Saturday, 25 May 2019


As the world of probation once more finds itself plunged into uncertainty, it's probably as good a time as any for a moment of quiet reflection. In this regard, I notice Lord Ramsbotham opens his interim report People Are Not Things : The Return of Probation to the Public Sector with the following quotations:-

‘The mood and temper of the public, in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals, is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilisation of any country. A calm and dispassionate recognition of the rights of the accused against the State, and even of convicted criminals against the State, a constant heart-searching by all charged with the duty of punishment, a desire and eagerness to rehabilitate in the world of industry all those who have paid their dues in the hard coinage of punishment, tireless efforts towards the discovery of curative and regenerative processes, and an unfaltering faith, that there is a treasure, if you can only find it, in the heart of every man – these are the symbols which, in the treatment of crime and criminals, mark and measure the stored-up strength of a nation, and are the sign and proof of the living virtue in it’.

Winston Churchill, H of C debate on Prison Estimates, 20 July 1910

‘The essence of punishment is that it is the reaction of a community against a constituent member. The community has three interests to consider:

a. The maintenance of its own life and order, upon which the welfare of all its members depends.
b. The interests of the individual members generally.
c. The interests of the offending member.

Wrong is done if any of the three is neglected.

Archbishop William Temple, 1930

‘Probation is a thing so large in its conception, and so immensely potent in its effect on the hopes and happiness of thousands of human lives every year, that it is better not even to try to find words of commendation, which might be unworthy of their subject, but to be content to make the way clear for its advance, and let its deeds praise it’.

L le Mesurier, A Handbook of Probation and Social Work for the Courts, 1935

‘Probation belongs at a local level and profit should not come into it. The satisfactions of the Probation Service are not financial ones, nor should they be; they are the rewards of dedication and service….the remedying of misfortune, which is what probation is about, has no more to do with profit than the remedying of disease’.

Alan Bennett, Foreword to The Golden Age of Probation, Roger Statham, 2014

‘Probation was respected by politicians, and the courts, as a humane and enterprising Service, prepared to embrace new methods and challenges. Often derided by those who talked tough, and advocated harsh prison sentences, it moved steadily to a more centralised position in the Criminal Justice System… Probation had its own distinctive character…it was one of hope and a realistic faith that, with tenacity, and in valuing the positive qualities of even the most apparently hardened offenders, we could influence for the good…. As with much else, the culture of public service has been sacrificed on the altar of privatisation’.

Sir Michael Day, former Chief Probation Officer and Chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, 2018


  1. “Supervision is about establishing a positive working relationship with the offender, managing their risk and need, everyday I complete meaningful intensive one to one work without the need of an intervention - my skills, experience and knowledge means that I am the intervention! Anything additional to this is a bonus and deemed necessary and proportionate.”

    Anonymous 21 May 2019 at 22:31

  2. Shami Chakrabarti warns police over Extinction Rebellion prosecutions

  3. Tories would eat their own children in a bid to grasp power for themselves. What a pack of immoral, feral weasels. Anecdotally the SAS would prefer to select small wiry Celts because they were the most vicious, cunning & resilient.

    Nice blog today JB.

    1. Chris grayling has entered the race for pm. If elected he plans to privatise the moon twat

  4. In the spirit of Spartacus...

    "I am The Intervention"

    1. Like to explain further, in the spirit of spartacus Mr/Mrs Intervention.

    2. Irony - will that suffice?

      Moving beyond my trite, childish sense of humour, can I recommend listening to Sumption's Reith Lectures on R4.

  5. Where can I wee a copy of this report?

  6. How many years of experience have been lost from probation since 2010 I wonder?


  8. Some lordly bollox from another place:

    "Lord Birt Crossbench - My Lords, I declare an interest as my wife was the founding director-general of the National Probation Service. The Minister is surely right to observe that it was a vast improvement on the hotchpotch of arrangements that had preceded it. I welcome the Government’s Statement; because it is entirely right that the state should take back full responsibility for managing all offenders;"

    So Lord Birt thinks Ms Wallis's choreographed hopscotch i.e. doing things by numbers, was an improvement on "hotchpotch"?

    And there was also this exchange between Ramsbotham & Keen:

    Lord Ramsbotham Crossbench - My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for quoting the interim report that I was required to write by the Shadow Minister for Justice. I note that he quoted my paragraph saying that not all had been lost by the community rehabilitation companies and citing the economic rigour that they had to bring to their role. Perhaps I might ask Minister two questions. First, he will have noted that the Justice Select Committee and the Public Accounts Committee—plus the National Audit Office and Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Probation—issued very critical reports of the whole transforming rehabilitation process. They said that the procedure had been rushed and unpiloted. Are the new proposals again to be rushed through unpiloted? Secondly, will the 11 areas correspond to the existing 11 government regions within which the police and crime commissioners operate, or will we have yet another division? By adopting Department for Work and Pensions boundaries, Transforming Rehabilitation completely crossed every single common-sense boundary that had been followed by the probation service for years.

    Lord Keen of Elie The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Ministry of Justice) - I am obliged to the noble Lord and welcome the fact that he has given consideration to these issues and is able to contribute to this matter with his interim report. No doubt he may take that further. On his second point, I had mentioned that the 11 proposed areas will be coterminous with PCC regions. There are more than 11 PCCs, of course, but we will ensure that the regions are coterminous so that we can develop the appropriate relationships between the PCCs and the NPS in that context. It is certainly not our intention for this to be rushed. I would mention two points: first, although the existing CRC contracts, as adjusted, run to the end of 2020, we have the ability to extend them to the spring of 2021 to have time to bring in these reforms; and, secondly, there will be a pilot in some sense because the model we are now adopting is the one we had already decided to adopt for Wales, which will be implemented from 2019. We will be able to see how this actually operates in practice before we proceed further with the rollout across the rest of England.

    1. Isnt Justice devolved? If so, why is a Scottish Lord poking his nose into English affairs??

    2. I was thinking that too.

  9. People Are Not ThingS is of course an acronym. I was privileged to be with Napo comrades to hear his lordship in Westminster suggesting that this should be on the wall of every court and every MoJ office

  10. Where can I get his report?

  11. A couple of very interesting letters published in today's Guardian.


    1. The helpful info graphic accompanying the Ministry of Justice 2018 statistics (Report, 24 May) showed that 71% of offenders sentenced to immediate custody received sentences of six months or less. This makes the present push to follow Scotland’s example and abolish such sentences even more compelling. But that of itself would not solve the problem. The numbers of offenders being returned to prison for failing to conform to the requirements of their community sentence or licence has increased from a mere 150 in 1993 to nearly 7,000 in 2016. This reflects a predominant criminal justice culture here: you punish an offender; he or she does not get “cured” by that punishment; so next time you punish them harder. And most offenders, who tick many of the boxes on the social deprivation indices, have spent their lives flouting authority and breaking rules. So it’s hardly surprising that many find conforming to stringent imposed rules quite difficult. A different approach is needed, where punishment is not seen as an inevitable escalator of severity, and which offers frustrated magistrates an alternative to the counterproductive short prison sentence.

      Andy Stelman (Retired assistant chief probation officer, Merseyside), Bishops Castle, Shropshire

      While the cost of short jail sentences and the lack of time to take effective measures to reform behaviour calls their usefulness into question, they are still needed where every alternative non-custodial sentence has been tried and has failed, and the need to protect the victims, for example in domestic violence cases, is paramount. A way forward might be to adopt a points system similar to that used to endorse motoring crime. A criminal “clocking up” 12 points (months) would serve a year’s imprisonment, and the presence of the points would act to deter future criminality. As with motoring offences, a three-year period free of offending would wipe the slate clean.

      By this means short sentences could be abolished without undermining the ability of the lower courts to signal the seriousness of the crime. It would, in effect, be a better way of using the current system of suspended sentences.

      Peter Fellows, JP