Saturday, 16 December 2017

Government Responds to Inspection Report

Probation Service - Private Notice Question in the House of Lords  11:38 am, 14th December 2017

Lord Laming Chair, Accommodation Steering Group Committee, Chair, Services Committee
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to the report of the Chief Inspector of Probation on the performance of the probation service.

Lord Laming 
My Lords, I beg leave to ask a Question of which I have given private notice.

Lord Keen of Elie The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Ministry of Justice)
My Lords, the Government are committed to delivering a probation service that strictly enforces sentences, reduces reoffending and protects the public. It is reassuring that the National Probation Service, which supervises high-risk offenders, is doing a good job overall, and we will use this incisive report to continue improving it. We have changed community rehabilitation companies’ contracts to better reflect their costs and are clear that CRCs must deliver a higher standard of probation services.

Lord Laming
My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord. However, does he agree that this well-researched report, which I commend to the House as of interest to us all, presents a thoroughly dispiriting account of just how great has been the deterioration and the effectiveness of the probation service in the past three years? It is now clear that the so-called innovative programme has resulted in a disjointed and incoherent system despite the hard work of the staff. I hope the Minister will agree that the victims of crime, the courts of this country and local communities deserve better, and I hope urgent action will now be taken to recover what has been lost in these recent changes.

Lord Keen of Elie
My Lords, we recognise the concerns identified by the inspectorate and are working hard to address these problems. Many of the performance issues with CRCs stem from the financial challenges that providers are facing, which has meant that we have addressed those contractual terms. However, I observe that nearly two-thirds of CRCs have reduced the number of people reoffending.

Lord Beecham Shadow Spokesperson (Housing), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Justice)
My Lords, this report is another legacy of the unlamented tenure as Lord Chancellor of Chris Grayling. The chief inspector states: “Regrettably, none of government’s stated aspirations for Transforming Rehabilitation have been met in any meaningful way … I question whether the current model for probation can deliver sufficiently well”. She identifies a number of deep-rooted organisational and commercial problems and says: “We find the quality of CRC work to protect the public is generally poor and needs to improve in many respects”. She adds that, “unanticipated changes in sentencing and the nature of work coming to CRCs have seriously affected their … commercial viability, causing them to curtail or change their transformation plans”. They have reduced staff numbers, some to a worrying extent. Is it not time for the Government to review their ideological commitment to private sector organisations playing a major role in criminal justice, with results often as disastrous as these?

Lord Keen of Elie
My Lords, this is not an issue of ideology. Many of the CRCs’ performance issues stem, as I say, from the financial changes they have faced because of the limited number of referrals they have received, and that has impacted on their performance. We hold CRCs to account for their performance through robust contract management. Where that performance is not good enough, we require improvement plans to be put in place.

Lord Paddick Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Home Affairs)
My Lords, one of the important issues that the chief inspector raises in her report is the fact that low-risk people, who are supposed to be supervised by the probation service, can become high-risk. She gave the example of someone convicted of driving while disqualified, who was receiving telephone supervision—one call every six weeks—and who eventually assaulted a previous partner. Does the noble and learned Lord accept that a phone call every six weeks is no way to supervise people who are supposed to be under the supervision of the probation service?

Lord Keen of Elie
My Lords, supervision of offenders needs to be proportionate to the risk they present. In some cases, remote contact may be appropriate for lower-risk offenders who are complying with their orders. However, we recognise that best practice is for probation officers to work with offenders face to face.

Lord Ramsbotham Crossbench
My Lords, can the Minister please tell the House what the case loads are for individuals in the National Probation Service and in the community rehabilitation companies? A case load of 200 is simply unacceptable, and it is unbelievable that anyone can exercise any form of supervision of that number of people.

Lord Keen of Elie
My Lords, I do not have the current figures in respect of case loads for the service but I undertake to write to the noble Lord and will place a copy of that letter in the Library.

Lord Rooker Labour
My Lords, the Minister has been meticulous in not thanking or supporting the inspector for her report. I invite him to do so. During my 12 years in government I came across Dame Glenys Stacey, and she is one of the finest public servants I had contact with during my time as a Minister. She deserves incredible support and the thanks of the House for the report, and I should like to hear it from the Minister.

Lord Keen of Elie
My Lords, I am perfectly happy to endorse the observations made by the noble Lord. Had I been asked about that point earlier, I would have responded in the same way.

Lord Birt Crossbench
My Lords, I declare an interest as the spouse of the founding director-general of the National Probation Service. This is a devastating report and the Minister will find some of the statistics that he is unaware of in it. These reforms were ill framed and speedily and poorly implemented. Does the Minister accept that it is time to go back to the drawing board?

Lord Keen of Elie
We do not accept that it is necessary to go back to the drawing board. It is, however, necessary to address the shortcomings in the delivery by CRCs. That is what we are in the course of doing.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Labour
My Lords, is the Minister satisfied that the CRCs are properly breaching people, given that they are not fulfilling the requirement of their orders? Does he accept that it is extremely important that the judiciary and the magistracy retain their faith in community sentences? If the orders are not properly administered and people are not properly breached, it will undermine faith in those sentences.

Lord Keen of Elie
My Lords, I endorse entirely the observations made by the noble Lord. It is for the courts to impose programme requirements as part of the community or suspended sentences orders that they make. Clearly, we have to ensure that they continue to have faith in the system when they are making those orders.

Lord Beith Liberal Democrat
My Lords, surely the case is overwhelming for a careful review of what the Government were warned about by the House of Commons Justice Committee and others: not providing the resources for Through the Gate supervision of prisoners, which was the purpose of the reform, would ensure that it would fail. Given that the structure has not worked either because, as the Minister has indicated, far more people have been referred to the National Probation Service because of the level of their offence, it is surely time to review the operation of the scheme.

Lord Keen of Elie
My Lords, we do not consider that a root-and-branch analysis or going back to the drawing board is required at this time. However, we are taking active steps to address the very point that the noble Lord raises. Indeed, we are paying CRCs significantly more in the way of funding to ensure that they can deliver the services required, including, critically, Through the Gate services.

Lord Cormack Conservative
My Lords, if the whole purpose of prison and the probation service is rehabilitation, which it must be, is it not essential that whether you live in Lincoln or Bootle or Bognor or Bath, you get the same service? Will my noble friend reflect on that and on the wisdom, or lack of it, in farming out responsibilities of the state to private concerns?

Lord Keen of Elie
My Lords, responsibilities have not been farmed out. Contracts have been entered into and they are properly supervised.

Baroness Butler-Sloss Crossbench
Is the noble and learned Lord really saying that the Government are satisfied with a telephone form of probation, because I do not believe anybody in this House is?

Lord Keen of Elie
My Lords, we are not satisfied with the telephone form of probation but, as I said, contact with offenders has to be proportionate to the risk they present.

Lord McNally Liberal Democrat
My Lords, I assure the Minister that when these proposals were put through by the coalition Government they were ideologically driven, and some of the flaws that have emerged reveal the kind of compromises that were created in the probation service. Before these reforms, the probation service had an excellent report; we now have this disastrous report. If the Minister is approaching this ideologically, I put it to him that there is now a strong case for handing probation over wholly to the National Probation Service.

Lord Keen of Elie
My Lords, I am not approaching this matter as an ideologue. I am approaching it as a Minister with responsibility for the implementation of the existing system of probation, in which we continue to have faith.


--oo00oo--

I'll round this post off with the latest from Private Eye:-


33 comments:

  1. I'm surprised no-one has asked the question,
    "if you're supervising someone by telephone, then how do you actually know you're talking to the person on supervision?"

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    1. Dame Glenys did mention this in her report and she was clear that it is not acceptable. So how come working links have recently introduced this at BGSW CRC and how come MOJ allowed this? Let us be clear. So callwd low risk offenders are first seen face to face for an assessment and then go to hub. The pso at hub has not met them or spoken to them previously and will not know their voice. They could be talking to anyone..handy if you want to go on holiday or be out offending all day. As a PO I do combine face to face with phone contact but that is very different, I already know the person, I have developed a relationship, I know their voice and recognise indicators from their voice, subtle changes that could shed light on how they are etc. The government should step in now and do something to end this corrupt practice.

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    2. You want buy DVD?

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    3. This is a very important point.
      I was once handed some unpaid work and had alot on, so I just sent my butler down to do it. No-one seemed to mind and I didn't think to ask at the time if that was ok or not.

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    4. The bids from the likes of Sodexo/ Working Links et al outlined their models so the government knew from the off that telephone supervision was part of the package. Disgraceful

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  2. As ever, this blog is on the money! Keep it coming...

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  3. "This is not an issue of ideology" I think it is jolly not doneth to accuse a noble lord of either lying and/or being utterly deluded BUT to cut a departments budget by 40% while simultaneously radically reorganising it, trashing the staff and increasing its workload, and all signed off before a GE in case the next lot tamper STINKS of ideology. The fact that huge sums of money were then given to private companies to see them through a period of national disgrace and dangerously poor delivery, while departmental cuts continued just underscores the point.

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    1. It is ALL about ideology! TR has wasted millions. They could have saved money if that was the objective by cuts and privatisation of UPW or ETE or programmes but putting offender management in the hands of private for profit companies was the biggest mistake. Temporary solution as one of the lords mentions is to put all CRC offender management back in with NPS. Leave the likes of SERCO / working links with ETE and UPW ( they can't even manage that properly ) but put offender management back where it belongs, a public sector organisation that is classed by dame glenys as generally performing well.

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    2. I'm sure the CRCs are aware that they have considerable influence on an already very overcrowded prison service.
      It wouldn't take too many people to be breached before prison capacity is reached in totality.
      Given the current state of the penal system I'm sure the MoJ are prepared to give considerable leeway to the CRCs (and probably a few quid) to help keep the prison population from overflow.
      I'm sure the MoJ will make sure Santa visits the heads of CRCs.

      'Getafix

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    3. Lord [Tom] McNally says he can assure the minister that TR was ideologically driven – and he should know as he was a minister of state for justice. He also wrote an article praising the 'reforms' but at that time mentioned nothing about them being ideologically driven. McNally supported the reforms then but not now.

      https://www.theguardian.com/public-leaders-network/blog/2013/jan/25/lord-mcnally-probation-service-reform

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    4. There is a gaping hole in our criminal justice system through which thousands of offenders fall each year, leaving them to cause further damage to communities across the country. Each year, 46,000 offenders leave prison, having served up to 12 months in England and Wales. They walk out of the gate with £46 in their pocket and often little else by way of support or supervision.

      It can hardly be a surprise that so many of them are walking back through the gate before long. Within a year almost half of all offenders leaving prison are back to their old habits – and we're determined to tackle that. But for those serving up to 12 months, often with the least support on release, that figure rises to 58%. And a staggering half a million crimes are committed by convicted criminals each year. Reoffending costs up to £13bn a year. Consider how many victims this represents.

      It's a bleak picture and a clear failing of the system that those offenders most in need of support, with some of the most chaotic lives, receive none. That's why one of the cornerstones of this government's consultation on tackling reoffending, published on 9 January, seeks to right this wrong.

      Transforming Rehabilitation sets out our intention to legislate so all offenders will receive the support and supervision they so badly need to help them turn their lives around. We also want to change radically the way offenders released from prison are supported as they are released. Once they set foot outside prison, we want to see a mentor by their side, providing guidance and support for each step they take towards a law-abiding life.

      We know that a place to live and a regular job are powerful tools in turning someone away from crime. So those managing an offender won't simply be concerned with whether they are complying with their conditions of release; it's more fundamental than that. Do they have a place to live? Do they have a job? Do they have a bank account? Can they afford to clothe and feed themselves? Can they read or write?

      Until we take this big-picture approach, we are simply tinkering around the edges with little hope of bringing down our stubbornly high reoffending rates. This new approach will see a range of providers, from experts in the voluntary and community sector, embedded in local communities, to innovative private sector providers, brought in to manage and rehabilitate the vast majority of offenders.

      We are committed to seeing a diverse set of organisations bidding for work – any private bidders must show how they will work with charities in reforming offenders. We are also setting aside £500,000 for voluntary organisations that need help gearing up for this work and forming partnerships with private companies. Anyone bidding for these contracts will have to demonstrate how they will sustain local links, so we protect local knowledge and partnerships.

      We will maintain a strong professional role for our well regarded public sector service, focusing them on what they do best – protecting the public and managing the most serious offenders who pose the highest risk of harm.

      A problem of this scale cannot be solved overnight. But we believe our reforms will steadily see more and more offenders turn their lives around, will reduce crime and will make our communities safer.

      Lord McNally is minister of state for justice at the Ministry of Justice

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    5. It's far too easy for McNally to share his insight in the cloistered Lord's chamber. The chief allegation against TR was that it was ideology and not a sound rationale that drove the break-up of probation. He was on the inside of the MoJ, he knows why the excellence of the former probation service counted for nothing in the drive to privatise. He should write another article and this time speak the truth: tell the public who pay for his ermine robe why he supported ideologically driven changes to a public service that at the time he believed was performing excellently. Otherwise what is the point of the hypocritical McNallys of this world, who say one thing but behind the scenes mean something else?

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    6. If £46 wasn't good enough when releasing someone prior to TR, when they could sign on the same day of release, apply for loans and community care grants, the shouldn't the discharge grant be looked at, as a matter of urgency, as the £46 no longer has to carry an individual for one week, but at least six weeks with the introduction of universal credit?

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  4. Which part of the system does the Lord continue to have faith in, assorted Numptyville Probation Services and / or the National Probation Service? Discounting ideology for a moment the design of Probation is flawed because of its fragmentation. It is flawed because for most aspiring Probation workers will naturally want to associate with the real thing rather than QuickQuid Rehabilitation. It won't work because the parts are incompatible and values diverging despite what the glossy brochure says. It won't work because ... In conclusion it won't work at least not very well.

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  5. Oi m’lud cloth ears ‘I put it to him that there is now a strong case for handing probation over wholly to the National Probation Service.’ Sorry hearing aide is on the blink so I cant hear a word of reason so I’ll just keep repeating the same stuff I’ve been told to say. We are not going back to the drawing board. Think of all the poor shareholders and people who might be held to account. We don’t want to upset our US friends in MTC who are back on course now that Trump has started giving out prison contracts again. We don’t want to upset our French catering friends in Sodexo. Where would those civil servants like David Hood and ex prison governors with Sodexo employed spouses like Paul McDowell find lucrative work? I ask you my Lords who do you think we will be making peers in a few years time and how embarrassing that will be now that you are placing the blame for this utter dogs breakfast of a train ash ideological balls up that is officially a great success despite all the evidence to the contrary? I ask you my fellow lords to support me wholeheartedly in believing the unbelievable and cooperate with me in attempting to flog you and the public a total non-runner that was and is doomed to continuing abject failure. Sorry that’s all the bollocks May is paying me to tell you today and besides it’s time for lunch. Pint anyone?

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    1. "My Lords, responsibilities have not been farmed out. Contracts have been entered into and they are properly supervised."

      There it is in a nutshell. Supervising the contracts is more important then supervising the client.

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  6. Just flicking through the net and I stumbled on this letter from 2007 published in inside times.

    The nightmare of release

    “So I was homeless … the big NFA. My discharge grant went on a few days Bed and Breakfast and the rest of my money was for food. After five days in a B&B, I was out on the streets. Surely lads who are due for release should get some help? I was told that because I wasn’t on licence or probation I couldn’t get any help. It’s absolutely shocking. I’m now 37 and in jail for another birthday and another Christmas. Surely the system has got to be looked at; being homeless the day you get out is the worst start anyone could want.”

    I'm wondering if the same person was writing that letter today, given the amount of money spent on transforming rehabilitation, would they feel any better off?

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  7. RANT 1
    Staggering just how out of touch and thick these idiots are
    example, the (disgraced COLOSSAL BELL END) Lordy Paddick Libtard twatarse for (Home Affairs)allegedly

    ''My Lords, one of the important issues (NO)that the chief inspector raises in her report is the fact that low-risk people, who are supposed to be supervised by the probation service, can become high-risk.''
    ER NO not really a big issue is it
    ANYONE can become higher risk at any time due to all sorts of factors (particularly POs ;)

    ''She gave the example of someone convicted of driving while disqualified, who was receiving telephone supervision—one call every six weeks—and who eventually assaulted a previous partner.''

    Oh YES because if you are being seen face to face for a driving offence OF COURSE you just would naturally assault an ex if it was by telephone instead
    DEAR oh DEAR
    what a sanctimonious twat.
    I would say typical thick liberal/copper but I wont

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  8. ''Lord Keen of Elie
    We do not accept that it is necessary to go back to the drawing board. It is, however, necessary to address the shortcomings in the delivery by CRCs. That is what we are in the course of doing.''

    How exactly? I see NOTHING happening to address any shortcomings. In fact if you are referring to abject incompetence/shambles as mere shortcomings then you haven't understood whats wrong or going on.

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  9. ''Lord Keen of Elie
    My Lords, supervision of offenders needs to be proportionate to the risk they present. In some cases, remote contact may be appropriate for lower-risk offenders who are complying with their orders. However, we recognise that best practice is for probation officers to work with offenders face to face.''

    Which begs the question, OK suppose I AM low/no risk, OK 6weekly phone call pls fine,
    BUT if you have decided that then why no apply to the court to lift or shorten my suspended sentence term? surely thats the case isnt it?
    IF NOT
    then why are you second guessing the court and in effect letting me off the terms of my SS and this super vital (worthless/inane/unqualified) face to face supervision thats so super fantastic it WILL prevent me for doing anything ever again (including trying to remain sane and live a normal life or move on in a positive way)?
    Surely a 'good' system would support to the extent that it would be EXPECTED that if fully complying and engaging and moving on positively then part of that would be early lifting of an SS

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  10. ''Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Labour
    My Lords, is the Minister satisfied that the CRCs are properly breaching people, given that they are not fulfilling the requirement of their orders? Does he accept that it is extremely important that the judiciary and the magistracy retain their faith in community sentences? If the orders are not properly administered and people are not properly breached, it will undermine faith in those sentences.''

    SURE it will but hang on a mo, do these lords n ladies realise that the CRCs are handing out warning letters left right and center for things that THEY have cocked up. UPW hours THEY haven't registered, letters for non-attendance when a perfectly good doctors note has been handed in and notice given, warning for non attendance when said person was clutching their stomach in pain (could be ill possibly?), double booking probationers to be in two places at the same time (yes really).
    In fact probationers now talk of 'are they doing this deliberately' to see if they can get someone to kick off?
    Just what kind of hinterland are we putting probationers in?
    and shouldn't this lot be being told some real examples of just what the hell is going on.

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  11. Inexperienced hub centre remote management pso:
    Q. Are you sticking to your driving ban?
    A. Yes, I have got a bicycle
    now..cycling to work and back.
    Pso..brilliant, keep it up, I will call you in 6 weeks.
    Service user..'what a tosser, swallowed that hook line and sinker'..switches engine on and off he goes.
    Face to face pso.
    Q. ' so mr x..how are you coping without a car?'
    A. ' fine, I cycle everywhere now'.
    Pso..silently observing very clean and dry clothing..it't raining heavily outside'.
    Pso makes a mental note. Arranges next visit and at the appointed time observes out the window at the road where service users generally park. Sure enough Mr x gets out of drivers side and says something to a woman in passenger seat.
    Pso sees her appearance and double checks records quickly while he waits. Ah, yes, previous partner, fits the description and I can see there was history of DV.
    After the appointment ( no rushing in at this stage ) checks with domestic abuse service. There was a call out 2 weeks ago, neighbour reported woman screaming...oh, and a child present..more calls to social services..digging further in and revealing more concerns..dealing with those concerns.liaising and exchanging information..requesting intel check..etc, etc, helping to protect multiple potential victims.
    The job of any good PO or PSO who is still able to meet with people face to face.
    Remote management is wrong, dangerous, lazy, corrupt, unprofessional. Remote management reprasents what is so wrong with the government that allowed this to happen and the companies that go ahead with it despite all evidence tobthe contrary.

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  12. ''Baroness Butler-Sloss Crossbench
    Is the noble and learned Lord really saying that the Government are satisfied with a telephone form of probation, because I do not believe anybody in this House is?''

    Is Baroness Butler-Sloss really saying that she/it is satisfied that the best thing for a 2yr suspended sentence is regular face to face meeting with a CRC disorganised unqualified patronising idiot who hasnt got a clue?
    Better off with a few weeks in jail than have to endure that crapola

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    1. Many people sifted into the crc would previously worked along side you. Are we all unqualified patronising idiots.

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  13. So basically they are saying they have read a report but still dont know whats going on.
    If they were to keep faith with sentences why are they all willfully ignoring what the CRcs get up to
    for example
    UPW -letting people go home early then marking them as having done a full 8hrs
    RAR days - letting people off these saying that normal appointments count as RAR days when they dont. Assigning people to RAR courses just because they are running them and not more appropriate ones. Making up 1-2-1 RAR appointments as they go along.
    Feedback - ripping up feedback sheets they dont like so they never see the light of day, or better still just not handing them out!

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    1. "Before these reforms, the probation service had an excellent report; we now have this disastrous report"

      I'm sure there's a clue there somewhere.

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    2. yes 16:11 I daresay that was 'excellent', I bet they also tore up a few feedback sheets or just wrote them themselves.
      No probation could ever be 'excellent'
      I'm sure thats where the clue is.

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  14. One phonecall every six weeks equates to just over eight phonecalls in a 12 month period.
    Does anyone know how much is paid to CRCs to supervise one person for 12months?

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    1. probably alot.
      BUT I think its key that NOONE (including PO, union, gov readers)seems to be even remotely interested in whats claimed for what and how much.
      Example
      Did you know service users living outside the office area can claim travel expenses? But staff are told to say it doesn't exist and no one can claim.
      Now how much do you think the likes of Wlinks are claiming from the gov for service users travel. A clear scam right under you nose.
      But don't worry because noone cares
      So whose fault is that?

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  15. who the ..... is Lord Keen of Elie? He was out of sync with most of the comments made by other lords. He didn't want to lose the apparently non-ideological CRC's did he. I wonder how much he is making out of them???? Lord Keen is only keen to make something for himself out of the privateers who are not in the business to reduce crime or assist rehabilitation. Big profits are all that matters. Luverly Jubberly.

    Love your image of remote management, Tonto. It would be funny if it wasn't so close to the sad truth.

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    1. Lord Keen of Elie is the government spokesperson for MoJ.

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    2. What!!! ? I am speechless.

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    3. Well!!! - that says it all!!!! I feel exactly like you do, 8 39! He was virtually the only lord who disagreed with the justifiable comments made by other lords. It makes a right stink of the MOJ, still easier to believe that they have done the right thing.

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