlier this month found that support services and facilities management companies are unlikely to improve their profits next year as wage inflation and increased competition weigh on trading.


    4. Under the headline 'judges have lost all faith in community sentences' the Times reports that worried about the partial privatisation of probation services, judges are reluctant to trust CRCs.

      Ministers are worried at the drop in community sentences being handed down by judges and magistrates.

      David Lidington, the justice secretary, is relying on the greater use of community sentences to help to stabilise and then reduce the prison population from its present level of 84,500. However, the number of offenders given community sentences each year has fallen by almost half from 190,000 in 2008 to 102,000 in 2016. Between 2015 and 2016 the number fell by 10 per cent.

      There has also been a steady rise in suspended sentences, whereby offenders are jailed if they break the terms of their sentences.

      One reason for the fall is concern in the judiciary about a partial privatisation of the probation service under which private Community Rehabilitation…


  10. Carillon under investigation.

    1. Carillion is under investigation by Britain’s financial watchdog in another blow to the troubled construction firm, which is involved in several major building projects in the UK.

      The company said the Financial Conduct Authority had started an investigation into the “timeliness and content of announcements” made by Carillion between 7 December 2016 and 10 July 2017. It added that it was cooperating fully with the FCA.

      Carillion’s share price has collapsed from 240p at the start of last year, and tumbled a further 7.3% in early trading to 16.65p.

      The company, which is one of the firms working on the HS2 London to Birmingham rail line and the revamp of Battersea power station, has issued three profit warnings in five months after writedowns of more than £1bn. Saddled with debts of £1.6bn, it is looking for refinancing that will involve its lenders swapping their debt for shares.

      The contractor came close to breaching the terms on its lending last month, but lenders – led by HSBC, Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland – agreed to give it four months’ extension. It now has until 30 April before its covenants will be tested.

      Carillion’s chief executive, Richard Howson, stepped down in July after the first profit warning and writedown. Its new boss, Andrew Davies, is taking over from the interim chief executive, Keith Cochrane, on 22 January, three months earlier than planned.

      The firm has worked on the expansion of Liverpool Football Club’s main stand at Anfield, Birmingham’s flagship library and the £335m Royal Liverpool University hospital. Some of these projects have run into problems, including the Royal Liverpool. Carillion has also been affected by cuts in spending by governments in the Middle East prompted by low oil prices.

      The Wolverhampton-based company employs 43,000 staff, two-thirds of them in the UK.

    2. Interserve issued similar warnings and shares plummeted at the same time as Carillions.
      Carillion at the time won a huge Ministry of Transport contract for Hs2.
      Interserve at the time won a huge Ministry of Transport contract for train stations.
      Guess its just a coincidence?