Sunday 31 January 2016

Serious Further Offence 3

Another unsettling report from the Plymouth Herald by their intrepid crime reporter Carl Eve:-

Report into authorities' treatment of Tanis Bhandari killer will not be made public

The Herald learned a Serious Further Offence review was carried out in the wake of Mr Bhandari's death on New Year’s Day, after it was found that one of his killers - Donald Pemberton - was arrested two weeks before the murder having been spotted on CCTV brandishing weapons the previous night.

Pemberton had only recently served two months of a four-month sentence – for having a sharp article in a public place – and had been released from prison in mid-November 2014.

Court records show Pemberton was listed to appear at Plymouth Magistrates Court on January 16, 2015 as a result of the December 15 incident, for failing to comply with the terms of his licence.

His licence terms stated he was “to be well behaved, not commit any offence and not do anything which could undermine the purpose of your supervision, which is to protect the public, prevent you from reoffending and help you to resettle successfully into the community”. The case was relisted for January 23 but the offence was then withdrawn “at the request of probation”.

The Herald made a Freedom of Information request to the Ministry of Justice to determine what – if any – action was taken by Pemberton’s probation officers between December 16 and New Year’s Eve, 2014 to modify his behaviour. Sources at Plymouth’s probation service told The Herald this could have included putting him before a magistrate for the breach of his licence within days of his arrest.

Pemberton was found guilty of murder following a trial and along with Ryan Williams, was last month jailed for life with a minimum tariff of 23 years.

The Ministry of Justice, passed the request to the National Offender Management Service who in term passed it to Working Links, a public-private-voluntary partnership which won the bid late in late 2014 to run probation services as a Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRC) in the South West.

Since the Probation Service was controversially part-privatised by the Government, debate has raged over how accountable and transparent the new system would be. At the time the probation union NAPO said it vehemently opposed the government’s plans, predicting chaos and risks to public safety.

Serious Further Offence reviews are not made public, but a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said families of victims were entitled to a summary of the review.

A spokesman for the Dorset, Devon & Cornwall (DDC) Probation CRC said the families of those attacked by Pemberton would first be contacted by the Witness Care Unit, based in Plymouth Crown Court and run by the Crown Prosecution Service and police. A Victim Summary Report of the Serious Further Offence review would be prepared – but only if it had been requested by the families of those affected by Pemberton’s actions.

The Herald has spoken to Steven Sharpe, the stepfather of Tanis Bhandari who revealed that the family had not at any stage been approached by the Witness Care Unit and were not made aware they were entitled to any kind of review of how probation officers dealt with Pemberton in the weeks leading up to their son’s murder. The Witness Care Unit has refused to respond to The Herald’s inquiries.

In response to requests about the decision making process following Pemberton’s arrest for affray and the subsequent murder two weeks later, a DDC CRC spokesman said: “We recognise the tragedy of this incident and our deepest sympathies are with the family.

“After being made aware of the arrest in December, processes were being followed to tackle the person’s behaviour. All decisions were made and supervised by fully-qualified and experienced probation workers. Public safety is our highest priority. It is our job to help people desist from crime but we will not be successful in every case. “We strive continuously to improve the effectiveness of our services so that fewer crimes are committed by offenders managed by us. But the person responsible for this crime is now convicted and serving his sentence.

“As we continuously look for improvement, we have rigorously reviewed the specific issues identified in the case and are implementing a plan of action. We have worked with the National Probation Service, police and other partners to review and enhance our robust processes. In particular, we have improved communication with partner agencies and we are working with the police to improve access to intelligence to help us monitor offenders better and further provide timely, relevant services tailored to their situation.

“In addition, as part of Transforming Rehabilitation reforms, our service delivery and subsequent results are now more transparent than ever, ensuring the government and taxpayers can hold us to account.”

The DDC CRC spokesman told The Herald that Working Links and the Community Rehabilitation Companies are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act and that Serious Further Offence reports were not “public documents”.

A successful petition was launched last year to ensure a full SFO review into the monitoring of David Braddon, of Caerphilly, South Wales was made public. Conner Marshall, aged 18 was murdered by Braddon in March 2015. At the time Braddon was under probation’s supervision for assaulting a police officer and drug offences.

The summary report released to Mr Marshall’s parents claimed that there was “nothing the offender manager could have done which would have predicted or prevented the offence”. Mr Marshall’s parents launched a petition to be allowed access to the full report and after thousands signed it, they were told by the Ministry of Justice the full report would be released to them.

The Herald has also learned that the Crown Prosecution Service were unaware Pemberton had been arrested for affray on December 16 – when he was seen with the two meat cleavers – until February 3, 2015 when a reviewing lawyer was asked to consider the murder charge. The paperwork for the December 16 2014 incident were sent later in February 2015 and a request for a charging decision on the affray matter was not made until February 26, 2015.

Devon and Cornwall Police have also launched their own internal investigation into the handling of Pemberton following his arrest on December 16, 2014. A spokesman said the force was “currently reviewing police involvement in this case and therefore are not able to advise further at this time.”


The last time I last looked, the story had generated the following comment:-

What is clear is that Working Links against its contract, has siphoned off Probation funding to support its other failing units.....An example here appertains to administration structures meant to be kept in place should Noms wish too reintegrate the CRC. Due to under estimating the cost of running bid to the tune of 40%, Working links is now shedding 600 posts. To find a privitised but government funded organisation to say they cannot respond to a FOI request is ludicrous meaning one way propaganda is appropriate in the Criminal Justice System. Trust me the place is a sham with bean counters with no OM experience running the DDC CRC into the ground.


I am aware the author and reporter Carl Eve reads this blog and has a keen interest in writing more about what exactly is going on in probation since privatisation.  

Stop Press 

This blog consistently warned the privateers that negative publicity would be a factor they would do well to take into account, that and the possibility of angry and disillusioned staff learning the art of spilling the beans, something professionally they have never considered before. Here we have an example from the Cambridge News concerning BeNCH:-     

Private probation service for Cambridge branded 'reckless' amid crime increase fears

The privatisation of Cambridge probation services has been branded "reckless" amid fears of increase in crime and offenders being jailed for breaching orders as they now have to travel to Huntingdon.

Offenders who once attended their probation appointments at Warkworth Lodge, Warkworth Street, near Parkside police station, must now travel to Huntingon sparking anger. About 45 staff were based at Warkworth Lodge and worked for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Probation Trust's at the main office in Cambridge.

Sodexo has been put in charge of probation services in Cambridgeshire under the most far-reaching privatisation in the criminal justice system.

Daniel Zeichner, Cambridge's MP, said: "I and many others warned that the changes made to the Probation Service were reckless and would cause real harm – and had Labour won the election we would have stopped them. We are now seeing the consequences of those foolish changes introduced by the Coalition Government. When people have to travel much further, out of their own community, we know that rehabilitation is more likely to fail. In recent weeks we have seen the disgraceful way G4S have been treating young offenders, and it is now very clear that there are substantial problems in the probation and justice system which the Government needs to address urgently."

A probation service insider in Cambridge, who did not wish to be named, said: "There is a lot of worry that because the low to mid-range offenders will now have to travel to Huntingdon to get support and to attend court ordered appointment there will be many more breaches of probation orders. Magistrates are handing out probation sentences but I don't know if they are aware the offender has to travel to Huntingdon now. There will be a lot more breaches and more people will end up in prison or will re-offend."

The contracts, worth £450 million handed over 70 per cent of the work of the public probation service to private and voluntary sector providers as part of Grayling's Transforming Rehabilitation programme. The public probation service retained control of services for high-risk offenders.

A Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Community (Bench) Rehabilitation Company spokesperson said: "We are moving out of our existing offices and into new buildings, as we are changing the way we deliver probation services.

"Part of our approach is to introduce new IT systems to support mobile working, where staff will have the flexibility to meet offenders in the community, in their home or out of locally-based buildings. It is not the intention to ask offenders to travel long distances, we will take the service to them. Our new approach aims to ensure the right resources are in place to reduce reoffending, protect the public and change lives."

Saturday 30 January 2016

A Bumpy Road to Redemption

So, the end of another week sees Gove reverse yet another Grayling policy, this time on Legal Aid. According to the written announcement, the lawyers victory was as much down to the likely cost of the MoJ having to fight 99 law suits as anything, but no matter, they won, commonsense won and now it's just us left as we continue to suffer Grayling's TR omnishambles. 

Of course the extra good news is that it looks as if NOMS is earmarked to get the chop in order to pay for this particular policy reversal. In relation to this, I'm grateful to regular reader ML for drawing my attention to the following parliamentary evidence at EV 84 from Martin Narey in 2011. 

Although I'm not a particularly great fan of Narey, he was the first Director General of NOMS and has some absolutely fascinating things to say that shed some useful light on things subsequently. Given our current situation and that of the prison system with a staggering 85,000 plus incarcerated, I feel it's entirely appropriate to be reminded of what he said back in 2011, not just in the context of the likely demise of NOMS, but also in relation to the political and economic realities Gove faces with any prison reform.

I'm sorry it's long, but I feel it's important to be reminded of certain things as we consider how to get Gove to accept the urgent need to re-look at probation and how crap TR is and how it's definitely not fit for purpose. I've edited the exchanges remove 'chit chat'.  

Monday 23 May 2011 Justice Committee, Sir Alan Beith in the chair.

Q459 Chair: Mr Narey, welcome. We are very glad to have you with us..... I am going to start by asking you a few things about your past experience and then move on to where we are at now and what you think about how the system could be developed. Finally, there will be some discussion about evidence-based policy. You were the first Chief Executive of NOMS. This is not so much a personal question as an institutional question. To what extent do you think you were able to fulfil the purpose for which NOMS was created? 

Martin Narey: I didn’t, Sir Alan. Ultimately, I guess, that is why I resigned and moved on to do something else. I thought NOMS was a courageous venture but could have been delivered— 

Q460 Chair: Did you say, “This is courageous, Minister”? 

Martin Narey: No. I very much wanted to do it and we worked hard to achieve backing from No. 10, the Treasury and the Home Office all at once. But certain things happened. Ministers changed and the commitment changed. The absolute foundation for making NOMS a success was getting some handle on sentencing. When a change of Home Secretary led to the abandonment of that, I knew that NOMS couldn’t work. 

Q461 Elizabeth Truss: One of the issues that seems to have come up before the Committee when we have been looking at NOMS is the national nature of the structure and being quite siloed between the various services at a local level. What do you think was missing to prevent end-to-end offender management happening at a local level? 

Martin Narey: At the time that NOMS was created as part of a working group between the three Departments I have mentioned, the term “offender management” had barely been heard. What it was to me and what I wanted to do was give probation officers much more authority and influence over what happened to their offender when they were in prison, rather than the Prison Service, which I led for seven years, taking them over and doing what they thought was best. I thought that from the moment someone arrives in prison, unless they were a very long-term prisoner, the probation officer as the offender manager should be preparing for their release and making sure that the things that happen to that prisoner while inside, as far as the resources allow, contribute to a successful release. 

Q462 Elizabeth Truss: Why didn’t this happen at a local level? What were the barriers to that happening? Do you think the very existence of a national structure helped prevent that localism? 

Martin Narey: No, I don’t. I think difficult public services like Prison and Probation need some firm national direction. It is simply not remotely possible that any Home Secretary as was, Justice Secretary as now, would not want to direct the activities of those two very large services. They also needed driving and some reform. I inherited a Prison Service which was very much on the mend but had been in a mess. When I took over responsibility for the Probation Service I thought there were significant flaws in that service. We tried to drive improvements from the top while building up a great deal of autonomy at the local level. Probation chiefs, and indeed prison governors, continued to have very significant levels of autonomy to make the right decision for the offender in a particular case. 

Q463 Elizabeth Truss: Do you think having those existing structures, though, prevented the proper introduction of contestability—the fact you have existing bodies doing the commissioning who are already providers? 

Martin Narey: No, I don’t, Ms Truss. What happened with contestability was that, again, a change in Home Secretary and a lack of momentum in the process of establishing NOMS led to much less enthusiasm for contestability. I have been a public servant most of my life. There was a time, when I was a prison governor, when I was fiercely opposed to the use of the private sector in prisons. I was utterly wrong, and I am very proud of opening 10 of the 12 private sector prisons. They offered good value for money and, more importantly, they treated prisoners with decency and dignity. I wanted to introduce the role of the private sector much more widely in prisons and then in probation. The change of Home Secretary, when David Blunkett was succeeded by Charles Clarke, rather changed that. Charles was the Home Secretary, and, as was absolutely his right, he was persuaded by the TUC to take a gentler approach to contestability.

Q464 Elizabeth Truss: Do you think these two different cultures in the Prison Service and the Probation Service operating separately—and you have alluded earlier to having end-to-end offender management—could be restructured with the Probation Service being based out of prisons? How do you make it into a single end-to-end service, which hasn’t been done and you get different approaches, but ultimately the output should be the same? It should be to try and have people in the community who have been rehabilitated, regardless of whether that is in prison or in the community. 

Martin Narey: You are absolutely right about the cultures. Although there has been some merging of the cultures, they remain two very different services. The Probation Service is largely a graduate work force, and the Prison Service is largely prison officers, many of whom joined before there was even a requirement for five GCSEs. The cultures are very different......A big step into putting that right for me was to give greater influence to probation officers. When probation officers talked to me about when they were going into prisons that I was running, I was very struck about their sense that they weren’t treated with respect and that their opinion wasn’t taken seriously. I wanted to blitz through that and make sure that they were in charge of what happened to their offenders when they were in prison. 

Q465 Chair: You made a very interesting comment which would have been relevant to today’s discussions when you said that “for most of the people we incarcerated, the children and young people in particular, there was generally just too much poverty, too much disadvantage, too much educational failure and too much poor parenting for prisons to overcome”. 

Martin Narey: Yes; that is absolutely the case. I believe prisons can work. I worked in and out of prisons for 23 years and I regret not a day of it. In the right circumstances, prisons can make a dramatic difference. Relevant to the current debate, when people are just in prison for a handful of weeks and they don’t get any of the things that might address poor parenting and poor education, it is pretty much a waste of time, I am afraid. 

Q466 Mrs Grant: Do you think there are many similarities between the current Government’s plans and the original aspiration for NOMS? If you were the Chief Executive now, is there any particular advice that you would give the Government? 

Martin Narey: This might relate to your question, Chair, on evidence-led policy. The terrible problem with this issue is that you can have very intelligent and sound discussions within Ministries, and certainly historically within this Committee, but you get a very immature discussion in the media and the press. I think that the current Justice Secretary is absolutely right to try to get some measure of management over who goes to prison. He is absolutely right. It is something I believed in passionately, and that belief was the foundation of NOMS. What would have made NOMS a success was what was an historic agreement between David Blunkett, who was then Home Secretary, and Lord Chief Justice Woolf. They agreed that the prison population would not be allowed to rise above 80,000. It was about 76,000 at the time. We were on the verge of putting that into legislation. If that had happened, and through sentencing guidelines we had been able to manage the prison population a little better, then I am very clear that we could have found some of the resources to put into the probation side of NOMS to make offender management a success. 

Q467 Mrs Grant: How realistic is it to try or seek to reduce the cost of correctional facilities? 

Martin Narey: To reduce the cost? I am not close to correctional facilities now. I have been looking away for five years while I have been running Barnardo’s. I wouldn’t suggest that things can’t be done better and more efficiently. Greater use of competition will drive equality and costs in the provision of correctional services, but I don’t think correctional services are flush with cash. They are very hard-pressed because of the number of offenders that are going through the criminal justice system. 

Q468 Mrs Grant: What are the benefits and limitations of the recent decision to remove the regional tier of NOMS, in your opinion? 

Martin Narey: I have to say, Ms Grant, I am not very close to what is happening now. I couldn’t tell you what the current arrangements are. There has to be a balance between national direction and local autonomy. It is a nonsense to try to direct what happens to individual prisoners from the centre. If there is one line in the current Green Paper I disagree with very much, it is the suggestion that NOMS or prisons and probation have been dominated by a belief that Whitehall knows best. That is not the case at all. I think NOMS was built on very, very strong evidence about what was likely to work in dealing with offenders. In the very early years of NOMS, before it was overtaken by population problems, we did deliver for the first time statistically significant reductions in reoffending by prisoners. 

Q469 Chair: Can I put it to you that your model relies quite heavily on a degree of national management and you have tried to use national management opportunities that you have had to improve the service? But the climate might be changed much more dramatically if the same local or regional body was commissioning custodial provision as is commissioning non-custodial provision. At the moment, there is a provider which provides custody, whereas at local level a series of bodies have to find ways of providing not just probation and community payback but drug rehabilitation and all manner of other things. It is a completely separate process. If those two processes were brought together, would it not be more likely that you would see the kind of shift in resources that you would agree is necessary? 

Martin Narey: I think you would see that shift in resources if you could arrest the inexorable advance of the prison population. I am feeling a very old man these days. I can remember in my early years in the Prison Service working for a man called Alastair Papps.... We were horrified at that time at the prospect of a prison population which might reach 40,000. We now have a population of 85,000. There is no end to this. You only have to look at what is happening in California this week, where the courts are now directing the California legislature to reduce the prison population, because they are breaching any minimal sort of health regulations. You can’t feed the appetite of a media frenzy which suggests that more and more people need to be sent to prison. Until you can do that, I don’t believe you can get the rational redistribution of resources. I was an incredibly fortunate Director General of Prisons. I started in 1998. There was a lot of public spending. Jack Straw gave me a lot of money to pour into education and drug treatment, but the money I spent per prisoner barely increased at all over the seven years, because the number of prisoners rose just as fast as the money I was getting to educate them. I didn’t make the progress that I know I could have done with a reasonably static prison population. 

Q470 Mr Buckland: What you are saying is extremely interesting, but it would be wrong of us as a Committee not to challenge, perhaps, one of the assertions that you made, which was about the agreement reached between the then Lord Chief Justice and the then Home Secretary about putting a ceiling on prison numbers. Many people outside this room would say that putting targets and arbitrary numbers on the prison population masks the real problem here, which is the quality of the treatment of individual people within the criminal justice system, whether they be in prison or not, and the danger of imposing targets is that you then put an additional pressure on sentencers to take into account frankly inappropriate considerations when trying to assess the best outcome for the person they have in front of them. 

Martin Narey: I do understand that criticism. I stress that what was anticipated at the time between David Blunkett and the Lord Chief wasn’t a possibility that any judge would ever be told, “The prisons are full; you can’t use custody today.” The sentencing guidelines would be crafted in such a way as to influence the size of the prison population. It was open to the Lord Chief to come back to a future Home Secretary and say, “Look, we will need 81,000 places next year.” It didn’t mean that for all time the population wouldn’t have risen, but it would have locked down the population. I know people find that very difficult, but why are prisons alone a public service which we don’t ration? If I want some healthcare, if I am ill, I will have to wait in a queue. It is a much shorter queue than it once was, but I will have to wait in a queue for treatment. Today, no matter how many people are sent to prison, prison governors around the UK accept them all. 

Q471 Chair: That comes back to my earlier question of the judge or the magistrate sitting on the Bench with someone in front of them. If it is a custodial sentence, a van will roll up outside and take him away...If it is a drug treatment facility, he would have to inquire whether that is available and whether the resources are locally available for it. 

Martin Narey: That is right. One of the very small things you could do is delay the introduction of some custodial sentences. Prisons have a bit more space in summer and at Christmas. You could delay some sentences until space was available. 

Q473 Mr Buckland: This is totally off the brief, frankly, but this is an interesting exchange. You were certainly heavily involved at the time the custody plus proposals came forward. You remember the legislation was passed?... And everybody turned round and said, “How are we going to deliver this?” I just wondered whether you could very briefly talk us through your take on what is seen as a huge failure of both legislation and policy. Why did it fail? 

Martin Narey: It didn’t fail, because we didn’t try it. I was a great fan of custody plus. I spent a lot of my time running prisons and then moving to the Home Office to run prisons and probation. Unlike the current Chief Executive of NOMS, I was also the senior official advising on sentencing policy. The reason I thought custody plus was necessary was because I felt there were too many magistrates and judges who, for a given offence, could not swallow a community penalty, but they could if it was, say, seven days in Strangeways and then a community penalty. Every time I spoke to sentencers I was told over and over again that they could swallow a community penalty on that basis. I believe it was abandoned—I had resigned before it was abandoned—because it was considered that there would have been too much use of custody plus and there would have been a smaller use of straightforward community sentences. I am not sure how that opinion was arrived at. My view is that it could have been managed and it might have made quite a significant difference. The seven days would still have been pretty much a waste of time, but if that was the price to pay for getting people sentenced into the community, then I would have been very happy with it. I think it could have worked, and I still believe it could work. 

Q475 Mr Buckland: It would be particularly effective perhaps for first-time offenders, bearing in mind what we know about the disproportionate impact that even a short term of custody can have on a firsttime offender. 

Martin Narey: I hate to disagree, but I am not sure the evidence holds together for that. There are some very tempting statistics in this area. I remember once telling a previous Home Secretary, Jack Straw, that prison had a salutary effect on first-time offenders. Actually, I think I was wrong. The problem is that the sort of people who go to prison for their first offence have committed something pretty serious straight away, so they get more time in prison, they get more treatment and more rehabilitation. A lot of them have committed some offences which are not volume offences. This is not the young person repetitively committing criminal damage, burglary and theft. 

Q476 Mr Buckland: Perhaps I phrased it inelegantly. I should have said somebody who was facing custody for the first time, not necessarily somebody who had not been in the system. There will be people who build up to a position where suddenly they have committed an offence and the threshold is there. 

Martin Narey: Yes. 

Q477 Mr Buckland: Does the argument still hold water then, or do you think that perhaps this idea that you can make an impact in only a few days of custody and then go on to the custody plus option is overplayed? 

Martin Narey: It is very difficult. All that we know about deterrents is that, regrettably, prison is not a deterrent. Most of the offenders we are talking about here are young men, and you don’t have to spend very long with young offenders to realise that that is the case, because they never think through the consequences of their actions. The research shows that the thing that deters people from offending is the belief that they will get caught. Characteristically, a lot of the young men we lock up, no matter how inept their crime, somehow believe they won’t get caught. 

Chair: Can I draw you on to this business of the role of the Probation trust? 

Q478 Mr Buckland: Yes; that is a very interesting discussion. I want to come back to the commissioning issue. As a Committee, this is one of the issues that we have found is a potential problem, not for you but Probation trusts being providers, commissioners, cocommissioners all at once. How do you see that developing? 

Martin Narey: It is not ideal, but as a way of introducing some competition, I think it can be made to work. When I was Director General of Prisons— my job before taking over NOMS—I was running the public sector prison service but I was also a commissioner of the 12 private sector prisons. There are real problems with that, and sometimes private sector operators were worried whether they were going to get a fair deal from me. When I first returned a private prison back to the public sector, because the public sector had responded to the competition and really done well, the world pretty much fell around me with suggestions that there had been foul play. But, overall, it could be made to work, and it led to the private sector getting a very significant foothold in prisons. Private sector prisons, despite all the criticism of PFI, have continued to offer really good value relative to the public sector alternative. Prisons are hard to manage. The Prison Officers Association is an unreconstructed trade union. They survived all the reforms of the 1980s and 1990s almost unscathed. The world changed for me as Director General of Prisons when the POA understood I could go somewhere else and that I could find other people in terms of Serco and Group 4 to run jails. They started to reform as a trade union. The great benefit of privatisation in prisons was that we got a much better public sector work force. When we said to a prison, “You must dramatically improve in 12 months or we will put you on the market,” they invariably dramatically improved. 

Q479 Mr Buckland: Just developing that, some concern has been expressed by Probation trusts that making the provision of quite a proportion of their work subject to competition will fragment the service and may undermine the future viability of the trust themselves. Do you share that concern? 

Martin Narey: No. It is like saying that privatisation of telecoms fragmented the phone industry. We have all been massive beneficiaries of the fragmentation of that industry. Competition has made phones, which were once an expensive commodity, a very low cost indeed. There would need to be some management coordination. It is simply the case in my experience, and I felt exactly the same in the five years that I ran Barnardo’s, that services which are delivered without any form of competition are not likely to be wellrun services. Although the Probation Service is full of terrific, dedicated people, certainly when I was running it, I thought some things done by the Probation Service, such as the management of unpaid work or community punishment as it was, were done very badly and very expensively. I always suspected from my own observation that the statistics we read about the number of hours of unpaid work that are not completed were a significant underestimate. 

Q480 Ben Gummer: I appreciate your bracing honesty, especially after the few hours that we have spent in the Chamber. You make a very interesting parallel here with the phone industry. An economist will say that competition works best where you have common standards for information and transparency of information. In the phone industry you have GSM standards or whatever you choose to have, which allows everyone to work on a common platform. Yet my understanding of the way that prison and probation works now is that there is no commonality of information. So, from the police to the courts, the courts to prison, and prison to probation, let alone integration with education, if it is a youth offender, or social services, no one really exchanges much at all. That was a preface to saying, is it possible to create that interchange of information without a huge great Government IT project which won’t work, or is there another way of doing it? 

Martin Narey: Certainly as I left, and I doubt very much whether this has changed, there were some continuing problems with the so-called “level playing field”. I have observed that, for the last five years, in running a charity in local authority commissioning, Barnardo’s would compete for a lot of work that was previously delivered by local authorities, and sometimes I didn’t think local authorities got their costs right, and underestimated, for example, backroom and pension costs. That criticism could be aimed at the early privatisation that was taking place in prisons and probation. I think we still managed through that. The growth of the private sector in prisons, which has pretty much come to a halt in recent years, was a demonstration that there was a way of getting it right. Although competition might be imperfect, it was better than no competition at all. 

Q481 Ben Gummer: It can work reasonably well, therefore, in the absence of commonality of information. 

Martin Narey: Yes, it can. You could improve commonality of information. Whenever we held a competition for the running of a prison we tried to be as honest as we could, irrespective of who the provider was, about who was offering us the best value for money. Although there might have been flaws in that—and I would have to plead guilty to accepting that we didn’t understand public sector costs in as sophisticated a manner as we should—there was still sufficient purchase to attract the private sector and for them to come in and say, “We want to do this work.” They came in and they did it well. 

Q482 Ben Gummer: One of the things that has struck everyone on this Committee is how poor the evidence base is within the MoJ for assessing the efficacy of punishments and understanding reoffending. This doesn’t necessarily seem to be a British problem: it is a global one. I wondered whether you had any thoughts about how you would improve that evidence-gathering rigour of data. 

Martin Narey: I would suggest the evidence base is really quite good. If you look at the annals of the research and statistics department or whatever it is called now in the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office, you will find no end of very significant and very high-quality peer-reviewed research. The problem is that it doesn’t tend to do very much to influence the political debate. 

Q483 Chair: Sometimes it has been more influential in other countries. We found that, when previous members of the Committee were in Germany, they were well aware of research material produced often in Cambridge or elsewhere in the UK, which the MoJ had, but they were making more use of it than the MoJ was. 

Martin Narey: The Institute of Criminology at Cambridge is an outstanding establishment. I digress. The only Bill that Rab Butler had, who was Home Secretary for six years, was to create the Institute of Criminology at Cambridge. It is outstanding. You are right; it probably has as much influence internationally as it has here. The debate about crime and justice is at a troublingly low level in the UK. Sometimes, when I would meet people running prison services and probation services in the rest of Europe, they just couldn’t understand why crime and punishment was always, always on the front page of newspapers in the UK, and it has been really for some years, but not always. I remind you that, when I was a very young prison governor, Douglas Hurd was a Home Secretary working for Margaret Thatcher, when he coined the famous phrase, “Prison is an expensive way of making bad people worse.” He talked down the prison population by 4,000, by 10%, from 43,000 back to around 39,000, and he was working for Margaret Thatcher. The level of debate was, I am afraid, significantly more mature. I was a Private Secretary to a Minister of State when the 1991 Criminal Justice Act went through. It was very much Douglas Hurd’s creation, but David Waddington was Home Secretary when it went through. I was working for a Lords Minister. I followed that Bill through 13 days in the House of Lords, but there was no party politicking at all. There was almost complete unanimity about the intellectual basis of a Bill which set out to move people from short-term prison sentences into community penalties.

Q484 Ben Gummer: It is a function of the centralisation of the service that, the more you do that, the more a Minister is responsible for the individual. Is that the core of the media problem, do you think, and what you ran up against? 

Martin Narey: It might be possible to do that. I have to say that, much as I loved my time there, trying to keep Ministers from getting involved in day-to-day happenings in individual prisons and probation services is pretty difficult. They invariably do. Part of the reason for that is, if something goes very wrong, then it is an issue in the House of Commons. I suspect only you, Chair, witnessed the time that Michael Howard was Home Secretary following the escape of some category A prisoners from a prison in Cambridgeshire, and then another group from a prison on the Isle of Wight. It very nearly cost him his job. Things that go wrong in prisons have an immediacy and a vulnerability for Ministers which makes it hard for them not to want to have some assurance that things are being done properly in every local place. When I became Director General, the rough deal with Jack Straw was that he would give me lots of money for education and drug treatment if I stopped escapes of category A prisoners and riots, because that is what brings Ministers down. 

Q485 Ben Gummer: Can I just ask one final question on that? It is on data. You talked about bringing reoffending rates down at the beginning of your period at NOMS. How easy is it to measure these things against general European trends? 

Martin Narey: There are two things that I wanted to say before I left the room today. I must have been saying this for 20 years now. The way we measure reoffending is almost completely useless. The reconviction measure is utterly useless. First of all, it measures reconvictions and not reoffending. Secondly, even if it is a proxy for reoffending, it measures no reoffending. What we need to know when we are looking at what we do with offenders is whether they offend less, both in terms of quantity and gravity of offending. If someone leaves a prison after a 10-year sentence for an armed robbery and is convicted within the next two years for a petty theft, that is seen as a failure, when actually that is probably a great success. The reconviction measure is almost useless. 

Q486 Claire Perry: .... Could I press a little bit on the failure of the reconviction and reoffending measure? One of the rather startling things we have heard, particularly from the Probation trusts—and it is not because they are bad people or don’t get it—is just how difficult it is to get almost any data on reoffending and also how unimportant that measure is in assessing what kind of job they do. Lots of people have criticised the current measure. Why is it so difficult to get people to focus on a simple measure of reoffending across the system, with all the flaws that you have raised with that simple measure? 

Martin Narey: It is very difficult for a number of reasons. One is that there is such a long time between somebody finishing a community penalty and leaving prison and getting involved again in reoffending, certainly before they get through the criminal justice system again and are reconvicted. In my view, it is sometimes very difficult to draw the causal link between the two events. That is why I was very much in favour of more straightforward proxies. Despite the flaws in the research, what the research tells us over and over again is that, if you get a prisoner, or someone on a community penalty, somewhere to live and into employment or training, they will offend much less, by about a half. There is lots of analysis to prove that. A valid measure of success for community penalties or for prisoners would be having somewhere to live and in a job after release. That would give you a dependable indication of the likelihood of someone not reoffending. It would be in the hands of the Probation trust or the prison to do those things. 

Q487 Claire Perry: I agree with you in terms of the causality, although I suppose it is a little bit more difficult to justify it if you are doing payment by results—to be paying for actions rather than results— but does the data exist in the system? I accept that it is complicated, but we are not Amazon; we are not trying to ship out 1 million parcels a day. We are trying to deal with the offending habits of effectively 250,000 people who are in the Probation Service at any one time. Why is it so difficult just to get the basic data in one place and track a person through their prison and probation journey? 

Martin Narey: I don’t think it is intellectually difficult, and it could be done. There are identifiers now on individual offenders and it is possible to track their time through the justice system, but there is such a long delay. If someone leaves a prison and gets straight down to reoffending again, as some do, it is going to be a long time before they reappear again on a reconviction statistic. Offenders are disarmingly honest about what they have done. Self-reported studies on offending are much more accurate as a way of telling you what people are doing after release. But I couldn’t stress too much the fact that the reconviction measure as a measure of offending or non-offending is virtually useless. 

Q488 Ben Gummer: On the back of that, because I think it is a fascinating point you are raising, as we are moving towards PbR, what outcomes is it appropriate to use for letting those contracts? Would you favour going for a single outcome on reoffending or reconviction, whichever you wish to use, or do you want to have a whole series? I know that Barnardo’s might be interested in this. 

Martin Narey: I have left Barnardo’s now so that wouldn’t matter. I don’t feel I know enough about the formulation of the current contracting process, but my view is that you need measures which are easy to obtain. If I were giving advice to Ministers now, I would advise them to look at some fairly straightforward proxies which are very easy to measure, such as having somewhere to live and in employment. I stress that it should not be the week after a sentence finishes but three months after a sentence has finished, for example. 

Q489 Ben Gummer: As well as the reconviction rate or reoffending rate. 

Martin Narey: I could put an argument together for abandoning the reconviction rate. 

Q490 Mr Buckland: What about the reconviction rate of sentences of equal or greater seriousness than the index offence? Isn’t that a valid measure? 

Martin Narey: Yes, it is a measure but we don’t have the reverse measure. It is a very important measure to see whether someone’s offending has escalated and is getting greater and probably greater in seriousness, but we don’t record the victory when it goes the other way. 

Q491 Chair: I am all in favour of raising the level of debate, but that wouldn’t convince me that I could persuade the public that somebody committing another rape was not a relevant piece of information when assessing what had happened since he left prison from the previous rape. 

Martin Narey: I would accept that entirely, for offences like that. I am not suggesting that you wouldn’t follow people’s individual criminality and watch what happens to them. As an overall measure of what happens to prisons, obviously I haven’t read the details of the debate you have been involved in today, but the bandying about of statistical shifts of 5% or 6% in a reconviction rate over time is in my view fairly useless. I have no confidence that there is any significant causal link which has made that difference. Even though I was pleased to have driven through the first significant statistical reduction in reoffending, I never pretended to any Secretary of State I worked for that I thought it was terribly important in the real world....If I may say, this Committee, when it was the Home Affairs Select Committee, did a really impressive piece of work looking at something called the drug testing and treatment order. That was largely abandoned, because reconviction rates were seen as high, and they were, because this was an order given to drug addicts. The Committee here did a fantastic piece of work which demonstrated that, although reconviction rates were high, the amount of offending done by people on that order was significantly lower than before the order. But it didn’t save it in the political world. 

Chair: Mr Narey, thank you very much indeed.... 


There's a fine example of the political reality of what Gove has to deal with here as fellow Tory MP Philip Davies expounds on Criminal dishonesty over jail sentences in the Yorkshire Post. The situation is put into further context on the Transform Justice website:-

Can Gove change the prison debate single handed?

“It is because I am a Conservative that I believe in the rule of law as the foundation stone of our civilisation; it is because I am a Conservative that I believe that evil must be punished; but it is also because I am a Conservative, and a Christian, that I believe in redemption, and I think that the purpose of our prison system and our criminal law is to keep people safe by making people better”.

This was Michael Gove’s riposte to MP Philip Davies’ accusation that he had “gone native”. The Lord Chancellor’s words are music to the ears of penal reformers and mark a sea-change from the rhetoric of Chris Grayling,and Jack Straw. But unfortunately Philip Davies echoes the views of many ordinary people in believing that the criminal justice system is too soft on criminals. Nearly half the population would like to bring back the death penalty, 70% think sentences are too soft, and over half think prison is an effective deterrent. These are deep rooted feelings, which one Lord Chancellor will find it hard to uproot.

There are also messages from other bits of government which reinforce the Philip Davies view. This week the Sentencing Council brought out new guidelines on how judges should deal with robbery. Nearly all the headlines suggested tougher sentences for street robbers. In fact the guidelines are not designed to increase sentences. The same day it was reported that the information commissioner felt staff who sell stolen data “must face jail”. A couple of weeks ago, the Attorney General’s office publicised that the number of appeals against “unduly lenient sentences” were going up. All these articles reinforce the public’s view that sentences need to be harsher, and that prison works.

Mood music matters. Government voices (as translated by the media) weekly reinforce people’s deeply held belief that long prison sentences are the best remedy for crime. Cumulatively, they undermine Gove’s message of redemption, and hamper efforts to reduce prison numbers. If the government is to persuade the Philip Davies’ of this world of a new penal direction, they need also to persuade every tentacle of government to be super careful in the words they use.

Friday 29 January 2016

Latest From Napo 95

Napo General Secretary's blog published this evening:-

Mr Gove showing signs that he gets it on Prisons and Legal Aid but what about Probation?

It’s not often that anyone could claim that a Parliamentary debate was riveting stuff, but I will claim a first in respect of the one which took place on Wednesday night on Prisons and Probation as a result of a motion tabled by the Opposition.

It was markedly different from many others I have witnessed and came on the back of three other debates involving Prisons and Probation that have taken place in the Lords and Commons over the last couple of weeks.

Tania Bassett will be issuing a Campaign Bulletin highlighting the key points that were covered in the debate (here is the link to the Hansard records) which will focus on the notable contributions from a number of Opposition MP's about the value of Probation staff in the rehabilitative process.

The interventions of the majority of participants in the debate, which included a notable speech from a certain Mr Kenneth Clarke (looking and sounding increasingly Liberal in his dotage) were of substantial quality, and those from the Opposition benches were testimony to the effective written and face to face briefings that Napo had provided beforehand.

As is always the case, the material we produced directly reflected the realities of our members experiences in the NPS and CRC and again illustrates the point that there are more ways to get the issues that matter in front of key people than relying on press releases that can be ignored by media outlets (like the one we issued in advance of this debate, thus proving my point unfortunately) who are only interested in template "journalism when precious time can sometimes be better spent by face to face contact with politicians and opinion formers.

Back to the debate itself, where the Lord Chancellor made what was for me one of the most intelligent and cogent contributions that I have heard from anyone in that position since well, Kenneth Clarke, actually.

His grasp of the issues that continually emerge from an overcrowded and increasingly substance fuelled and violent Prison Estate, and the value he placed on the report on Prisons by former HMIP Nick Hardwick was impressive. He also explained the actions that he has commissioned to try and tackle the problems but, as importantly, he seemed to understand the underlying social problems that are a factor in crime and recidivism in a way that I thought was enlightening. Like many, I was profoundly disappointed that he was unable to stay for the whole debate and share his views about the problems besetting Probation, but he had to leave that task to Andrew Selous, whose earnest and no doubt heartfelt exposition of the positive (in his view) aspects of TR, could have done with a little bit more substance and context than he was able to offer.

For once, (and probably to their and your surprise) I am not blaming the respective Ministers for this, but those who briefed them. It's almost as if the fourth report by HMI Probation has been glossed over (if indeed even read) by NOMS high command whose view of life at the sharp end seems markedly different to yours.

Labour’s motion was lost at the end of the debate, but that was no surprise and no reflection on the commitment shown by our friends in the House. I was also pleased at the debut of the new Shadow Minister for Justice Jo Stevens, who wasted no time in demonstrating her knowledge about what you do and how you do it.

Since Wednesday, Mr Gove has announced that he is reversing key aspects of the Legal Aid reforms that were launched by his predecessor; perhaps this is clear evidence that he is indeed a listening Minister? We certainly hope so as we aim to offer him some potential solutions to ease some of the problems that have been identified by the Probation Inspectorate.

The future of Victim Work

During the initial E3 consultative process we have received some extremely welcome views from many members, some of whom have taken part in job evaluation panels and/or the engagement events.

We also understand from Jim Barton that our VLO members have come top of the table in terms of submissions made, and that these views have been taken very seriously.

The Branch Briefing BR 06/2016 explains what we have been doing at our end, and contains a high level response from NOMS which I hope our VLO members and those who are not yet Napo members find useful. Napo has ensured that your issues are being taken to the right table.

More to follow next week on a range of other interesting issues. Have a good weekend.

NOMS For the Chop

Ever since its creation, the National Offender Management Service has been a disaster for the probation service, a massive and costly extra bureaucratic burden upon the taxpayer and been responsible for policy blunder after blunder, especially in relation to the contracting out of services. 

Of course, by the nature of the way things work, it hasn't prevented junior civil servants from winning awards and senior civil servants furthering their careers and future commercial prospects upon retirement, but then call me a cynical old bastard. However, in a rather neat demonstration of the dangers inherent in reaping what one sows, I'm pleased to say that it finally looks like their day is numbered as Gove looks set to give them the chop as a way of funding his reversal of all Grayling's mad and damaging initiatives. 

As I said yesterday, I'd like to believe that Gove has been deeply unimpressed with advice from his NOMS senior management team, which in turn got him thinking about what the hell NOMS brought to the party which had been run pretty well up until their arrival by the Prison and Probation Service respectively. Gove's decision to return autonomy to prison governor's and indeed extend it has clearly rattled NOMS HQ, hence Michael Spurr's interesting comments at the Clinks AGM the other day. 

I know one should always be careful of what one wishes for, but I'm long past being grumpy and well down the path of being bitter and angry at what NOMS has done to my profession. TR was and is an utter travesty and now remains the sole survivor of the Grayling era under the likes of Michael Spurr. This slow train crash is getting faster and worsening by the day and as we've seen, the NOMS-inspired E3 plans for NPS will bring similar chaos and carnage to the 30% of probation still in the public sector.

In probation we are very familiar with the concept of past behaviour being a strong indicator of future behaviour and as one legal commentator said the other day, if a judge's decisions were continually overturned on appeal, the question arises why they are still a judge? This simple truth does not just apply to Grayling, but in my view to NOMS and its senior civil servants as well.

It's abundantly clear to everyone, especially within what's left of probation, that urgent prison reform is required and that Gove looks like the right man at the right time. This is a golden opportunity for the probation voice to be heard by him because we're skilled, we know the issues and we could easily be mobilised to help him in this task, but it won't and can't happen under the current TR omnishambles.  Now really is the time for everyone who holds the probation ideal dear to speak up, cogently, clearly and convincingly because Gove is a guy who listens to reason and argument and TR defies both.  

The good news is that there are voices of reason out there, for example in the shape of Joe Kuipers and Rob Allen. Lets make sure the Minister of Justice gets to hear from as many as possible in the coming weeks and as he develops his ideas for prison reform. As always Rob Allen is well worth reading and this is his latest take on a possible danger:-              

Spurring On Prison Reform

Earlier this week, Justice Secretary Michael Gove told the House of Commons, not for the first time, that he wanted to see prison governors given more freedom along the lines of Academy Principals or NHS Trust CEO’s. Gove believes that with increased autonomy in a structure of clear accountability, significant improvements can be achieved in the prison service (whose dire performance was once again indicated by the latest data on deaths,self-harm and assaults).

At the same time a mile or two away, Michael Spurr the Head of the National Offender Management Service was telling the Annual General Meeting of CLINKS (the umbrella organisation for prison charities) just how difficult it was going to be to make Gove’s governor autonomy policy happen in practice.

In an admirably candid talk, Spurr said he had hoped for a period of consolidation after the substantial changes to prisons and probation wrought by the last government. But Gove’s refreshing reform agenda offered huge opportunities, with 10,000 new prison places in 9 new prisons enabling a new model of imprisonment in which overcrowding and idleness could be, if not eradicated, then much reduced.

But as for the governor autonomy agenda, Spurr admitted there were many thorny issues to resolve. In a perhaps too candid example, he pondered aloud whether a governor who wanted to introduce overnight family visits would be allowed to do so. A lot of head scratching in Whitehall seems to be going on about where the limits to freedom of action should lie. But don’t bet on conjugal visits surviving the first ministerial briefing or outing in the Daily Mail.

In education, freedom from local authority control has brought with it the ability to depart from the national curriculum, set pay and conditions for staff, change the length of school terms and school days. Along with greater control over budgets principals have responsibility for their buildings and their management. Could prison governors be given these kind of powers?

Take the analogy with the national curriculum. Would Gove’s brave new world allow governors to disapply Prison service orders or instructions if they so wish? As things stand, even private prisons which seem to be Gove’s model, can’t do that. A recent study of competition illustrated the weight of prescription by showing 15 pages of a contract specifying how prisoner can use their own cash to buy goods. Are these to be ripped up and if so how many of the pages? Will newly empowered governors be able to opt out of the ACCT suicide prevention scheme or relax security procedures? Or decide to dispense with accredited offending behaviour programmes in favour of activities of their own liking? These standards are there for a reason. They reflect the fact that prisoners are in a uniquely vulnerable position and both they and society have the right to expect they are cared for in an ethical and principled way.

Presumably some standards will be required to be met (and inspected) in the new regime, but in prisons unlike schools the price of failure is counted not in not poor exam grades but escapes, reoffending and human rights violations. If things go wrong, ministers will not be able to stand idly by. Spurr took some flak yesterday for his honest appraisal of the way the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms have weakened the ability of the centre to intervene in probation services now contracted out and paid by results. CRC’s who have failed to engage with third sector providers, whatever promises they may have made, look untouchable. Will that be the case for Gove’s Governors in his nine new prisons?

In existing jails, education, health and, since last year, resettlement activities are all outsourced. Prison Governors haven’t had a say in how those contracts have been let. Of course they could do so in future. There’s a lot to be said for concentrating commissioning responsibility in the hands of the governor but unless Gove can buy out existing contracts he’s stuck with the existing choreography for several years to come in the bulk of his system. With Wrexham opening next year and the new facilities scheduled during the lifetime of the parliament there are opportunities for the new model to be introduced. But by the time it starts to happen, there’s a fair chance Gove will be out of government and by the time it’s finished his party may be out of power.

But what his scheme will enable in the short term is a bonfire of headquarters, with no longer a need for policy development, learning lessons, monitoring outcomes or system wide planning. Devolving power will provide a pretext for big cuts at the centre and the eventual disappearance of NOMS. Gove said today that his reversal of Grayling’s legal aid cuts had been made possible in part by economies he has made elsewhere in his department. This is probably one of them.

Thursday 28 January 2016

In Gove We Must Trust

Listening and watching Michael Gove perform yesterday during the opening stages of the Opposition debate on the prison and probation service, I was struck just how different he is to his psychopathic predecessor Chris Grayling. Speaking knowledgeably, fluently and passionately 'off the cuff' about the state of the prison system and his plans for greater prison governor autonomy, I found there was much to feel reassured about.

I know he comes with a very bad reputation for having done damage to education, nevertheless he confirmed his limited knowledge of the justice brief and was anxious to remain in listening and learning mode. I know politicians say this sort of stuff regularly, but the difference with Gove is I think it's genuine. He strikes me as a decent guy and I have to say impeccable politeness is something refreshing to behold in a politician. 

In essence I can well understand how he was able to win early and favourable comment from Frances Crook of the Howard League basically because he is so obviously not an unpleasant bully and of course has undone much of the Grayling legacy that proved so very damaging to our criminal justice system. His honest remarks regarding the problems within our prisons I think bodes well and even the deeply cynical must be impressed that he has been willing to appoint the out-going and outspoken Chief Inspector of Prisons to be the new Chair of the Parole Board.

But lets not get too carried away. For whatever reason, Gove still seems unable to acknowledge the disaster we all know TR to be and felt obliged to trot out all that '£46 in their pocket' nonsense spouted by his predecessor. He was also very naughty in claiming '500 new frontline probation officers', rather disingenuously ignoring all those who have exited:- 
"... but we are just 12 months into the transforming rehabilitation programme initiated by my predecessor, and it is only appropriate that we acknowledge that that programme has already seen an increase in the number of frontline probation officers, again of more than 500."
I'd like to think this is just him swallowing his NOMS briefing on the matter with little thought or analysis. I'm sure I've read somewhere that he's deeply suspicious of the prison-dominated NOMS and their take on things - for very sound reasons - we just have to convince him to be just as sceptical in relation to what he's told about probation.

The dreadful utterly uninspiring junior minister Selous even had trouble reading from his NOMS script and trotted out all the usual guff.
But according to Selous, all is rosy in the garden:
"Reoffending has been too high for too long. That is why we have brought together the best of the voluntary, charitable and private sectors to join our excellent public service probation workers in bringing in our probation reforms. That has meant that we have extended probation supervision to some 40,000 short-sentence offenders who did not get it before. We have also introduced a through-the-gate service, joining up probation from prison into the community.
We have created the National Probation Service, and I should tell Members that 19 of the 22 CRCs are being run with a staff mutual or a voluntary, charitable or social enterprise sector body alongside their owners. We monitor their performance very carefully indeed, and the October 2015 performance figures showed that we are advancing in performance in almost all areas. South Yorkshire CRC has developed an action plan to deal with the issues it faces, but I can tell the House that no CRC is in a formal remedial plan. I can also tell the House that there are 560 more probation officers than there were 12 months ago. That is the largest intake of newly qualified probation officers for some considerable period."
By a strange coincidence, as Gove was on his feet on the floor of the House, Michael Spurr was on his addressing the Clinks AGM. Whatever the minister was saying, a few snippets via twitter from Rob Allen I think give an indication of tensions within the department and problems with TR:-
Spurr says Governor autonomy proposals don't fit easily with other developments (CRCs, PCCs) so a lot of questions 
Spurr confident TR will get better. Sensible NOMS engagement with CRCs about quality and interim measures. Not all about PBR 
Spurr bullish about TR but admits contracts got the estimated volumes wrong . Offenders more serious than anticipated. 
Spurr asked abt market stewardship in TR Says there are limits to what government can do to make contractors work with 3rd sectr
I wasn't able to watch the whole debate, but not surprisingly it would seem probation hardly got a mention. This situation cannot go on though and eventually Gove must get around to addressing the crisis TR has created. At some point he will realise what a thorough mess NOMS have made and a fragmented probation service will do absolutely nothing to help with his laudable aims for prison reform.   
At least Liz McInnes tried to put a case for probation: 
"The probation service, however, suffers from a staffing crisis as a result of cuts and reforms. The Government have split the service in two, outsourcing the least complex work to privately run groups known as community rehabilitation companies or CRCs. In 2015, at least 1,200 staff left the probation service as a result of planned redundancy, retirement and career changes due to disillusionment. I should like to quote a senior probation officer, who has chosen to remain anonymous:
“Collectively the service is having a nervous breakdown and my guess is that at least 80% of staff are just looking to get out by any means. The damage is done; there’s worse to come and there’s absolutely nothing that can stop it. I’m pessimistic about the future and it will take a couple of serious murders, prison riots or similar for politicians and the public to take the slightest notice”.

Those are the words of someone working in the probation service, and I truly hope that they do not come true. I hope that we can address the crisis in the probation service. The staff and the work that they do are valued, but they are struggling with an excessive workload and loss of expertise, which has had a detrimental effect on complex cases, including those involving sexual and domestic violence."  

It's quite obvious to many that Gove is much better news for criminal justice policy and here is much-respected Joshua Rozenberg writing on the BBC website. Probation and TR don't get a mention, but I simply refuse to believe that it too will not ultimately succumb to pragmatism and commonsense as well:-

Gove's actions 'give hope' for justice policy

A debate on prison policy in the House of Lords last week "showed how much goodwill there is for the new justice secretary", according to the Conservative backbench peer who initiated the discussion. Lord Fowler said policies being introduced by Michael Gove, who also holds the post of Lord Chancellor, "give more hope for advance in prison policy than anything I have heard for many years".

From the Labour front bench, Lord Beecham said: "It would be churlish not to welcome Mr Gove's appointment as Lord Chancellor, although almost anyone would have been an improvement on his predecessor".

Chris Grayling was Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor from September 2012 to May 2015, the first non-lawyer to hold the post for more than four centuries. As such, he was never going to have an easy ride from the legal profession in his first cabinet post. He was also required to save large sums of money from the Ministry of Justice budget, leading to cuts in legal aid and colourful protest meetings by lawyers.

Some lawyers also objected to his planned human rights changes, although in this he was merely seeking to do the prime minister's bidding and these were never implemented.

But some of Mr Grayling's less well-known policies, such as restructuring of the courts in England and Wales, are being carried through by his successor.

Pragmatism before ideology

One reason Mr Gove has earned the respect of his political opponents is his willingness to reverse many of Mr Grayling's least effective decisions. 
There is speculation the next policy to be abandoned will involve the award of criminal legal aid duty contracts.

These contracts, under which solicitors agree to cover police stations and magistrates' courts in England and Wales, are the gateway to legal aid work for law firms. To make up for cutting solicitors' fees by 17.5% over two years, the number of contracts was to be reduced from 1,600 to 527 - making each contract much more valuable.

But the Ministry of Justice had to postpone the new contracts - which were meant to take effect this month - after solicitors launched legal action alleging the allocation process had been unlawful. If Mr Gove does decide to put pragmatism ahead of ideology, it won't be the first time.

A couple of months after his appointment last May, the former education secretary lifted restrictions on the number of books that prisoners could keep in their cells. Also last July, Mr Gove scrapped plans to spend an estimated £85m building a huge prison in Leicestershire for 320 young offenders.

Judges' pay rise

Risking a clash with the Foreign Office, the justice secretary pulled out of a £5.9m prisons deal with Saudi Arabia. This had been set up under a commercial arm of the Ministry of Justice established by Mr Grayling and scrapped by Mr Gove.

Last month, the justice secretary abolished the much-criticised criminal courts charge, which Mr Grayling had insisted would make criminals "pay their way". And, this month, Mr Gove supported a 3% pay rise for high court judges, to be funded by increasing salaries for the most junior judges by less than the 1% they would otherwise have received.

One reason, he said, was it had not been possible to fill a vacancy in the high court family division last year - at a time when Mr Grayling was insisting that implementing changes recommended four years earlier would have increased the total pay bill by an unacceptable 2%.

Improved relations

Despite praise for his prison policy, Mr Gove was criticised by a former law lord last week for continuing to detain 4,500 prisoners given indefinite terms of imprisonment for public protection (IPP) under a schemed abolished in 2012. About 3,500 of these IPP prisoners have already served the minimum punishment periods set by the courts.

But the biggest difference between the two secretaries of state is the one that is the least obvious: Mr Gove has managed to establish much better relations than Mr Grayling ever had with what the Ministry of Justice regards as its stakeholder groups, notably the judiciary.

While well aware they can no longer rely on the lord chancellor being a lawyer, the judges are relieved to find the minister responsible for the legal system in England and Wales is now someone they can do business with.