Saturday 31 March 2018

Napo at Work in the South West 12

Thanks go to the reader for forwarding the following. As an aside, I think it's worth noting that information has pretty much dried up from other CRCs and the NPS. This could be for a number of reasons including disinterest, fear or contentment with working conditions having broken out everywhere. Whatever, I'm sure probation employers of all descriptions must sleep much easier at night as a result.

Branch Report March 2018

Dear Members,

A quarter way into the new year and the impasse with Aurelius, the profit interest group, and their Working Links way continues. Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence has maintained regional branch connections involved in the collective dispute. Ian has travelled to branches across the territories hearing the full range of deepening underlying faults of the Working Links way. Unpaid work staff being particularly badly affected as resources are cut further by the expectation of new roles and workload. Job contracts for sessional staff being offered with absolutely flat rate pay just above statutory minimum wage for skilled workers.

Across Wales BGSW and DDC Ian has been holding direct talks with all members, taking soundings for a commitment from members in delivering all forms of collective actions. This means as a start a formal indicative ballot. I am informed that meetings have gone well in Wales and our solidarity continues.

Common across the whole Working Links territories as Unpaid Work services continue to stagger from one crisis to another. There are some incredible reports coming in that we will be taking forwards to parliamentary questions. Our own DDC list of issues is growing and the concerns of unavailable workplaces stand downs with violent potentials contribute to the growing burdens on staff.

Frustrating the delivery of regular services add to staff burdens as cash stripped resources continue to decline our functions. All the Working links fluffy talk and internet waffle is just not a real description as we hear what is actually happening on the frontline.

The recent PR stint of Working Links on job roles have all come to nothing as staff are continually being changed and redirected to post and new duties. Any objections are met with incredibly high handed and wrongful threats of disciplinary action. Napo is working our way through these issues. Members recognise it is an indication of the internal decay brought in by Working Links.

Recruitment practices are non-existent as appropriate policy appears abandoned. We have seen appointments undertaken and low starting deals from Working Links. There is a claim on some roles having been job evaluated properly but this is also a non agreed process and is a trap to offer staff even less. The catalogue of grievances of all kinds just mounts up. It has never been so bad NEVER! In my Trade Union career. Working Links have no intention of adopting our contractual terms and conditions required of them.

The continued failings of the Working Links way in the undisclosed under resourced model, based on profit over service delivery, has become painfully obvious to all staff. The miscalculated model vindicates the Trade Unions early position of dispute and the rejection of it. Working Links continued secrecy of the model refusing to publish claiming it was being adjusted, was never disclosed.

The legitimacy of the dispute is unquestionably valid, while Working Links won’t accept the issues. Unless of course it is driving staff harder for those targets for money and profits. Further and disastrous news is that of Oasys now having to be done on all cases. The workload weightings is a non–starter as the management do not have any genuine intentions to deliver a proper workloads agreement. Nothing under the required health and safety process either. We make assumptions, why not? Is it because they now have to accept additional workloads of Oasys is simply not achievable with current staffing levels, when factoring in the real time it takes to complete level 3 assessment? Of course there will be less details compared to NPS completions. However, the miscalculations of the timing for the staffing and tasks will become critical. More so when staff continue to feel under attack for workload issues. Full Oasys concerns for forward planning and management’s ability to match resources to workload. Napo wonders what myopic outlook is being held in the Working Links Aurelius way. Compounded by the undisclosed Working Links changing model. Without workload weightings we cannot agree notional figures. Senior management expect staff to deliver, whilst themselves failing to address the issue of the resources needed to achieve this. An unrealistic expectation placed on staff. There can be no surprise that the DDC Branch will remain in dispute while our members face untenable workload pressure.

Napo continue to raise workloads and employee care agreements through the dispute which was met by the senior management in the same way. There is the denial and staff blaming culture of Working Links. They make objection then ignore anything they can or cannot manage properly. Ian Lawrence, Napo General Secretary within the ACAS meetings in October 2016 illustrated clearly the management knew nothing of their Health and Safety legal requirements. This led to the reinstatement of the area Health and Safety committee meetings. Despite this you might think the management would undertake to provide the same amount of time for Oasys completions as the minimum from NPS for the same task.

Relations with the Trade Unions in DDC remains dreadful. Industrial relations is continuing at an all time low and is the worst in the history of the Branch. The situation is entirely due to the Working Links way and worsened by the cash grab obsession of Aurelius, Senior Management’s active avoidance of constructive consultation and zero abilities or indeed freedom to actually negotiate with your Unions. DDC Senior Management has distanced itself from workforce relations and this is developing an increasing remoteness from staff. Positively we see increases in Napo membership in joiners from new appointments. Those members are welcome.

At the same time this leads DDC into adverse publicity and undermines credibility externally and internally. This a worrying issue since there was a January visit to the offices in Plymouth by the Conservative MP Mr Mercer who would most likely not have been able to identify what is wrong with the current practices and failing service design as a result of the split and the profit margins in the Aurelius intentions. The coalition government’s policy that saw Probation given away to incapable small end opportunists and large scale bureaucratic privatised service providers. He was joined by the Tory administration PCC and most likely they will continue their party loyalties and look the other way. The local campaigning continues however. We have seen attention brought in the form of a motion to the Plymouth City council reproduced below.

This council recognises the continuing issues arising out of the privatisation of offender services, including protecting the public from violence, sexual offences and the unpredictable risks from flash point offences.

We have seen the effects of some poorly managed casework that led to important issues being missed because of the systematic failures of procedures and responsibility management.

Working Links is the private company which won the contract to deliver these services in the South West and Western counties as well as Wales. They are using a critically flawed model according to the Government Inspection report in respect of Gloucester which was produced by HMIP.

According to the report, Working Links have failed to meet targets set within the government contracts and within the first year of the probation contract they faced serious financial problems which resulted in their sale to a German based hedge fund company called Aurelius, that was not part of the original bid.

Examples of their failures in delivering an appropriate service are cause for public concern and are of concern to Plymouth City Council due to an adverse effect on the delivery of some Council services. For example, the unpaid work delivery where there is a provision of free labour on community placements, a notable example being the BBC coverage of a naked offender in a church graveyard.

We call upon this council to support a motion of no confidence in Working Links/Aurelius in relation to the delivery of this contract. Further, we call for an urgent meeting of all local MPs with the contract managers and the relevant trade unions.

There should also be a meeting with the senior management of Working Links to establish minimum and full public protections of the safety margins required, with appropriate staffing and other resources.

As the local authority, we want to hear directly from Aurelius regarding their account and understanding of the service. They will be requested to explain their programme with the intention to deliver effective public services in the Aurelius/Working Links areas in Plymouth.

The council agrees to:

1. A motion of no confidence in Working Links / Aurelius to deliver on the CRC contract.

2. Instruct the Chief Executive to invite Aurelius to a meeting of Safer Plymouth to discuss their operations in the Plymouth area.

3. To request an urgent meeting with our MP’s, contract managers and trade unions to ensure the safe and effective delivery of these public services within Plymouth.

4. The information from Safer Plymouth and MPs meetings to be shared with the MPs in the remaining South West and Wales Working Links / Aurelius CRC area if lawful to do so.

Sadly the motion was dogged by party politics, the leading majority Tory council won by 28 to 26. The vote could not have been won on a simple majority. There is the continued self protections of privatisation at any cost to social responsibility. The leader of the opposition vowed to reverse the outcome post May elections. We’ll see! NAPO thank the efforts of Philippa Davey Councillor and Tudor Evans Council opposition Labour leader.

Unmanageable Workloads?

The past three years have raised concerns on workloads and the scandal that the Working Links management will not work to the legacy contractual agreement. We continue to push with Ian Lawrence for a formal indicative action ballot workloads escalation. This remains a failing in the management approach to employee care.

Members will know that the regional Branches dispute with the Working Links Aurelius, is held firmly locked. Issues they will not move forwards on as they refuse to recognise our terms and conditions as a contractual entitlement. We know in fact they will want to attempt to worsen your terms and conditions. Their latest way has been to start tentative inquiries on offering a pay deal. Their strings attached approach is they want to discuss your conditions. Let me reassure all members we won’t be doing the strings attached nonsense to pay talks and we won’t be falling for some locked in deal while the NPS may well get a significant offer after events. However, interim talks are one thing but no strings is the absolute other.

The recent briefings from the Working Links Way heard the absurd and mendacious account that the Trade Unions are holding up a pay deal. Having received several further accounts from members who attended, indeed I heard the same watered down version myself. It was a half-hearted suggestion. Members having attended in Plymouth would also have seen the antipathetic approach from the senior manager to the Trade Unions.

Pay increases whatever the context they claim the Unions will listen to any offer they genuinely want to make in writing anytime. They can choose whatever pay increase they want, there is nothing stopping them. The truth is they do not want to offer anything without trying to bargain your terms and conditions such as hours and annual leave. The status quo is what we have for the moment and your unions are on alert to their games playing and strings. 

While we are making things clearer we did ask why the Working Links Way Aurelius have not and will not place all your NNC terms and conditions with locally agreed policies collective agreements on the available intranet sites for staff to access. It was said they would be asking those higher up. I was staggered a former Chief Officer level could not instantly make the appropriate commitment to restore and publish our terms. There we are then. I do not expect they will respond at all so that issue gets on the dispute list.

There was some exchange with the management on the dispute but despite being invited to return to ACAS it was avoided. They can do that BUT it will not go away! Members seeking policies or terms - NAPO has an archive so we can send them out on request. What is clear Working Links don’t want to honour the terms. If they did they would simply agree and publish the terms and policies.

The increasing workload faced by most staff with no sustainable way to measure or to reflect accurately the time it takes to carry work tasks is central to the dispute and the Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence previously circulated guidelines in the form of the six assurances being already agreed but which Working links Aurelius have taken but continue to fail to implement the terms properly for staff. These remain integral to employee care issues.

SSW Branch is seeking to bring about real and quantifiable workload reductions and protection in order to support members, ensuring work is appropriately weighted and resourced. Members’ workloads are beyond a safe or sustainable limit. There are no proposals from management to waiver performance or capability pressures either. This illustrates the backward scope of the Working Links Aurelius way.

Branch representatives and the General Secretary have pledged to adopt a more formalised and rigorous approach to protecting members and record any fobbing off tactics we have seen so much of from Working Links. Members have seen lengthy high sickness rates. The Working Links Aurelius way have a responsibility to provide a safe working environment. This means many things but unreasonable workloads are automatically unsafe and it is this that has impacted on so many members’ health. Napo locally will challenge unsafe practice to which members are being exposed. We will seek specified casework numbers for a fair caseload. Where this is not manageable or safe, Napo will advocate work handback situations. Working Links have not agreed any workloads calculator with the Unions so they won’t mind the handing back as a health protection matter.

Training is an issue as many staff speak of being dumped on. Staff have new and significant responsibilities in critical areas of work, previously Probation Officer related tasks. This responsibility is not adequately reflected by the rates of pay for the job. Napo locally will seek recognition for exploited members and pursue proper genuine job evaluations. There has been some incredible practices and attempts to reduce staff rewards. Appropriate recompense for roles should be a matter for national Napo although sadly it appears to me at least the national are preoccupied with majority NPS issues and there has to be a new balance drawn for the CRC members who have little if any influence in the national union directions.

Working Links Aurelius are claiming they want to pay staff more. Here is another avenue on which they owe money to members. The changed jobs should be paid properly. We suspect across the contract territories, the budgets are to be top sliced this year to the tune of 12 million pounds which is profit. That money is going where? To who? Why? It will not be spent in service on staff resources or pay.

Members, be vigilant about what you are told or read. Documents sent out by Working Links make reassurances which are just not being honoured. Employee care for your roles and protections do not exist with Working Links and yet we have members facing a range of issues. Our best opportunity to stand together as a workforce united against unmanageable workloads the forced changing of roles are matters we can continue to protect in solidarity. The working conditions are in decline and the obvious publicity now developing will highlight the failing areas and the worst contract holders. The published league table of performances by areas has illustrated all the CRCs are failing except a few targets in some places but not here. If a table of CRC contracted holders were produced I doubt very much the DDC CRC will get rated well. Just my opinion based on what members are telling us unless you know otherwise or could contribute positive further examples?

The branch thanks and respect our members

The Branch Executive has suggested we take this opportunity to pay tribute to members carrying out their professional tasks, many under intolerable conditions and with little support. Commitment comes from personal integrity and concern for others, the very qualities which enable you to undertake difficult and demanding jobs on behalf of the community. Napo recognises these skills and commitment. Achievements in protecting the public from offending are down to you more often because things are getting done in spite of the Working Links way not because of it and the people needing support are many of whom have had few life chances. Napo will continue to do our best to support you, argue for you, negotiate for you and protect your interests. Despite 9 professional graded PO colleagues finally leaving in the last 9 months we say that makes retention of you more important. Something the Working Links Way do not appear to understand. Nor what they have done to a profession once a great public service. From here they openly suggest employing social workers but without operating a social model of offender engagement. An experiment or desperation no doubt. This will soon show a flawed knee jerk response to the decline and CRC professional crisis.

Napo members and new members joining, we will continue to hold the position and shortly with the General Secretary, Ian Lawrence , start the push back with all forms of industrial actions through the indicative ballots with our sister branches across the South West and Wales.

This week also sees the launch of the General Secretary elections whatever your inclination and we must remain open minded for the process as it gets underway.

We will be reporting on this matter as things develop and seeking the widest branch views and responses for the directions to potential nominations as they might arise for the branch. We will have a clearer picture as we look to the early June date for the Napo SSW branch AGM we’ll keep you posted.

Finally for this report for Easter have a well earned break and bank holiday whatever you are doing.

Dino Peros 
Napo SSW Branch Chair


Readers might be interested in the following advert published in the Guardian last week:- 

Based in South West London, Napo is a small trade union and professional association providing a range of services to almost 6,000 members in the Probation and Family Court sectors. It employs 16 staff and is currently recruiting to the following post.

General Secretary

Salary: £58,912 to £67,097 pa inclusive of London Allowance. This post is currently subject to a job evaluation process.

The post holder is the senior elected employee of Napo and will need to provide strategic leadership across all of the union’s activities. Their role includes acting as the union’s principle national spokesperson and they are expected to lead on professional issues. In addition they will have responsibility for and where appropriate participate in negotiations relating to members’ salaries and conditions of service.

The successful candidate will have a demonstrated track record within the trade union movement and it is desirable that they can demonstrate an understanding of the requirements of Napo’s professional status.

Please note that the successful applicant will be required to take up the post on or around 1st July 2018.

Closing date: 13th April 2018
Interviews: w/c 7th May 2018

Friday 30 March 2018

More on Worboys

The Worboys case continues to generate a lot of interest and discussion, with reader fatigue probably not far off, but for completeness I'd like to run with two further contributions. The first by the Secret Barrister is enlightening from a forensic legal perspective and the second from well-known academic Rob Allen on what the future might hold for the parole process itself.


Your questions answered on the unusual and complex John Worboys case 

On Wednesday 28 March 2018, the High Court handed down its landmark judgment in the case of John Worboys, upholding the challenge by two of his victims to the Parole Board’s decision to release him. The judgment runs to over fifty pages and does not make for easy reading, so here’s a breakdown of this unusual and complex case. 

What is this case about in a nutshell? 
On 13 March 2009, Worboys (now known as John Radford) was convicted of 19 serious sexual offences involving twelve victims, and was sentenced to an indeterminate sentence of imprisonment with a minimum term of 8 years. Upon expiry of that minimum term, Worboys became eligible for release, subject to satisfying the Parole Board that his incarceration was no longer necessary for the protection of the public. On 26 December 2017, the Parole Board directed his release. The decision, as with all decisions of the Parole Board, was taken in private and no reasons are allowed to be published under Rule 25 of the Parole Board Rules 2016. Judicial review proceedings were instituted to challenge both the decision to release Worboys, and the legality of Rule 25. 

Who was involved in the challenge? 
There were three sets of linked proceedings. The first was instituted by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. The second challenge was by two women, DSD and NBV, the latter of whom was a victim who gave evidence at Worboys’ trial, the former of whom was not involved in the criminal proceedings (a decision by the Crown Prosecution Service, not DSD), and obtained a civil settlement against him. The third challenge was by News Group Newspapers Ltd, and was directed solely to the legality of Rule 25. 

What was the Court’s decision? 
Sadiq Khan fell at the first hurdle – the Court ruled that he did not have “standing” to bring a Judicial Review against the Parole Board – that is, he did not have a sufficient interest in the decision. However DSD and NBV, and News Group Newspapers, who did have standing (being, for want of a better expression, directly affected by the issues raised), succeeded in their challenge on both limbs. 

So the Parole Board was wrong to direct that Worboys should be released? 
No. Not exactly. Judicial Review is (very broadly speaking) concerned with process, rather than outcome. The Court did not rule that the Parole Board was wrong to assess Worboys as fit for release. Rather, the Court held that the Parole Board decision was not rational, in that it had failed to undertake further inquiry into “the circumstances of Worboys’ offending and in particular the extent to which the limited way he described his offending may undermine his overall credibility and reliability”. 

What further inquiry should have been undertaken? 
The dossier before the Parole Board appeared disconcertingly light on key materials. There was not a copy of the prosecution opening speech, nor the judge’s sentencing remarks, from Worboys’ trial, which contained important summaries of the circumstances of the offences. Nor was there a copy of the judgment of the High Court in the proceedings brought against the Metropolitan Police by some of Worboys’ victims, which contained further detail as to how he carried out his crimes, including the discovery of a “rape kit” in Worboys’ car, containing, among other things, condoms and strips of Nytol. Nor was there any information concerning the wider offences alleged against Worboys by other women, including some with whom he had reached civil settlements (said to be “without admission of liability”). 

This all matters because until 2015, Worboys had continued to deny his guilt and was pursuing routes of appeal, before, in May 2015, performing a remarkable volte face and admitting the offences of which he had been convicted. That this came only 9 months before he was eligible for release might by itself have raised eyebrows. But more importantly, what he said to the professionals when he did admit his offences did not sit easily with the evidence at trial. He appeared to redraw the limits of his criminality, for example asserting that he had only once used Nytol to drug his victims, and minimising the extent to which he had sexually assaulted them. He also maintained that the only offences he had committed were those of which he had been convicted, notwithstanding the view expressed by the police that he had committed over a hundred like offences. 

The Parole Board relied heavily on a number of reports from probation officers, offender managers and psychologists, who appeared to accept at face value what Worboys told them and concluded that he had taken “full responsibility” for his actions. This was a key factor in assessing his risk, and the methodology behind reaching this view appears, as we can see, worryingly flimsy. The Parole Board panel, before whom Worboys gave evidence at his hearing, adopted a similarly credulous approach, not asking a single question to test his averred reformation, nor even seeking the original case papers to check whether what Worboys was now admitting did in fact amount to a “full” acceptance of responsibility. The Court was not impressed, finding that had the Parole Board had before it all the relevant material, it would have been bound to ask further questions to test whether Worboys really was taking full responsibility for his actions, or whether he was minimising his behaviour and spinning lies in an effort to manipulate the decision makers. As it is, the Parole Board did not seek any further information before embarking upon the hearing and reaching its conclusions. 

But the other allegations weren’t proven, were they? Can the Parole Board take into account complaints that have not been proven in court? 
Here the Court descended into the kind of distinction which leaves even some lawyers scratching their heads. The Court said that while the Parole Board cannot determine whether a prisoner has committed other offences, it is still allowed to consider evidence of wider offending when determining the issue of risk. The Court rejected the submission by the Parole Board’s QC that this distinction is artificial, and suggested that the details of the (alleged) wider offending could have been used “as a means of probing and testing the honesty and veracity of [Worboys’] account”. I shall confess that I struggle to get my head around how this might be so. If Worboys denied committing any other offences, then the only way that the evidence of other offences could be used to “probe his honesty” would be if the Board formed the conclusion that he had committed the other offences, and was now being untruthful. In any case, the Court maintained that there is a distinction there, if you look hard enough. And importantly, what Worboys had to say about the offences of which he was convicted, and the circumstances of his Damascene conversion, by themselves gave rise to obvious questions, none of which were explored, and which could have been undermined had further inquiry been made by the panel. 

Wasn’t it also the case that Worboys was refused a transfer to an open prison because of his risk as recently as August 2017? 
This is correct, although it’s fair to point out, as did the Court, that this was a determination made by the Justice Secretary, rather than the Parole Board, and involves a different test. Nevertheless, it’s an unattractive background detail for the Parole Board. 

What about the privacy of Parole Board Decisions? 
The Court held that the Parole Board Rule 25 was ultra vires – unlawful – as it offended the principle of open justice and of a victims’ right of access to the court. There was no objective necessity for a rule which stifles the provision of all information relating to Parole Board proceedings. Sometimes information will have to be kept out of the public domain for good reason; but this shouldn’t be the default. It is now for the Secretary of State to decide how to reformulate Rule 25 in light of the judgment. 

What happens next? 
A different panel of the Parole Board will make a fresh determination as to whether Worboys meets the test for release, requesting and taking into account (one hopes) the various information outlined in the judgment. The Court expressed a strong opinion that the Chair should be a serving or retired judge, no doubt with an eye on a rigorous cross-examination of Worboys at the hearing. The outcome may still be the same, but the new panel will treat Worboys’ declaration of transformation with far more scepticism than the first. 

Why has Nick Hardwick, chair of the Parole Board, resigned? 
The short, official answer is that the failings of the Parole Board exposed in the judgment were so serious that his position was considered untenable by Justice Secretary David Gauke. A longer answer would meander through various ponderables, including why, given that numerous Parole Board decisions not to release prisoners have been the subject of successful judicial reviews over the years, this case requires a forced resignation whereas those many others did not. Mr Hardwick was, after all, not directly involved in any of these decisions. It seems that the distinguishing feature is that all those other cases involved the Parole Board making erroneous determinations on release that adversely affected prisoners, who, one infers, are of significantly less worth to the Justice Secretary than adversely affected victims.

One might also observe that Mr Hardwick has been calling for greater transparency in Parole Board hearings, only to be ignored by the very politicians who are now celebrating his downfall. 

Should Justice Secretary David Gauke resign too? 
Mr Gauke has been criticised for refusing to institute proceedings for judicial review, leaving the legal action to be pursued by the victims. In his defence, he pleads that he was following legal opinion which advised that he was unlikely to succeed as a claimant in judicial review proceedings. That the legal advice may have been shown by subsequent events to be overly pessimistic is nothing new; we have all had cases where we have solemnly advised a client of the impossibility of their case and later enjoyed the client’s glee upon an unexpected victory. Nevertheless, there appears, to my eye, absolutely no reason why, if Nick Hardwick has been deemed sufficiently culpable for forced resignation, the Justice Secretary’s head should not be next on the block. What is good for the sacrificial goose and all that. 

What’s the takeaway from this case? 
Not much positive. One is left with enormous sympathy for the victims, who have had to endure a catalogue of errors in the way their attacker has been dealt with, from a thoroughly botched police investigation, through to a decision not to prosecute seemingly-viable cases by the CPS, resulting in a custodial sentence which many feel does not reflect the gravity of the offending, and culminating in a lackadaisical Parole Board panel which appeared every bit as naïve and unquestioning as campaigners had feared. This case, to put it lightly, does not show the criminal justice system at its finest. Whether this will precipitate a flood of challenges by victims to other Parole Board decisions relating to dangerous offenders remains to be seen.

Secret Barrister


Hard Case, Bad Law? Puzzles about Worboys

The Divisional Court Judgment on the Worboys case raises a number of puzzles. The Court ruled that the Parole Board’s decision to release the serial sex offender was not irrational on the information it considered but the Board was irrational not to have sought more. To a non lawyer, that looks like a distinction without a difference. As Nick Hardwick put it in his resignation letter “we were wrong”. The two women who brought the case deserve great credit for doing so, although I am not so sure about the Mayor of London.

What surprised me most was the fact that the Parole Board decided to release Worboys while he remained a Category A prisoner. The Prison Service must have considered him a person “whose escape would be highly dangerous to the public or the police or the security of the State and for whom the aim must beto make escape impossible”. The court heard that direct release is ordered on Cat A prisoners a handful of times a year. Shouldn’t it be prohibited altogether?

There is also a mystery about why more of the complaints against Mr Worboys were not prosecuted. Was it because they did not reach the evidential threshold as the CPS claimed earlier this year. Or was it that the CPS thought a small sample of offences would be enough to reflect the overall criminality and result in an appropriate sentence.

The Code for Crown Prosecutors says that Prosecutors should select charges which: a) reflect the seriousness and extent of the offending supported by the evidence; b) give the court adequate powers to sentence and impose appropriate post-conviction orders; and c) enable the case to be presented in a clear and simple way. One of the prosecutors reportedly told victims that “there are dangers in putting too many charges on an indictment as the trial can be too long and complicated.” Had more cases against Worboys been proved, the IPP tariff would have been higher and his release would not have been an issue until much later. IPP may have gone but the fundamental issue is still present. Should the Code be amended to make this clear?

As for sentencing, the Divisional Court was critical of the fact that the Parole Board did not consider the judge’s remarks made when Worboys was sentenced in 2009. I haven’t seen these but wonder how much weight they should be given. Parole Board decisions are about future risks and are predicated on the idea that people can change. How relevant are remarks made many years in the past?

Last month at Liverpool Crown Court, in another dreadful case, the judge sentencing paedophile football coach Barry Bennell described him as “the devil incarnate”. What will the Parole Board - if it still exists - make of that when they consider his case in 2033 or thereabouts?

Finally, there’s the vexed question of the extent the Parole Board should take account of offending behaviour alleged but not proven. In their summary of the case, Matrix Chambers say that “should there be…attempts to deploy before the Parole Board extensive sub-conviction information, then they will likely be met by an argument that this case {ie Worboys} should be distinguished. The material in this case was readily available, the Board had been told of its existence, and it was particularly powerful. Those circumstances are quite unique”. But are they? Justice Secretary David Gauke told Parliament yesterday that in response to the judgement “all relevant evidence of past offending should be included in the dossiers submitted to the Parole Board, including possibly police evidence, so that it can be robustly tested in each Parole Board hearing”.Presumably this includes “sub-conviction” information. And what about offences of which people have been acquitted? Reasonable doubt may prevent a conviction but doesn’t always extinguish risk.

There are no easy answers here but I wonder whether the future lies in handing these complex decisions over to the courts. The abolition of Rule 25 prohibiting information about parole proceedings being made public could well be a game changer. It will have a chilling effect on the Board and could lead to an upsurge in litigation one way and another. Maybe it’s better to have these release decisions made by judges sooner rather than later.

Rob Allen

Thursday 29 March 2018

The Wrong Guy Resigns

As I've said many times before, politics is as much about luck as anything. The furore surrounding David Gauke and his shameless sacking of Nick Hardwick is just as the nation is suitably distracted by a bloody Brexit milestone, combined with gate-fever as we head for the Easter break with the House of Commons in recess.  This from the Guardian:-

How Parole Board chair became a sacrificial lamb

Justice secretary should have initiated reform of board instead of forcing Nick Hardwick out

Nick Hardwick’s letter to the justice secretary, David Gauke, after their meeting on Tuesday to prepare for the Worboys’ high court ruling makes clear that he was forced to resign in the biggest criminal justice sacking since Michael Howard’s involvement in the dismissal of prisons chief, Derek Lewis.

“You told me that you thought my position was untenable,” he told Gauke. “I am sorry for the mistakes that were made in the case but I have always made it clear that I will support the members and staff of the board in the very difficult individual decisions they make and I will accept accountability for the work of the board. I will not pass the buck to those who work under me. In these circumstances I inform you of my decision to resign with immediate effect.”

The high court ruling in the case was actually on quite a narrow legal issue. The three judges did not try to put themselves in the place of the experienced parole board members who made the decision to recommend release on the basis of the evidence that they had before them.

Instead, the judges said the experienced Parole Board panel was mistaken in not going beyond the attacks on 12 women for which Worboys, aged 60, had been convicted and served 10 years in prison and taking into account up to 100 other offences for which he had not been convicted.

The court ruled that the Board panel was mistaken in this “misapprehension” in a case which they described as “difficult, troubling” and with “many exceptional features”.

In his letter to the justice secretary, Hardwick, who had no role in the decision taken by the panel to recommend Worboys’ release, makes clear he shared that misapprehension which was supported by the legal advice he had received: “We were wrong,” he accepts bluntly. It is a ruling that could now overturn years of parole board practice and lead to even longer sentences in the future.

Hardwick has had a selfless career in public service. He was involved in setting up Centrepoint, the homeless charity. He led the Refugee Council, which was never a popular cause. He chaired the Independent Police Complaints Commission and then took on the tough job of chief inspector of prisons before his appointment to the parole board.

None of these jobs was straightforward and in each post he demonstrated a principled approach to the difficult issues involved. As soon as the Worboys decision became the centre of an intense public debate, Hardwick made clear he had been pressing to increase the transparency of parole board decisions, and the official inquiry made clear it was not a failing of the parole board that victims were not properly kept informed.

But he is also right in his letter to the justice secretary to raise his concern about the independence of the Parole Board: “I believe this matter raises very troubling questions about how the board’s independence can be safeguarded. I hope parliament will consider what structural changes are necessary to ensure this independence is protected in future.”

He was right to raise the issue. The new justice secretary only weeks before swore an oath to protect the independence of the judiciary. Yet Gauke was prepared, egged on by the chairman of the Conservative party, to consider launching a legal action himself to overturn the decision of the Parole Board.

It was right – as has been proved – that the victims’ legal action should go ahead, but for the justice secretary to take his own steps in response to a media-fuelled campaign to overturn the Parole Board in the courts was a step way over the line for a lord chancellor. In the event Gauke didn’t go ahead because the Ministry of Justice lawyers advised that such a high court action was unlikely to succeed. They too got it wrong.

If Gauke felt the Parole Board had made a mistake in not taking into account Worboys’ unconvicted offences, he should have initiated the necessary reforms rather than make a sacrificial lamb out of a Parole Board chair who was only too willing to reform the board.

The role of the Parole Board has grown significantly in the past 20 years, matching the increase in the public’s appetite for more punitive sentencing, which in turn has been reflected in the growth of indefinite sentences. The board’s secrecy – although an essential part of the justice system – has always stood apart from the judicial system. It is time it also enjoyed the independence of the courts and protection from populist politicians.


This from the Guardian's Public Leaders Network column:-

Parole Board affair exposes a tangled web of responsibilities

What’s the point of having arm’s length bodies if ministers are going to sack their leaders as soon as the going gets rough?

David Gauke is no Michael Howard. Somewhat less nocturnal, Ann Widdecombe might say. But the present justice secretary shares with the former Tory home secretary a problem that has bedevilled Whitehall for many years and is now getting worse. What happens when arm’s length bodies, such as the Parole Board, use the autonomy they have deliberately been given to behave, well, autonomously?

If those who chair boards are sacked when they do what it says in their job description, why bother with the length of an arm? The Parole Board case, which has seen the sacking of chair Nick Hardwick, has particular elements, of course, but surely a judicial review of a board’s decision-making should be welcomed as a demonstration of its autonomy, not become the reason for dismissal.

This takes place against a wider public management crisis about accountability. It has been boiling away in local government – look at the semi-autonomous organisation responsible for Grenfell Tower - and in schools, as multi-academy trusts pay their chief executives exorbitant sums and no one, least of all parents, know who’s checking.

Hardwick has stated his concern about the Parole Board’s independence. He’s addressing more than the specifics of the Worboys case. Does the Ministry of Justice really want civil servants to decide on the release of killers, which means in practice Gauke and his successors having to appear in the Commons and answer specific and detailed questions?

The very reason the former health secretary Andrew Lansley hatched the 2012 Health Act was to stop health secretaries being held responsible for what happens in clinics. He was repeating what umpteen predecessors (mostly Tory, as it happens) had said when they created “next steps agencies” in the late 1980s to manage operational delivery of policy through focused and lean public agencies, with their own staff, strategy and leadership structures.

The trouble was that agency managers then did things ministers didn’t like or started to edge into the political spotlight. It turned out agencies were a convenient way for ministers to blame managers – leading Howard, when home secretary, to sack Derek Lewis, head of the prison service, in 1995 after prisoners escaped.

The same question, about who should be ultimately responsible for what, keeps arising. Take the Charity Commission, another arm’s-length, would-be autonomous body. Tina Stowell has resigned the Tory whip in the House of Lords but are MPs and the public really going to be satisfied if the secretary of state Matthew Hancock refuses to answer questions about the commission’s work? He will try to say that it is independent, but will not convince.

Then there is the Office of Students. Its chair, Michael Barber, says he regrets the attempt to appoint a minister’s crony in the shape of Toby Young, but where does the episode leave the assertion that this is a body that is going to exercise judgment and diverge from its parent departments – education and business?

Councils are rushing to set up wholly-owned companies to do things that they are forbidden to do; NHS trusts are establishing arm’s-length bodies that can employ staff on different terms and conditions but are still, mysteriously, part of the NHS.

In 1959, a distinguished professor, Brian Chapman, in The Profession of Government said that “the haphazard creation of semi-public, public, quasi-private and partly autonomous bodies complicates law, operation and control”. The growth of outsourcing in recent decades has made things even more opaque. Carillion’s collapse has exposed, not for the first time, a web of non-accountabilities and irresponsibilities. The Parole Board affair makes it even more tangled.

David Walker 
(Contributing editor to the Public Leaders Network and former director of public reporting at the Audit Commission)


A selection of responses from twitter:-

Very troubling for chair of Parole Board - an independent, court-like body - forced to resign by a politician. As a man, I have found Prof Hardwick to be principled, clear-eyed about complex issues around parole, & robust about need to focus on those affected by parole
Harry Annison

Nick Hardwick is the epitome of integrity. It’s a disgrace that he has been forced into resignation.
Frances Crook

Disappointing that Justice Secretary has effectively relieved Nick Hardwick of his duties as Chair of Parole Board. Distinguished and highly capable public servant who could have led inevitable process of change better than anyone.
Rob Allen

Nick was doing great work and had already publicly said that he wanted more openness about decisions. He is not in any way personally responsible for a new concept - that past offences for which a prisoner was not convicted, should be taken into account by the parole board.
Penelope Gibbs

'I will accept accountability for the work of my team', and 'I will not pass the buck to those who work under me'. The sort of words you would expect of a decent leader. Wish all in public life were so willing to take responsibility. An example some in politics perhaps?
James Treadwell

Shameful that Nick Hardwick, a fine public servant, has been scapegoated & forced to resign over Worboys case. Contrast this with a politician such as Grayling who made so many mistakes running justice & remains in the cabinet.
Ian Birrell

David Gauke's sacking of Nick Hardwick is as bad as Michael Howard's dismissal of Derek Lewis. The justice secretary bowed to a populist wave and has questions of his own to answer about probation's failure to tell Worboys' victims of his possible release.
Alan Travis

So David Gauke refused to bring judicial review on Worboys parole saying it was inappropriate. Victims disagreed and won in court. Parole Board chairman resigns. Gauke survives?
Krishnan Guru-Murthy

Whatever may have gone wrong in the Worboys case, and things clearly did, I am sorry to see Professor Nick Hardwick resign. He has for decades been one of this country's most conscientious, thoughtful and selfless public servants.
Matthew Taylor

Its politically short-termist. The Parole Board loses a high quality leader at just the moment when it needs quality leadership.
Harvey Redgrave

To my mind, one of the most damaging consequences of the Court’s decision has been that Parole Board Chair Nick Hardwick was pressured to resign by the Justice Secretary. The former Chief Inspector of Prisons was (and is) widely respected in the criminal justice field for his qualities of leadership and his willingness to advance the causes of transparency and reform.

Russell Webster

Blunkett brings in IPP, Grayling screws the entire Probation system, removes experienced staff, prisons in most parlous state for years & latest evanescent Justice Sec. tells the one person showing leadership & positive change HIS position is untenable-unbelievable hypocrisy.
John Podmore

Nick Hardwick is a man of unquestionable integrity who has been willing to take on 3 of the most difficult public offices, Chair of IPCC, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, & Chair Parole Board. He is a brave & honourable man.
Jane Furniss

Nick Hardwick did nothing wrong. He welcomed scrutiny. He did his job. He behaved, as far as I could see, better than many would if under the same sort of pressures. I am deeply disappointed by this outcome. It does not achieve anything useful.
Dr Shona Minson

The departure of Nick Hardwick as Parole Board Chair is not a resignation, it’s a sacking and it’s a scapegoating.
Peter Dawson

Wednesday 28 March 2018

Hardwick Made to Carry the Can

"Professor Nick Hardwick has been a principled and honourable public servant who has made a massive public contribution...founding Centrepoint homeless charity, running the Refugee Council, Chief Inspector of Prisons, and chairing Parole Board...wrong to end this way.." Alan Travis on twitter 
The Worboys case has been a mess right from the beginning, but the Parole Board Chairman has been forced to resign. This from the Telegraph:- 

John Worboys to stay in prison: Parole Board boss Nick Hardwick 'forced to resign' as taxi rapist's release blocked

John Worboys will remain behind bars after two of his victims won a landmark court case to overturn the Parole Board’s controversial decision to release the black cab rapist. The chairman of the Parole Board, Nick Hardwick, is understood to have been forced to resign ahead of the High Court ruling.

Three judges in London said on Wednesday that the Parole Board must make a "fresh determination" in the case of the 60-year-old serial sex attacker. Sir Brian Leveson, Mr Justice Jay and Mr Justice Garnham said the board should have "undertaken further inquiry into the circumstances of his offending". The judges announced that, in the light of their findings, the "release decision will be quashed" and the case "remitted to the Parole Board for fresh determination before a differently constituted panel".

David Gauke, the Justice Secretary, welcomed the resignation of Mr Hardwick, saying it was "the correct decision in light of the serious failings outlined in today's judgment".

Lawyers for the two women who brought the challenge argued during a hearing earlier this month that the Parole Board's decision to release Worboys, who now goes under the name of John Radford, was "irrational" and should be overturned. At the conclusion of the hearing on March 14 the judges continued a temporary bar preventing Worboys' release, which was originally granted in January. Worboys has served 10 years, including remand time, of an indeterminate prison sentence.

Justice Secretary: Parole Board boss was right to quit

In a statement, Justice Secretary David Gauke said: "I accept Professor Hardwick's resignation and believe this is the correct decision in light of the serious failings outlined in today's judgment. I would also like to express my appreciation for his committed service to the Board and the contribution he has made to my department's review of parole processes. It is crucial the Parole Board now takes all necessary measures to ensure that public confidence is maintained in its decision-making processes. I look forward to working closely with the new leadership team to see through these vital changes."

Worboys was jailed indefinitely in 2009 with a minimum term of eight years after being found guilty of 19 offences, including rape, sexual assault and drugging, committed against 12 victims. He became known as the black cab rapist after attacking victims in his hackney carriage. Police believe he committed crimes against 105 women between 2002 and 2008, when he was caught.

The two victims who brought the case believe something went "badly wrong" with the Parole Board's decision to free Worboys. They say the Parole Board should have taken into account "critical evidence" of the "wider allegations" against Worboys. The judges heard that Worboys, who has served 10 years behind bars, including remand time, has denied committing any offences other than those for which he was convicted. The Parole Board argued that its decision was "lawful and and rational" and was based on appropriate evidence.


Explanatory note in the Worboys case (R (DSD & NBV; the Mayor of London; and News Groups Newspapers Ltd) v The Parole Board of England and Wales; the Secretary of State for Justice; and John Radford (formerly John Worboys) (Interested Party) 

The Divisional Court handed down judgment in this case today. The Claimants were represented by Phillippa Kaufmann QC and Nick Armstrong for DSD and NBV; Dan Squires QC and Sarah Hannett for the Mayor of London; and Gavin Millar QC and Aidan Wills for News Group Newspapers Ltd (all of Matrix Chambers). 

What did the Court decide? 

The Court is quashing the decision to release Mr Radford, and remitting his case back to the Parole Board for fresh determination. The Court decided that on the information before the Board at the time of its decision on Boxing Day 2017, there was “considerable force” in the criticisms of the decision which DSD and NBV advanced (see §123 – 127 of the judgment), and in particular about the failure to probe Mr Radford further about the account he had given of his offending (§132). However on the high standard required by the law in these cases, the decision to direct Mr Radford’s release was not irrational. 

The Court found, however, that it had been irrational of the Board not to have undertaken further inquiry of various matters, including (but not limited to) evidence of Mr Radford’s wider offending (§159). It said that material would have provided a sound platform for testing and probing Mr Radford’s account (§161) and was so obviously material that it would have had to have been considered (§163). 

The Court also held that Rule 25(1) of the Parole Board Rules 2016, which prohibit any information about parole proceedings being made public, goes too far and is therefore unlawful (§199). 

What will happen now? 

Subject to any appeal and further order, Mr Radford will remain detained, and the Parole Board will reconsider whether he is safe to be released. The new Board will have to consider the Court’s judgment; make or instigate further inquiries about a number of matters including the evidence of Mr Radford’s wider offending; consider how that material can fairly be deployed at a future hearing; and then reassess his risk. 

The Court has also said that the new Board should include someone with judicial experience (§164 and 202). There was no judicial chair on the last occasion and although there was a lawyer on the panel it is not clear whether that person had judicial experience.

Again subject to any appeal, Rule 25(1) of the Parole Board Rules will have to be amended, permitting at least some information about some parole proceedings to be made public. The precise scope of that new rule will be for the Secretary of State and ultimately Parliament. 

What are the wider implications of the judgment? 

The Court has been careful to emphasise that this was an exceptional case. It is not, therefore, opening any floodgates to challenges by victims of Parole Board decisions, nor to the routine admission of evidence of offences of which prisoners have not been convicted. 

The exceptional features of this case include: 

1. The fact that the CPS decided to charge Mr Radford on a sample offence basis (it should be noted that there was a late suggestion, in a CPS press statement dated 5 January 2018, that offences were not charged because they did not reach the evidential threshold. However that was not what the contemporaneous evidence said, nor what DSD in particular had been told. The Court accepted that at §57, and expressed doubt about the 5 January 2018 press statement at §58. How that press statement came to be written is of some concern to DSD). 

2. The fact that there is and was, nevertheless, very powerful evidence and indicators in support of Mr Radford having offended much more widely. This included the underlying evidence itself (which the Court heard in some detail) but also: 

a. The High Court having found as a fact, in litigation against the police which found they had failed properly to investigate the offences, that much wider offending had occurred. 

b. The fact that Mr Radford himself had settled eleven civil actions against him for a total of £241,000. The Court recognised that Mr Radford had not been a party to the proceedings against the police, and that he had settled the actions against him without an admission of liability. But it also said, with regard to the £241,000 settlement, and in what may be thought to be a good example of judicial understatement, that “bearing in mind the size of the payment, such answers should have generated a modicum of scepticism in the minds of a forensically astute panel” (§61). 

3. The fact that the Parole Board in this case placed so much emphasis on Mr Radford having now accepted “full responsibility for [his] offending”, and his “openness and honesty”, when there was significant evidence available which pointed the other way. 

4. The fact that this was a case where impression management, and manipulation, were specific issues, and risk factors, and yet the possibility that “Mr Radford has provided what may be described as a carefully calibrated account, steering adroitly between admitting too much and too little, rather than one that is entirely open and forthcoming” (§127) had not been probed before the Board. 

Another exceptional feature of this case was the public interest in it, which amongst other things, meant that DSD and NBV could successfully crowd fund to cover their costs (including their potential costs liability to Mr Radford should they have lost). DSD and NBV would like to repeat their particular gratitude to all those who contributed to the crowd fund.

The result is that should there be further claims of this kind, or attempts to deploy before the Parole Board extensive sub-conviction information, then they will likely be met by an argument that this case should be distinguished. The material in this case was readily available, the Board had been told of its existence, and it was particularly powerful. Those circumstances are quite unique. 

It is also unlikely that the ruling on Rule 25 of the Parole Board Rules will lead to a great deal of further information about the parole process. In some cases, however, there will be more information, at least in gist form, and the Parole Board itself has said it would like the facility to say more about its decisions. Such transparency is of course the fundamental guarantor of accountability, and by extension, of good quality decision making. 

That is a further feature of this case and, it may be hoped, a key wider implication of the judgment. Decisions about the release of long term prisoners are difficult. Forensic psychology is not an exact science. Understanding of offending behaviour and what causes and reduces it is developing, and sometimes that understanding can be counter intuitive. However victims, prisoners, and the wider public are all entitled to good quality decision making. In that context we would echo the Court’s suggestion that it is surprising that the Parole Board did not, in a case like this, have a judicial chair. We would add that it is surprising, in fact, that it did not have a High Court judge in the chair. It is equally surprising that the Secretary of State was not represented by counsel, who might have ensured that all relevant lines of inquiry were flagged to the Board. Both of us – the barristers for DSD and NBV – have long experience of appearing before the Parole Board. Not so many years ago a case like this would have had both a senior judge in the chair, and counsel for the Secretary of State. The fact that all this happened in a case of this size suggests that there are real issues about the proper resourcing of the Board, which remains a fundamental bulwark of the rule of law. 

There is also a further lesson, which is about police investigation, and charging. The CPS may wish to consider, once again, its decision not to prosecute in the case of DSD, and in other cases. 


Cause and Effect?

Staying on the topic of London, the dramatic increase in violent crime, the proposed criminal justice devolution deal and the possibility of a brand new 'secure school' for young offenders, I wonder if the problems could in any way be connected to the findings of this just-released report


I have been researching the dramatic cuts to youth services and the loss of facilities for young people in London since 2016. 

I aimed to demonstrate to the Mayor and the Government the need to intervene and help councils who were cutting back on non-statutory services that are vital for young Londoners, and support the work of campaigners and young people who were also highlighting this growing problem. 

My first report in January 2017 showed that, between the 2011/12 and 2016/17 financial years, at least £22 million was cut from council youth service budgets and more than 30 youth centres had closed. 

These figures were from councils who responded to my freedom of information request on time, but further data continued to come in. So, I updated my report in March 2017 with data from 28 councils. This showed total cuts across London of more than £28 million, 457 lost youth worker posts, and 36 closed youth centres and projects. 

This year, I have repeated my research and received a more comprehensive response from councils, particularly on youth centre closures. 

The results are shocking, and I am pleased that this year the Mayor is now taking action to help. Of the Mayor’s new £45 million fund, £10 million a year will go to local communities, schools and charities, and plug about one third of the total that has been lost. I hope that this money will be spent where young people need it most and make a real difference. 

Young people now need the Government to step up as well – to make dedicated youth services a statutory duty of councils and ensure funding is enough to do this. These measures would support our young people through difficult times and invest positively in their futures. 

Sian Berry AM 
March 2018

Main findings 2011/12 to 2017/18: 

• At least £39 million has been cut from council youth service budgets across London. 
• Overall, there has been a 44 per cent youth service budget cut, with the average council taking £1.5 million out of youth services over this time. 
• Across 25 councils with like-for-like data, 81 youth centres and major council supported youth projects have been cut. 
• Across 22 councils with like-for-like data, 800 youth service full-time posts have gone. At least a further £1.2 million is being cut from 15 councils in 2018/19 budgets. 

Since 2011, the cumulative amount not spent on services for young people in London is now more than £145 million.

Tuesday 27 March 2018

Reactions to London Devolution

"Is there anywhere a coherent plan for Probation in England and Wales, or can any mayor / PCC / enthusiast rock up with a random proposal?"
With news that Staffordshire is the latest county where the Police and Crime Commissioner is to take control of the Fire Service, I share the sentiment expressed above. In a supposedly-mature and advanced society like ours, I feel completely at a loss as to how things run anymore and key decisions are made. There doesn't seem to be a coherent plan to anything, but rather a series of back-of-fag-packet ideas, 'hunches' and an 'anything goes' approach to major policy decisions. 

Of course TR itself was conceived in this way and as a result of its spectacular failure we all have to thrash around and try and come up with a 'fix'. So, it is within this context that we learn a cunning plan has been hatched to try and sort things out for London. This is what the Independent has to say about it:-

New powers to fight rise in stabbings and shootings given to London by Government

Rising stabbings and shootings in London will be targeted by a new crime strategy using powers handed from central Government to the capital's mayor. Sadiq Khan’s office, the Ministry of Justice and London Councils have signed a memorandum of understanding on devolved justice powers, which proposes a “secure school” for young offenders and overhaul of failing probation services.

David Gauke, the Justice Secretary, said London faces “unique challenges” while housing almost 20 per cent of all offenders in England and Wales and spending £3.3bn every year on criminal justice. It is right that we work in close partnership with London’s regional authorities to reduce crime, stop people reoffending and look after victims,” he added.

“I envisage this as the first step towards a model where London’s authorities play a much more active role in managing offenders – particularly those who require the most comprehensive support.”

Mr Khan said he wanted to make London safer, reduce reoffending rates and support victims better by joining up local services. “This agreement will ensure that decisions about justice services in London prioritise the interests of Londoners, and it is an important step towards the devolution of powers over criminal justice in our city,” he added.

The initiative was revealed after a bloody week in the capital, where a 26-year-old man was shot dead in the street on Sunday night. Another man, 30, is fighting for his life in hospital after being stabbed in Kennington on Friday, and on Wednesday a man had his watch stolen at gunpoint in Croydon. On Tuesday, a 21-year-old man was stabbed to death in a Stratford shopping centre, hours after a 36-year-old man was fatally assaulted on a bus in New Cross. There were two unrelated murders on the previous day, when another man was killed in Walthamstow and a 48-year-old man was stabbed to death in Southall.

The latest attacks come amid a nationwide rise in violent crime, with knife and gun offences up a fifth in a year, and safety warnings over the part-privatisation of probation services. There were more than 820,000 crimes recorded in London over the last year – 17 per cent of all recorded crime in England and Wales – and a fifth of known offenders (76,000) live in the capital. Despite the scale of demand, the prospects for people going through the criminal justice system are among the worst in the country and the memorandum warned that problems have “become more acute in the wake of the significant budget challenges that all agencies have faced” in recent years.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, said London’s crime wave was being driven by a “core group of young offenders” repeatedly committing assault and robbery “with relative impunity”. Almost half of youth offenders and a third of 18 to 24-year-olds convicted of crimes in London reoffend, with the figure rising to 42 per cent for those having spent time in custody, and the phenomenon is costing £2.2bn a year.

Initiatives will target the “root causes” of crime and address the disproportionate number of victims and offenders from black, Asian and ethnic minority groups. The new strategy aims to protect the public and ensure criminals are properly rehabilitated in order to “break the cycle of crime”. It will review probation services, amid criticism of under-performing Community Rehabilitation Companies, and push to boost confidence in community sentences as an alternative to imprisonment. 

It also aims to improve safety in London prisons, which are overcrowded and have rising rates of violence and self-harm and probe the use of custody for under-18s. The Mayor’s Office for Police and Crime and local councils are researching potential sites for a Secure School for London, which would educate young offenders, and propose the creation of a dedicated “young adult” court.

A new London Justice Devolution Board will lead efforts to join up work by the 14 different national, regional and local organisations currently handling different parts of the fractured system. Other aims include improving the experience for victims and witnesses and reducing the number of women in custody. The Ministry of Justice has also struck devolution deals with authorities in Greater Manchester, Liverpool and the West Midlands, and is considering closer ties with elected Police and Crime Commissioners across the country.


Rob Allen was quick to remind us yesterday of his part in pushing the justice reinvestment agenda outlined in his 2015 report  'Rehabilitation Devolution - how localising justice can reduce crime and imprisonment' for the charity Transform Justice. Of course as he makes clear in his latest blog post, it remains to be seen if what is being proposed for London actually measures up to the principles that lie behind Justice Reinvestment:- 

Is Justice Reinvestment Finally Coming to Town?

For those of us who have spent years promoting the policy of Justice Reinvestment (JR), today’s Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Ministry of Justice, London Councils and the Mayor is an important moment. It remains to be seen of course whether it leads, as David Gauke told Parliament, to fundamental change in responsibilities for criminal justice and offender management in London. But it certainly promises greater local influence in the capital’s victim and witness services, probation system, electronic monitoring arrangements and justice measures for young adults and women. It goes some way towards meeting one of the three key elements of JR- that is the “devolution of responsibility for criminal justice to a more local level, where a range of relevant organisations can devise the most appropriate approaches to reducing crime, incorporating the views of people most affected by it”.

But what about the other two prerequisites for JR? These are first, an overarching and explicit policy goal of reducing the numbers of people being prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned; and second a method of financing criminal justice institutions and processes which incentivises the transfer of resources away from prison places, and into community based measures for rehabilitating offenders and preventing crime. The MoU takes us less far and more tentatively in these directions.

It’s true that it commits to exploring the scope for greater use of police diversion and credible alternatives to custody for women; and to reducing the numbers of young Londoners from being incarcerated in unsafe or distant institutions. But alongside these lukewarm diversionary ambitions sit proposals for a community prison for women and a secure school for children. The MoU talks about reviewing “the use of custody (both police and secure estate) for young people to develop recommendations to support more effective custodial solutions”. I thought this must be a typo (with a missing non-), but am not so sure.

More positively perhaps, the parties commit to working to explore the feasibility and practicality of justice reinvestment “with the aim of reducing the number of low risk offenders sentenced to custody and enabling the sharing of savings to support better community interventions. This will include a particular focus on female offenders and 18-25 year old offenders”.

The document’s glossary defines JR as “a model where investment is given to a local area in response to a reduction in demand on the offender management / criminal justice system”. It acknowledges the possibility of upfront funding with the ability to claw back payments if demand is not reduced. The MoU incorrectly states that this has not been tested. The Youth Justice Reinvestment Custody Pathfinder which ran from 2011-2013 did just that. While two of the four pilot sites activated a break clause after a year, the two that stayed the course exceeded their targets for reducing the custodial places required for their young people. It worked.

How far this all goes and when will depend on the energy and vision of the London Justice Devolution Board which will drive the agenda forward. The timetable for action is a bit opaque. The first task of the Board “will be to agree a detailed implementation plan to operationalise all of the commitments in this MoU no later than March 2019. The implementation plan will be developed prior to the first London Justice Devolution Board”.

Back in 2015 I recommended that a JR initiative on women “combining up front money and reward payments should be started”. Rather than yet more time exploring, considering and scoping, the partners should crack on with this at the very least.

Rob Allen

Monday 26 March 2018

Probation in London

Judging by today's announcement, it looks like probation delivery in London is in line for another major shake-up:- 

Justice Update:Written statement
I have today signed a Justice Devolution Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with London Councils and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC).

This agreement will fundamentally change the way the criminal justice and offender management systems interact with local partners in London. We are moving towards a model where greater local influence is seen in a number of key delivery areas, including victims and witness services, future probation services, innovative use of electronic monitoring technologies, and specialist services for young offenders and women in the criminal justice system. We have also committed to explore jointly more ambitious options, such as budget devolution for certain groups of offenders in custody.

This is a crucial area of focus for the government. Spending on criminal justice in London is significant, estimated at £3.3bn per annum across at least 14 different organisations at a national, regional and local level. Reoffending costs £2.2bn in criminal justice costs alone. London accounts for almost 20% of offenders and reoffenders, at 76,000 and 19,000 respectively, and has a prison population accounting for a similar proportion but which is spread across 40 institutions nationally. Crime and the impact of crime is not felt equally across London, with the most vulnerable wards having three times as many victims of burglary, robbery and sexual offences as the least vulnerable wards.

In summary, the MoU covers the following areas:

Victims and witnesses
Work will aim to improve the experience for victims and witnesses from the point a crime is reported to the criminal conviction and beyond. Our ambition is to establish a more integrated service for victims and witnesses in London where victim support would be provided by a single person rather than several agencies. To help ensure a more seamless service for victims and witnesses before trial, we will devolve commissioning of support for witnesses at the pre-trial stage to MOPAC by April 2019.

We will also use the findings from the MOPAC-commissioned review of compliance with the Victims' Code of Practice and the provision of victim services in London to improve accountability and to inform local, regional and national policy and commissioning.

Reducing reoffending
This section of the MoU commits my department to working with local partners to ensure that the right interventions are in place to reduce reoffending in the capital. This will include delivery of a joint review of probation services in London, and testing the co-commissioning of ‘Through the Gate’ services.

Further to this, the MoJ, MOPAC and London Councils will undertake a joint programme of work around robust community sentence options, including considering opportunities to co-commission and better integrate services for the most complex, violent and persistent offenders, and developing a London strategy to make the most effective use of electronic monitoring.

A new approach to managing vulnerable cohorts
More women are sentenced to short custodial sentences in London than in the rest of the country, and the overall London youth reoffending rate of 47.5% remains stubbornly higher than the rate for England and Wales, which is currently 42.6%. This section sets out how we will work in partnership to address the complex needs of these vulnerable cohorts.

The MoU sets out a specific commitment to work collaboratively to align priorities and budgets on female offenders within London, exploring the scope for co-designing credible alternatives to custody. On young offenders, the MoJ will facilitate joint analysis with an aim of improving outcomes, with particular focus on addressing BAME disproportionality across the system. MoJ, MOPAC and London boroughs will pursue joint work programmes in relation to resettlement provision, transition to the adult estate, and the opportunities to co-commission a Secure School for London.

Financial devolution
Finally, we are seeking, in the longer term, to foster a whole-system approach to offender management where powers, resources and decisions are better aligned and early intervention and prevention is incentivised. The MoU sets out our intention to work with MOPAC and London Councils to explore ways in which financial models can incentivise greater investment in preventative services which reduce demand on the CJS, particularly considering opportunities with specific cohorts, including female offenders and 18-25-year-old offenders.

This summary covers the main commitments of the MoU. Work will begin now to ensure we jointly deliver these commitments as quickly as possible.

David Gauke MP (Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice)


Mayor of London's press release:-

New agreement to join up London’s justice services
A new agreement to reduce reoffending and provide a more integrated approach to victims of crime in London was announced today by the Justice Secretary and the Mayor of London. They will work alongside local councils towards justice devolution and explore how to better join up local criminal justice services in the capital.

Together they will initiate a programme to tackle major challenges facing London’s criminal justice service, and ultimately devolve powers, and more authority and accountability for criminal justice from the Government to the capital.

Spending on criminal justice in London totals £3.3bn every year and is currently split across 14 different organisations at a national, regional and local level. With so many different bodies allocating funding at different levels, there are inevitably inconsistencies and duplication of work.

The Mayor of London, Justice Secretary and the capital’s Boroughs want to ensure London has the powers and funding to be able to join up and improve those services, so the capital’s justice system can:

  • Tackle high rates of reoffending and ensure probation services are meeting the needs of London.
  • Develop targeted policies to help reduce reoffending by young adults.
  • Bring together elements of the support provided to witnesses before a trial with victim support services commissioned in London, to ensure victims are not passed unnecessarily between services.
To address those and other challenges, four key priority areas have been identified where a more joined up approach would strengthen the Criminal Justice Service for Londoners. They are:
  • Reducing reoffending – at the moment 24 per cent of all offenders reoffend within one year of ending their sentence and reoffending costs London’s criminal justice system approximately £2.2bn a year. Probation services need to do more to protect Londoners from harm and ensure offenders are properly rehabilitated. This work will see a much greater role for the Mayor in delivering future probation services that meet the needs of London, and ensure that more is done to deter and rehabilitate offenders to break the cycle of crime. Work will also include exploring how prisons can be made safer whilst providing an environment that is more conducive to rehabilitation alongside services that resettle offenders on release.
  • Victims and witnesses – work will aim to improve the experience for victims and witnesses from the point a crime is reported to the criminal conviction and beyond. Our ambition is to establish more integrated service for victims and witnesses where victim support would be provided by a single person rather than several agencies.
  • A new approach to managing vulnerable cohorts in the criminal justice system – more women are sentenced to short custodial sentences in London than in the rest of the country, and the overall London youth reoffending rate of 47.5 per cent remains higher than the rate for England and Wales, which is 42.6 per cent. Work will explore how to reduce the number of women in custody, while also focusing on improving access to support services for women in prisons and ensuring there is sufficient investment in female offender services in the community. The programme will also look to reduce the number of young Londoners who are locked up away from their families and communities and investigate the commissioning of a new secure institution for London’s young offenders.
  • Financial devolution – ways will be explored of providing the financial mechanisms and incentives that allow London to invest more in preventative services. Work will include exploring opportunities for the devolution of custody budgets for certain groups of offenders, to help reduce the demand on the criminal justice system.
A new board led by senior representatives of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, Ministry of Justice and London Councils will oversee work related to today’s agreement. The London Justice Devolution Board will ensure that the key objectives are being met.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: 

“By joining up local services I believe we can increase support for victims of crime and reduce the rate of reoffending in London, helping make our communities safer. This agreement will ensure that decisions about justice services in London prioritise the interests of Londoners, and it is an important step towards the devolution of powers over criminal justice in our city.”

Justice Secretary, David Gauke, said: 

“This is a significant step towards greater autonomy and accountability for London and a sign of this Government’s deep commitment to devolution.London faces unique challenges and opportunities – almost 20% of all offenders live in the capital and it spends more than £3billion delivering criminal justice. So it is right that we work in close partnership with London’s regional authorities to reduce crime, stop people reoffending and look after victims. I envisage this as the first step towards a model where London’s authorities play a much more active role in managing offenders – particularly those who require the most comprehensive support.”

Councillor Lib Peck, London Councils’ Executive member for crime and public protection, said: 

“Today’s agreement is an important step towards creating a more integrated criminal justice system for London. The MOU represents welcome progress towards devolving power locally, which will support London boroughs in our commitments to reduce crime and improve the safety of our communities. Close collaboration between central, regional, and local government is also essential for improving services, so we’re pleased to be working in partnership with the Ministry of Justice and the Mayor to ensure this happens.”