Saturday 30 November 2019

All Change in Wales 2

Details surrounding the events in London yesterday are slowly emerging and of course coincide with changes to the probation environment in Wales as the pathfinder for TR2. I notice former Probation Officer Leanne Wood AM and Shadow Minister for Social Justice has posted the following on Facebook:-   

Hearing with horror this morning that the suspect terror attacker on London Bridge was a convicted criminal (for similar offences) who had served a long prison sentence and was out on licence.

The man who murdered Conner Marshall (see the article below) was under the supervision of the probation service as well. Conner’s mother, Nadine, is a tireless campaigner for reform, devolution and proper funding of the probation service so that probation staff can do the job they are meant to do.

The probation service was part-privatised by the Tories after splitting the service in two. One arm of the old probation service - the privatised part, was supposed to work with “low risk” offenders, while the public element of the service was meant to work closer with prisons in order to supervise the more serious or high risk offenders as well as those on long prison sentences, released for supervision in the community for the latter part of their sentence.

This ideologically-driven privatisation of the probation service has been widely accepted to have been a disaster. Aside from the fact that privatisation of a public service rarely makes sense, the idea that people can be placed in separate “risk boxes” is also nonsense. People’s risk can change as their life circumstances change.

I support Nadine Marshall’s campaign to fully devolve the probation service to Wales and for the whole service to be reunited within the public sector. I share Nadine’s concerns about the effects of keeping group work and unpaid work in the private sector. This will ensure the service remains fragmented and split and unable to properly to do the job the service was set up to do.

I want to be clear - the last thing I am doing is having a go at probation officers here. In a former career, I was a probation officer and I know from talking to former colleagues how their caseloads are massive and how there is rarely enough time to undertake the rehabilitative work they are trained to do.

My thoughts are with everyone who was caught up in the events at London Bridge yesterday as well as to Nadine Marshall and everyone else who has lost someone they love to violent acts. As a society, we can do so much more to support people who have been bereaved in this way. I would like to see decent investment in counselling and talking therapies to help people in this situation. I don’t think any of us should be in any wonder that mental health problems are on the rise when we do so little to support and help people to deal with traumatic life events?

We will never stop some people being violent toward others, but with the right level of investment and expertise, we can reduce the risk and the harm that some people can pose.

These experts know what needs to be done, but for many years they have had a government stopping them. If we want to see fewer violent incidents on our streets and in people’s private homes, we have to work at that and pay for it.

This is the full comment I provided for this BBC report. It’s only been partially published.

Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Minister for Social Justice Leanne Wood AM said:

“Plaid Cymru wants to see the entire probation service devolved, alongside policing and justice. We want to ensure people are properly assessed and supervised so they are not a risk to the public. Evidence shows that there have been lot of problems with the current probation system, because of lack of investment and privatisation. There is also a shocking lack of support for bereaved families.

“Fixing these systemic problems here in Wales requires solutions made in Wales, for Wales. Crucially, it also requires proper investment so that proper assessments and supervision both inside and outside prison can take place. No longer can we go on expecting that Westminster will solve our problems for us – and that’s why our Senedd should have full power over the entire probation service.”

Leanne Wood

Well said Leanne and talking to probation officers recently regarding the current changes in the service to bring the two halves back together they were reminding me that all the chief probation officers advised against the split at the time ...yet the Tory govt ignored that entirely ...Grayling remained obstinate in the face of all the evidence and the £cost is eye watering but the human cost due to risks created is immeasurable .....and the public have no idea of the risks it created ...and the public £ that has been wasted..

Yes. I don’t remember any voices (outside the Tories and the companies set to make out of it) who thought it was a good idea. My views haven’t changed in many years - see this from 2013.

Friday 29 November 2019

All Change in Wales

Ok, back to what we should be talking about. Whilst many of us are gripped by the competing priorities of shopping, Christmas preparations and electioneering, we mustn't forget that momentous things are about to happen in Wales in relation to the reintegration of the CRC into NPS. This from the BBC website today:- 

Murder victim's mum fears probation changes

The mother of a teenager who was killed by a man on probation has joined calls to reunify Wales' probation service. Nadine Marshall fears that unless the National Probation Service (NPS) has responsibility for programmes and unpaid work, the risk of offenders committing further offences increases. Her son Conner, 18, was murdered in 2015 by a man in breach of probation.

The way offenders are managed in Wales changes next week, with a private firm handing back most work to the NPS. The UK Government said there was "widespread support" for the proposals. But concerns have been raised there are still important areas of offender rehabilitation that will be under the remit of private firms or charities.

The probation officers' union Napo pointed out that in so many serious further offence reviews, or homicide reviews, there is a call for the free flow of information so risk assessments are as accurate as possible. It worries that by keeping these two elements of offender management and rehabilitation separate, it reduces that flow, which in turn increases the risk to the public.

Conner Marshall, 18, died four days after being beaten with a pole by David Braddon at Trecco Bay caravan park in Porthcawl, Bridgend county, in 2015. Braddon - who had mistaken Conner for someone else - was jailed for life after admitting murder. In the nine months before the killing, Braddon, from Caerphilly, breached his probation by missing eight separate meetings. He was being monitored by a private company - Working Links, Wales' Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) - after he was convicted for drugs offences and assaulting a police officer.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) denied the unprovoked attack could have been predicted or prevented and the company has since gone into administration.

Mrs Marshall, from Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, backed the concerns of Napo that the changes will leave essential parts of probation being done by non-specialists. She is worried there might be more "devastating cases like ours". "In our case, you don't know when that worm will turn," she added. "It reaches back to the accountability of it - particularly if third sector organisations are expected to pick up the pieces. Risk is transient - it's not static, what's a risk today, isn't necessarily one tomorrow. There could be any manner of things that happen." She said it was a huge expectation to expect non-professionals to notice changes in behaviour or triggers.

Napo said two separate organisations dealing with an offender also made it harder for professionals to know if the risks had increased. The changes will bring low and medium-risk offenders back under the NPS, alongside the management of high-risk offenders. But CRCs or third sector organisations will be responsible for unpaid work that offenders must carry out - as well as the courses they have to attend - for example, programmes for addicts, addressing aggressive behaviour or domestic violence.

Four years ago the service was split, with private firms created to manage all but high-risk offenders, leading to a number of critical reports and a rise in the number of people on probation going on to commit serious crimes. These changes will happen in Wales first and will roll out to England in 2021.

The UK Government in its response to the consultation earlier this year noted there was "widespread support" for the proposals in Wales and they were "broadly considered" as a positive step.

Black Friday

There's something seriously wrong with our democracy when our prime minister refuses to take part in a tv leaders debate, attempts to send along a replacement and then has the bare-faced audacity to make an official complaint of political bias because he was 'empty-chaired'. Of course the nasty self-entitled bully now wants revenge so has decided to threaten the very existence of the publicy-owned Ch4. 

Like every bully, Boris Johnson can't play fairly so he resorts to cheating, lying and manipulating. Along with thousands of others all over the country, my postal vote arrived yesterday, so voting has already started and Tory HQ are fully aware of this. There is more than a suspicion that the refusal to take part in last nights debate, along with that planned for Sunday and dodging an interview with Andrew Neil would all expose Boris to very unflattering performances - so just refuse and attempt to frustrate the democratic process of scrutiny.

Without doubt something momentous is brewing for December 12th. I've just been informed that because there have been so many new voter registrations, the Polling Station I've presided over for more than 25 years has been allocated more staff and moved to a larger room. The stakes couldn't be higher and with no one able to confidently call the result, with just under two weeks still to go, sadly I suspect there's still plenty of scope for dirty tricks to further undermine confidence in our democracy.  

This from the Guardian:-      

Tories threaten Channel 4 after ice sculpture takes PM's place in debate

The Conservatives are threatening to review Channel 4’s broadcasting remit if they win the general election after the channel decided to replace Boris Johnson with a melting ice sculpture during its climate change debate.

A Tory source confirmed that the party would review Channel 4’s public service broadcasting obligations if Johnson is returned to Downing Street next month. Under the proposal, first reported by BuzzFeed News, they would “look at whether its remit should be better focused so it is serving the public in the best way possible”.

Channel 4’s licence runs until the end of 2024, meaning it would need renewing under any new government if the next parliament lasts a full five years. While the media regulator Ofcom is tasked with reviewing the channel’s output, Channel 4 is state-owned and its existence is underpinned by legislation that could be altered by parliament.

A Conservative spokesman, Lee Cain, said he had written to Ofcom demanding an investigation, claiming Channel 4 had breached the broadcasting code with “a provocative partisan stunt” that constituted “making a political opinion in its own right”.

He accused Channel 4 of a “wider pattern of bias” after the cabinet minister Michael Gove turned up at the TV studio but was not allowed to take Johnson’s place.

Earlier speculation that the ice would be carved in a representation of the prime minister proved wide of the mark. The Brexit party’s Nigel Farage got the same treatment after also refusing to go head-to-head with other leaders.

The Conservatives are in negotiations with the BBC over Johnson’s public appearances in the election campaign, having failed to agree a date for the prime minister to take part in a one-on-one interview with Andrew Neil.

Every other party leader has agreed to subject themselves to a half-hour examination on primetime television by one of the BBC’s toughest political interviewers. Labour believes that Johnson is trying to back out of this commitment.

Thursday 28 November 2019

Boris and the NHS

With regular media images of Boris inflicting himself upon NHS hospitals, I think the following anonymous report circulating on social media is worthy of wide distribution. A simple internet search will confirm its authenticity:- 

What really happens when Boris Johnson visits an NHS hospital on the campaign trail.

I am an NHS doctor and Boris Johnson visited my hospital recently.

We were only told on the day for security reasons. They painted the ward I work on. We were asked to hide dirty laundry. Cleaners were sent out into the car park, on a rainy cold day picking leaves off the ground. We were told he was going to use our acute area as a "meet and greet".

Then we were asked if we wanted to meet him. Every doctor in the hospital said no. They could not find a single consultant who was willing to meet him. The consultant who was on the rota for the day was not there and the rumour on the ground was that he had said he would not let Johnson onto the ward. Instead, the on call consultant was replaced with another consultant, one high up in management. He was also trying to do a ward round and see newly admitted, acutely unwell patients.

There were more management and executives than I'd ever seen. There were young men in expensive suits, looking around themselves at us like tourists on safari. In the end, a handful of people agreed to meet him. One allied healthcare professional was so angry at his presence she could not stop shaking, but wanted to let him know how unhappy she was. There was also a nurse who didn't follow politics and didn't really understand what the fuss was about. There was one healthcare assistant who was very excited he was there because she had seen his dad on I'm a Celebrity get me out of here. She didn't know exactly who he was but she loved his dad and wanted a selfie. There was a photo of that which made the papers. Hers was the sole smile I saw that day.

The atmosphere was tense and unpleasant. Furious and sullen. Myself and two nurses were trying to see patients whilst hiding in rooms so we wouldn't meet him by accident. I could feel my ability to safely see extremely unwell patients was slipping - both by the physical space invaded, the wet painted walls, his enormous entourage, but also at the stress of our hospital being visited by the very people who had caused us such damage.

It was like being visited at home by your abusive boyfriend, asking "what can I do to help?"

A number of people, staff and patients were hanging around the entrance to see him arrive, but he was brought in quietly through a side door. He did not meet anyone other than people who had been seen by his team first.

There were some boos, and some people turned their backs. One member of staff dropped her glasses on the floor to avoid shaking his hand. Every patient I saw that day told me to keep him away from them. "I'd give him a slap." "Kick him out the hospital!" Showing me texts from their relatives, after they'd told them he was here: "Tell him he's a ****r". This is a northern Leave town.

Then there were staged photos. Someone prepared some tea and it sat there until it was cold. Then Johnson pretended to make it and poured it out for the staff who were obliged to drink cold tea while they took photos of Johnson serving them.

There were two very large men in scrubs who no one had seen before, standing around cross armed. One of the nurses asked who they were. "We are anaesthetists." I don't know. Maybe they were anaesthetists we'd never met before. I'd have asked for an ID badge if I'd seen them.

The hospital has been asking for funding to move one ward to a better location for over 5 years. This has been constantly refused by the conservative government. On this day it was granted. More photos.

It was a busy shift. A&E ran out of beds, as usual and I dash past sick 90 year olds waiting on trolleys in corridors on my way to resus to see the sickest. It's not yet winter, but in the NHS, it's always winter now.

He left eventually, with all his suited sycophants and we tried to pick up the pieces of the shift. Some staff almost too angry to work. I recall the impotent shaking fury of a friend of mine, a nurse, with white paint on his arm where he'd accidentally knocked a freshly painted wall. Sick patients hadn't properly been reviewed with the distraction, and the numbers from A&E were piling in.

I had a blinding headache and felt rattled. It was probably midday the next day before flow calmed a bit. I worked 12 hours that day and the next and the next. A nearby hospital went on divert on one of those days - too overwhelmed to be able to take new patients. So they were sent to us. Again the rammed corridors of the sick and the old left in corridors when we don't even have bed space to see them in. The queueing ambulances outside waiting for someone free to handover to Hospitals on divert has happened with terrible frequency over recent years in the winter and is always very unsafe. It is not typical for November.

The Chief executive apologised to me for how hard the day had been and acknowledged our fury but said the most important thing was that they had been allowed their funding, after all this time. I said "Thank you for the crumbs". He said "That's electioneering."

There was some talk of voting afterwards, and making sure everyone was registered to vote. What else can we do?

Wednesday 27 November 2019

Probation Sale - Best and Final Offer!

As we all know, despite the utter failure of TR, the Tory government decided in May to continue with new contracts for certain probation functions and the MoJ duly published the relevant contract notices on the 13th November. The privateers are circling once more:-

United Kingdom-London: Probation services
2019/S 222-544675
Contract notice

Organisations will deliver interventions and rehabilitative services such as Unpaid Work (UPW), Accredited Programmes (APs) and other resettlement and rehabilitation activities. The Authority will procure those services via:

A one-off procurement of Probation Delivery Partners (to be referred to as Suppliers) responsible for the delivery of APs, UPW and other structured interventions in the areas of emotional management, domestic abuse and attitude, thinking and behaviours, which is the subject of this OJEU Contract Notice

A Dynamic Framework for the delivery of all other resettlement and rehabilitation services which the Authority intends to advertise and procure separately.

For this procurement, there will be twelve (12) newly formed regions, eleven (11) in England and one in Wales. Each region will have a Supplier to provide APs, UPW and other structured interventions in the areas of emotional management, domestic abuse and attitude, thinking and behaviours. Each Supplier will be expected to provide all services (as defined more particularly in the draft contract documentation), working closely with the NPS.

Mandatory/Core services: delivery of Building Better Relationships (BBR) and Thinking Skills Programme (TSP); delivery of Unpaid Work requirements; delivery of the following Accredited Programmes in areas where they are currently delivered: Resolve, Drink Impaired Drivers Programme (DIDP), Building Skills for Recovery (BSR), Breaking Free Online; design and delivery of structured interventions in the areas of emotional management, domestic abuse and attitudes, thinking and behaviours (ATB).

The Authority may from time to time request that the Supplier provide optional services. These include but are not limited to: designing, testing and delivering of new interventions (including working with the Authority to achieve accreditation of that new intervention); delivery of additional Accredited Programmes; delivery of additional structured interventions in the areas of emotional management, attitude, thinking and behaviours (ATB) and domestic abuse.

The services to be provided under this contract are classified as health, social and other services within Schedule 3 of the Public Contracts Regulations (PCR) 2015, therefore the Authority shall conduct this procurement in accordance with the “Light Touch Regime” (LTR). The procurement includes a qualification stage and subsequent award stage which include an Invitation to Tender, face to face meetings and Best and Final Offers (BAFO). The Authority reserves the right not to carry out the face to face meetings.

The Authority has conducted market engagement in relation to this procurement. To ensure fairness to all economic operators, the Authority will make available details of all information shared with the market via the eSourcing tool and has provided adequate timescales for SQ/tender submissions, and an extended clarification period.

The Authority is not liable for any costs incurred by economic operators in relation to this procurement. The Authority reserves the right to abandon or terminate the procurement (or any part of it) at its discretion. Participation in this procurement process is subject to the terms and conditions in the procurement documents and the e-sourcing portal terms of use.


Bidders may tender for more than one lot. Only one tender per lot is permitted, i.e. per lot, a Bidder can bid either as prime bidder OR as part of a consortium. It is permissible to be named as a subcontractor on multiple tenders (from multiple Bidders) per lot.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The Authority will award contracts based on the combined lowest price per quality point across lots, SUBJECT to the lot award tool, including the rules below on market share and financial standing. This results in the most economically advantageous position for the Authority on a national level, subject to these rules. There is a possibility therefore that a Bidder who provides the most economically advantageous tender for a single lot may not be awarded that lot if it would result in that Bidder failing the market share rule or if the Bidder could not comply with the financial standing rules. Accordingly, Bidders tendering for multiple lots will not have a choice over which lot they may be awarded.

Market Share Rule - The maximum a Bidder will be awarded as a lot or a combination of lots up to a maximum market share of 31 % as described in the ITT (subject to any exceptions set out in the ITT). The market share rule will be applied at a Bidder level and will be calculated as the total of:

a) market share of Bidder entity

b) market share of any entity in which the Bidder is a consortium member

c) market share of any entity in the same corporate group as a Bidder

Where a Bidder is a consortium comprising more than one entity and any one of those entities is also part of another Bidder, whether as a single entity or as part of another consortium, the rule is applied to the entity based on its shareholdings within each consortium. The proportionate share a Bidder holds in a consortium will be taken account of as part of the market share calculation.

Financial Standing Rule – Bidders must have the minimum capital requirements specified in the ITT for each individual lot they bid for. If Bidders bid for more than one lot, they must meet these requirements for each lot they will be awarded.

Successful SQ applicants will join the Qualification List, which addresses lot failure during the procurement. If a lot does not receive any suitable tenders, the Authority will lift the market share rule for the failed lot and will invite Bidders on the Qualification List who meet the financial standing rule, to submit proposals via a mini-competition for the failed lot(s) on the same or substantially similar basis as the main procurement. Further details on the Qualification List are detailed within the ITT.

Following contract award, all Suppliers will join a Contingency Panel. In the event of contract failure in one or more lots (a Failed Lot), the Authority may choose to invite the Suppliers on the Contingency Panel to participate in a mini-competition for the Failed Lot. Further details are set out in the ITT.

In accordance with the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012, the Authority must consider: (a) how what is proposed to be procured might improve the economic, social and environmental well-being of the area where it exercises its functions, and (b) how in conducting the process of procurement it might act with a view to securing that improvement. Accordingly, the Authority has taken this into account when designing the procurement.

Total contract value excluding VAT £1,263 million over 8 years. Closing date 16th Dec 2019 12:00 noon. 

Tuesday 26 November 2019

Changes at Napo

Further from the announcement made at this year's Napo AGM, I notice the following has been published today on the Society of Radiographers website:- 

Dean Rogers is the Society's Director of Industrial Strategy

The Society of Radiographers has recruited a senior official from the probation officers' union to be the Director of Industrial Strategy and Member Relations. Dean Rogers takes up the post from Warren Town, who has retired after almost 40 years at the SoR.

Dean was assistant general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers (Napo), which he says "is a union with a professional arm that has more in common with the Society than may at first be obvious."

His six years with Napo coincided with a turbulent period that saw deep cuts to family courts and criminal justice services, as well as Chris Grayling's disastrous decision when justice secretary to hand the supervision of low-risk and medium offenders to 21 private companies. Dean describes it as a 'time of utter chaos'.

"Consequently, I've learnt a lot and despite having to make fundamental changes to the union's internal structures, we had big successes from ground-breaking pay reforms to changing how Napo operates to make it more engaged with activists and members," he says. "No two organisations are the same but I'm looking forward to seeing how I can use and further develop the ideas at the Society."

Dean adds, "The SoR rightfully has a strong reputation for offering effective, credible leadership in the health sector and I'm proud to be joining the organisation. I've spent almost 30 years' representing and negotiating across most areas of the public sector and this is my opportunity to extend my experience into healthcare. To get a chance to challenge myself in this new arena is really exciting."

Originally from south Wales, Dean moved to London to be a teacher and was active regionally and nationally in the then National Union of Teachers. He joined the Managerial and Professional Officers union (now part of the GMB) as a full-time research and policy officer. He became the MPO's lead national negotiator covering senior public managers in local authorities and probation.

In 2001, Dean joined the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), where he lead negotiation and representation across almost 50 government departments, agencies and contractors, including the MoD, Treasury and Cabinet Office, and culture sectors. In 2013, he joined Napo.

Dean is proud of several successes in his most recent role, including comprehensive pay reform during the height of the government's pay freeze, securing contractual rights for members who transferred into the civil service, and helping to raise the profile and understanding of family court advisors.

He is a trustee of the London Sustainability Exchange, a keen sports fan, and he has completed London's Great River Race seven times.


The following has circulated on Facebook:- 

For all my trade union, Napo and probation friends on here I am now able to formally confirm that I will be leaving Napo on the 22nd November to take up a new post at the Society of Radiographers in early December. It will be strange moving on from the weird world of the Justice Sector after 6 years with Napo. 

I will always be grateful to this special little union for giving me the chance. I will also be incredibly proud of the work we've done together and some of the huge things we've achieved - externally with things like probation pay reform - and internally, steering through some really important strategic changes. 

As I said at the AGM in October, when first announcing I was leaving without being able to say where I was going, when I joined Napo everyone I spoke to asked who we'd be merging with - not if but who and when. We've not only survived but we are growing again and I'm confident the changes we've made, anchored to and re-enforcing core values, will help make sure Napo's about for a long time to come. 

I won't be though - I'm looking forward to the challenges ahead in a new organisation and the only part of the public sector I've not worked in. As ever, positive and exciting times ahead.

Dean Rogers

Tory Plans For Probation

Err, there aren't any it seems. 

There is this though:-

We will add 10,000 more prison places, with £2.75 billion already committed to refurbishing and creating modern prisons.

We will create a prisoner education service focused on work-based training and skills. We will improve employment opportunities for ex-offenders, including a job coach in each prison. This approach is proven to reduce reoffending. We are improving prison security to protect staff, stop drug smuggling and reduce violence.

We will maintain the ban on prisoners voting from jail. 

We will create a prisoner education service focused on work-based training and skills. We will improve employment opportunities for ex-offenders, including a job coach in each prison.

We will conduct a root-and-branch review of the parole system to improve accountability and public safety, giving victims the right to attend hearings for the first time, and we will establish a Royal Commission on the criminal justice process.

We will toughen community sentences, for example by tightening curfews and making those convicted do more hours of community payback to clean up our parks and streets.

We will strengthen the accountability of elected Police and Crime Commissioners and expand their role.

We will expand electronic tagging for criminals serving time outside jail, including the use of sobriety tags for those whose offending is fuelled by alcohol.

Monday 25 November 2019

Tory Spoiler Alert

I understand Nick Hardwick, the former Chair of the Parole Board, addressed Friday's London Napo Branch meeting and in his talk warned that there are a number of high profile SFO cases about to hit the headlines in the coming weeks. Given the typically underhand Tory tactics of manipulating the media, it's highly likely that they will seek to 'weaponise' these cases to their advantage. In an article on Saturday the Buzzfeed website noted:-
The mother of ‘Baby P’, Tracey Connelly, is said to be up for parole during the election campaign — and the Tories can be expected to use the case to make the argument for a tougher justice system, and accuse Corbyn of being soft on crime
The article goes on:- 

Boris Johnson's Campaign Plans An Immigration And Crime Blitz As They Fear Corbyn Will Close The Gap
Boris Johnson launches the Conservative Party manifesto on Sunday with his campaign strategists preparing a media blitz on immigration and crime, amid fears that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour could be set for a bounce in the polls next week.

After what looked like it could be an extremely tricky week for the Conservative campaign, with the Labour and Liberal Democrat manifesto launches coming off the back of bad news stories on hospitals, flooding, and a shocking fire in Bolton, Johnson’s aides are quietly pleased with how the last few days have played out.

The Prince Andrew scandal and a row about Tory online dirty tricks overshadowed much of the substance of the week, feeding into what Johnson’s team believes is key to his route to victory: keeping Labour’s domestic agenda out of the news by avoiding fights on Corbyn’s turf and starting other rows on ground more favourable to the Tories.

The reasoning behind this somewhat cautious strategy is partly obvious: Johnson’s party is ahead in the polls and needs to hold steady to win. But there are also mounting concerns on the Tory campaign that Corbyn will close the gap in the next few days as Remain-backing voters switch from the Lib Dems to Labour.

The squeeze on the Lib Dem vote, plus Jo Swinson’s admission this week that she is not a realistic candidate for prime minister and could prop up a Tory or Labour government after the election, is seen in Conservative HQ as a huge potential gamechanger. Tory aides believe that pro-EU Lib Dem voters who previously indicated support for the party will migrate to Labour as a consequence of Swinson’s dwindling campaign.

They are braced for a narrowing in the polls next week, which they say will be exaggerated by last week’s polls painting a generous picture of the Tory lead following Nigel Farage’s decision to stand down Brexit Party candidates in Tory-held seats.

Weaponising one of Britain’s most infamous child deaths for political ends at the height of an election campaign would be highly controversial, but it would focus attention on a policy area where the Tories believe they are strong and Labour is weak. Meanwhile, the Tories are responding to Labour’s attempts to make the election about the NHS and public services by seeking to link these issues to immigration, a source said.

Last week, when it was revealed that A&E waiting times in England had reached their worst level on record, the Conservatives spent the day attacking Labour for being soft on immigration. Voters in focus groups organised by the Tories have consistently blamed pressures on the NHS and other public services on immigration from the EU.

Senior Tories believe they have had some success with their attacks on Corbyn, pointing to the Labour leader’s interview with Andrew Marr last weekend and Laura Kuenssberg on Thursday being dominated by the topic.

Everything about Johnson’s campaign has become about eating up days where things can go wrong, taking attention away from Labour’s attempts to shift the conversation towards its own much more detailed and radical domestic agenda, and trying to keep the polls steady. That’s why Tory strategists were relaxed about the 24-hour furore over their Twitter account following the ITV debate on Tuesday night.

The campaign’s two young social media strategists, Sean Topham, 28, and Ben Guerin, 24, who were brought in from New Zealand to punch up the Tories’ digital output for the election, had changed the name of the party’s official press office Twitter account from “CCHQ Press” to “factcheckUK”, replacing the Tory logo with an impartial-looking tick.

The attempt to mislead voters into thinking a Tory account was an independent fact-checker was widely condemned — including by Conservative commentators — and became the most-viewed story on the BBC News website the next day. But Tory aides were amused at the response. Dominic Cummings sat watching Johnson’s potentially perilous showdown with Corbyn — widely seen as the most risky moment of the Tory campaign so far — the picture of zen in a tracksuit as he sought respite from a bad back.

One Tory campaign official told BuzzFeed News that the row about the account, which they argued would not change a single voter’s mind, had blown up attempts by the Liberal Democrats to secure news coverage ahead of their manifesto launch on Wednesday. They found it particularly funny that “60 seconds’ work” had managed to dominate a day of coverage on Twitter, broadcast and news websites, whether by accident or design. A second campaign official said they expected the furore to have had greater consequences: they were surprised the CCHQ Press account was not banned by Twitter.

The following day, during Labour’s manifesto launch, the Tories launched a website — — parodying Corbyn’s blueprint for the country, and bought online adverts so the site appeared on pro-Labour websites. When the existence of the parody website was written up by the Guardian, Tory aides WhatsApped each other the link with glee.

While some found the stunts an immature attempt to troll opponents and others said they were dangerous new low in an age of online disinformation, Topham and Guerin have been praised internally for their work. Those running the Tory campaign are relaxed at what they see as something that will have no bearing on the election result drawing media attention away from their opponents’ domestic policy offers. “It’s good to get inside their heads,” a source said.

The strategy of looking for anything and everything that distracts from the opposition parties’ domestic offers is why Tory aides have welcomed Prince Andrew’s two very public interventions over the last week. Each time there is a development in the story about the Duke of York, news coverage is wiped out for 24 hours and it becomes impossible for opposition parties to seize the day, or for the Tories to lose it.

Last Saturday night, the Duke of York’s interview with Emily Maitlis received blanket coverage on news channels, pushing Corbyn’s Marr interview the following morning down the running order. Andrew’s decision on Wednesday to step down from his royal duties — announced minutes after the Lib Dem manifesto launch — took another evening’s coverage away from the opposition. “He’s clearly one of us,” joked a Tory official.

Sunday 24 November 2019

Fake News and Fake Law

I never thought I'd be part of voicing any serious concern of our wonderful BBC because it seems heretical and akin to losing faith in the NHS, motherhood and apple pie, but there's clearly something bad going on and touched upon recently by Peter Oborne and his recent Guardian article. 

The thing is this. It's pretty clear to most of us that our current prime minister is completely unfit for office having consistently proved his credentials as a self-serving and compulsive liar with dubious morals and a clear inability to be trusted in pretty much any situation whether it be political, personal or social. 

Now the BBC have clearly taken the surprising decision that, not withstanding all the impartiality rules that cover elections, the public will lose confidence in politics if they were to witness an unvarnished Boris Johnson demonstrating what an utter knob he is, so things have to be 'sanitised', edited, polished or just fixed Korean propaganda-style. First we had the Remembrance Sunday film swap in order to hide the fact a dishevelled and hung-over prime minister had a wreath upside down and got his timing wrong; now we have Question Time audience laughter replaced with rapturous applause when Boris's name is linked to issues of trust. This from the Canary website:- 
Boris Johnson’s appearance on the BBC Question Time (BBCQT) Leaders Debate didn’t exactly go well. From having to sneak into the studio while Jeremy Corbyn was greeted by crowds of supporters to refusing to apologise for his previous racist and homophobic comments, the PM was on the back foot.
But it was on the issue of trust that the audience really showed how much they despise Johnson. And their reaction explicitly showed the contempt they have for him on this issue. This was, seemingly, too much for BBC News. Because it apparently edited the clip, removing the full audience response and editing it to only show applause for Johnson.
We also discover that a vociferous questioner of Jeremy Corbyn over treatment of female Labour MP's is a Tory activist from Hull who has appeared three times previously and successfully made contributions from the audience. This from the Daily Politik on Facebook:- 
Oh look! Wadda ya know? ‘White shirt guy’ who attacked Corbyn in last night’s BBC Leaders debate, is a conservative activist! Ryan Jacobsz. Earlier this year, he was also the conservatives candidate for the local council of Hessle in East Riding, Yorkshire.
Last night was Ryan’s FOURTH appearance on BBCQT. In his first, he attacked Emily Thornberry in chesterfield on 20.04.2018 over Intervention in Syria. In the second, he attacked Richard Burgon on Labour’s brexit position 31.01.2019.
Can BBCQT Audience Producer and UKIP enthusiast, Alison Fuller Pedley explain how conservative activists and candidates make it onto the BBC QuestionTime audience so frequently and why they’re also always conveniently given the opportunity to ask their staged anti-Labour Tory PR attack questions?

Having got that off my chest, this in the Independent was going to be today's subject, how at election time lying and making stuff up is just second nature to the Tory Party:-

Conservatives accused of ‘peddling fake law’ with pledge to jail child killers for life

A Conservative election pledge – to jail child killers for life – has been dismissed as “fake law” amid calls for all parties to tackle a worsening crisis in the justice system. Days after the number of people punished for crimes in England and Wales hit a new record low, the Tories unveiled a commitment to jail adults who murder children for life, without parole.

Robert Buckland, the justice secretary and lord chancellor, said: “Under a Conservative majority government, the law will be rewritten to be absolutely clear: any murderer who denies a young, innocent child the right to life surrenders their own right to liberty. They do so permanently, and they do so without exception.”

Anonymous campaigner and blogger the Secret Barrister accused Mr Buckland of “peddling fake law”, adding: “A lord chancellor with respect for the rule of law and integrity of the justice system would be on the airwaves correcting this nonsense”. Responding to a Conservative Party tweet claiming it would “make sure life means life for child killers”, the anonymous junior barrister called the claim “a lie”.

“It won’t apply to all (or even most) ‘child killers’ – only adults who commit murder,” the Secret Barrister added. “The law already provides for whole life tariffs for adults who murder children. The number of cases this will apply to is virtually nil. It is a distraction. It is a lie.”

A more detailed summary of the Tories’ proposal said only adults aged 21 and over – who commit the “premeditated” murder of under-16s – would be subject to whole life orders.

The Conservatives said they would make the change by amending the Criminal Justice Act 2003, but then misinterpreted the law. A press release claimed it was currently “too restrictive” and only made whole life terms the starting point for judges in cases if a murder was of multiple children, or involved sexual or sadistic conduct. But the law only says that the offence must be of an “exceptionally high seriousness” to meet the threshold, and gives those factors in a non-exhaustive list of examples.

The Conservatives admitted that even if the law were changed, the “sentencing decision in any given case would continue to rest with the judge” and the “policy will be subject to the usual judicial discretion” – meaning the term could be lowered for mitigating circumstances.

Ellie Cumbo, the Law Society’s head of public law, said “premeditation” was not clearly defined in law and many child murders may not reach the bar. She told The Independent that judges already take pre-planning into account, and that only a “small number” of cases would be affected. “The whole life order already exists in law, and is imposed exactly where you would expect – in cases of this extremely rare and serious type,” Ms Cumbo added.

Other legal experts questioned how premeditation would be defined, and whether judges or juries would decide on the issue. Barrister and author Andrew Keogh said the proposals would “impact very few cases”. “Will a single offender actually serve a single day longer in prison as a result?” he said. “I await the impact assessment when or if the legislation is published, but I strongly suspect it will not. Sounds tough, but probably of no real effect at all.”

Experts also voiced doubt over a separate Conservative election pledge to get anyone illegally carrying a knife “charged within 24 hours and in court within a week – three times faster than the current average”. Boris Johnson said: “We are speeding up prosecutions to make sure the threat of being caught is always an effective deterrent.” But the Conservatives gave no indication of how the process would be “sped up”, amid staff shortages in the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and a backlog of criminal cases waiting to be heard.

Half the magistrates’ courts in England and Wales have been closed as part of austerity measures since 2010, and the number of sitting days has also been reduced to cut costs. “There’s not only a question there about how the courts would accommodate that, but about how the CPS would make a charging decision in 24 hours,” Ms Cumbo said. She pointed out that the courts themselves are responsible for deciding when cases are heard, and are working with “very limited resources”.

“Listing is a mess because the courts are completely overburdened with cases, so it’s difficult to see how another fixed requirement will be accommodated when they’re already groaning under the weight of cases,” the lawyer said. “There’s a question about how you can accomplish a pledge like that without increasing resources to the CPS and courts.”

The Law Society is among organisations campaigning for the government to increase funding across the criminal justice system, as prosecutions plummet. Statistics released by the Ministry of Justice last week showed the number of people punished for crimes in England and Wales hit a new record low in the year to June, while recorded crime rose by 6 per cent. The rate of people jailed has fallen to 6.5 per cent, and the number given immediate prison sentences is at its lowest in a decade.

Separate statistics show that prosecutions are dropping for every type of crime, down to just 7.4 per cent of all recorded offences – a fall of 41,700 in a year. The number of criminal trials being held in England and Wales has plummeted to a record low, falling by 67,000 in the past 10 years. Legal organisations have largely blamed the change on severe cuts made by the Conservative Party to the Ministry of Justice and police budgets, causing fewer cases to be solved or brought to court.

While Mr Johnson has made a promise to hire 20,000 new police officers in three years a key pledge, the Public Accounts Committee said the system may not be able to cope with the consequences of a rise in demand.

Friday 22 November 2019

What Makes a Murderer

Somewhat strangely given his notoriety, I wasn't aware of the John Massey case until I gave in to a compelling urge to watch the first in the series of the luridly-named Ch4 programme 'What Makes a Murderer' last night. Despite the somewhat over-dramatised format of this type of endeavour where a 30 minute story is spun out to an hour, I suppose it was always likely that it would attract my attention having got to know quite a few men who have been convicted of murder over the years.

I don't know about other officers, but right from the start John's measured, calm and ice-cold delivery certainly got my undivided attention and particularly upon learning he'd served 43 years and had not been subject of a whole life tariff. Anyone in our line of work would know immediately that you have to work particularly hard at things in order to serve that length of time, and so it later transpired, but already several bells were ringing labelled 'psycopath' and 'danger'. 

Over my career as a Probation Officer my working hypothesis has been that, in the absence of compelling contradictory and expert evidence, we are all the product of behaviour that results from an equal combination of genetic makeup and environment, the age-old conundrum of nature or nurture? This tv series seeks to apply all that modern science can muster in order to search for physical, neural evidence of a predisposition towards a particular behaviour, namely that of murder and from evidence gained via extensive brain scans and genetic analysis. 

I don't think I found much that was hugely surprising in this first episode, apart that is of the alarming notion that particular genes that control certain behaviour can be triggered by life experiences such as John's enforced separation from his mother at the age of three. But this coupled with evidence from the extensive brain scans that highlighted the reduction in size of critical areas of the brain responsible for feelings associated with reward and risk-taking begin to open up the whole pandora's box of the degree to which individuals can be held responsible for their actions.

It is of course a moot point as to whether the scientific avenues being explored in this tv series would have had any significant effect regarding John's conviction, sentencing, and passage through the criminal justice system, had they been available at an earlier stage, or would it just prove a further lucrative work stream for the legal and medical profession and endless argument? 

It's surely an alarming avenue for society to be heading down if this kind of medical research gains traction because it must surely open up the prospect of preventative treatment or incarceration even? One thing it did confirm to me though was the vital importance of cases like this being supervised by skillful and well-trained Probation Officers and the provision of extensive and thorough reports post sentence, for sentence planning and Parole application.        

Wednesday 20 November 2019

Does The Truth Matter?

Well we've had the first 'head-to-head' of the election campaign and what a dismal, deeply unsatisfactory and irritating affair it proved to be. Lets face it, both party leaders are not statesman by any stretch of the imagination, but our current prime minister and the party he represents are surely in a league of their own in terms of odiousness. 

The approach is quite straightforward and deeply troubling for our democracy, he answers no questions, lies about everything and makes stuff up as he goes along. What makes all this even worse is that he gets away with it because there seems to be an establishment media belief that if we were to believe a prime minister lies on a regular basis our trust in politics would be undermined! Things are descending so fast even the Conservative Central Office Twitter account was cynically renamed 'factcheckUK' during the so-called debate. 

It would appear that increasingly 'truth' counts for nothing and the Tories are banking on 'emotion' instead to win this election, indeed just as Trump won his. 'Do what ever it takes to win'. Just think about that sentiment for one moment and where it's taking us. I make no apology for being 'old school' and believe passionately that the 'truth' does matter and must  count for something and it seems Peter Oborne, former Telegraph chief political commentator writing in the Guardian agrees:-
It’s not just Boris Johnson’s lying. It’s that the media let him get away with it

It’s Friday lunchtime and Boris Johnson is in Oldham. He’s live on Sky News, speaking to supporters in front of his Tory battle bus. During a speech lasting no more than 10 minutes, viewers learn that he is building 40 new hospitals. Sounds good. But it’s a lie that has already been exposed by fact-checkers, including the website Full Fact.

The prime minister tells Sky viewers that “20,000 more police are operating on our streets to fight crime and bring crime down”. This assertion is misleading in a number of ways. Recruitment will take place over three years and do no more than replace the drop in officer numbers seen since the Conservatives came to power in 2010.

Sky viewers are then informed by Johnson that Jeremy Corbyn “plans to wreck the economy with a £1.2 trillion spending plan”. Labour’s manifesto hasn’t been published, let alone fully costed. Johnson’s £1.2tn is a palpable fabrication. As Full Fact concluded: “Many of the figures behind this estimate are uncertain or based on flawed assumptions.”

Johnson then goes on to say that the Labour leader “thinks home ownership is a bad idea and is opposed to it”. I have been unable to find any evidence of Corbyn expressing this view. Perhaps Johnson is referring to the floated Labour policy that would give “right to buy” to private tenants. The policy, which was only ever supposed to target the wealthiest landlords, has since been dropped and, according to the Financial Times, will not appear in the party’s manifesto.

Johnson then told his TV audience that Corbyn “wouldn’t even stick up for this country when it came to the Salisbury poisonings” and that he sided with Russia. Another obvious lie. In the aftermath of the poisonings, Corbyn wrote in the Guardian: “Either this was a crime authored by the Russian state; or that state has allowed these deadly toxins to slip out of the control it has an obligation to exercise.” The Labour leader also stated that the Russian authorities must be held to account.

Meanwhile, Johnson’s own government is refusing to publish a report into Russian interference in British politics amid reports that a number of wealthy business people with links to Vladimir Putin have donated generously to the Tory party. At the end of his speech, the Sky News presenter, Samantha Washington, strikingly made no attempt to challenge or correct any of Johnson’s false statements. This was just the latest example among many of the British media letting Johnson get away unchallenged with lies, falsehoods and fabrication.

Welcome to the Conservative party election campaign. I have been a political reporter for almost three decades and have never encountered a senior British politician who lies and fabricates so regularly, so shamelessly and so systematically as Boris Johnson. Or gets away with his deceit with such ease.

Some of the lies are tiny. During a visit to a hospital he tells doctors that he’s given up drink, when only the previous day he’d been filmed sipping whisky on a visit to a distillery. And sips beer on film the day after in a pub. But many are big. Johnson repeatedly claims that Britain’s continued membership of the EU costs an extra £1bn a month. False. He told activists that the Tories were building a new hospital in the marginal seat of Canterbury. False – and shockingly cynical. He told Michael Crick that during the EU referendum campaign, “I didn’t make remarks about Turkey, mate.” He did.

On his potential conflict of interest over his friend Jennifer Arcuri, who received £11,500 from an organisation he was responsible for as London mayor, Johnson said: “Everything was done with complete propriety and in the normal way.” We now know he failed to declare this friendship, and is being investigated by the Independent Office of Police Conduct.

These lies point to a systemic dishonesty within Johnson’s campaigning machine. His party deliberately doctored footage of the shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, to make it look as if he was at a loss for words when asked about Labour’s Brexit position. In fact, Starmer had answered confidently and fluently. The video was a deliberate attempt to mislead voters. And when Piers Morgan tackled the Tory chairman, James Cleverly, on the issue, he refused to accept he’d done anything wrong, let alone apologise.

Beyond Johnson and his cabinet, there are unscrupulous Tory briefers working behind the scenes. One of them told journalists last week that Johnson was going to accuse Corbyn of political “onanism” the following day. It was gleefully reported in some papers, but Johnson did not use the phrase in his speech. Political correspondents are being taken for a ride by the Downing Street machine, which is as contemptuous of newspaper readers as it is of the truth.

As someone who has voted Conservative pretty well all my life, this upsets me. As the philosopher Sissela Bok has explained, political lying is a form of theft. It means that voters make democratic judgments on the basis of falsehoods. Their rights are stripped away. This matters more than ever because this election is the most important in modern British history. If Johnson wins, Britain will leave the EU within a matter of weeks and Johnson himself will serve a five-year term as prime minister.

In theory Johnson should not be able to get away with this scale of lying and deceit. In a properly functioning democracy, liars should be exposed and held to account. But that isn’t happening. As with Donald Trump, for Johnson there seems to be no political price to pay for deceit and falsehood. The mainstream media, as Washington’s response to Johnson’s speech shows, prefers to go along with his lies rather than expose them.

Recently the hugely experienced broadcaster Andrew Marr allowed Johnson to go unchallenged in saying the Tories “don’t do deals with other political parties”. What about the coalition government with the Liberal Democrats in 2010? Or the £1bn “confidence and supply” deal struck with the Democratic Unionist party just two years ago? Marr let Johnson get away with it. So do many others.

A big reason for Johnson’s easy ride is partisanship from the parts of the media determined to get him elected. I have talked to senior BBC executives, and they tell me they personally think it’s wrong to expose lies told by a British prime minister because it undermines trust in British politics. Is that a reason for giving Johnson free rein to make any false claim he wants?

Others take the view that all politicians lie, and just shrug their shoulders. But it’s not true that all politicians lie. Treating all politicians as liars gives a licence for the total collapse of integrity of British politics, a collapse that habitual liars such as Johnson are delighted to exploit. The British media is not holding him to account for his repeated falsehoods. It’s time we journalists did our job, and started to regain our self-respect.

Peter Oborne is a journalist, commentator and author. His website about the lies, falsehoods and misrepresentations of Boris Johnson is at

Tuesday 19 November 2019

More Prison Wins More Votes?

Things haven't been going well for the Tories so far during this ridiculous Christmas election campaign, so they clearly feel it's time once again to resort to that tried and tested tactic of locking up offenders for longer. The under-whelming Justice Secretary has been speaking as reported here on the BBC website:- 

General election 2019: Tories back 'whole life orders' for child murder

Adults who murder children will face life in prison without parole if the Conservatives are elected in December. The party said it would bring in a new law to make "whole life orders" the starting point when sentencing over 21-year-olds for the premeditated murder of a child under 16. However, the final sentencing decision would remain with judges.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said the policy would tackle "genuine concern" about sentencing. Similar plans were reported by the Sunday Telegraph in September and were expected to form part of the Queen's Speech after Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered an urgent review into sentencing policy in August - but the policy was not announced.

The Conservatives' plan would see changes to Schedule 21 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which provides the starting point for judges considering whole life orders for murderers in exceptionally grave cases. Currently, for a judge to grant such an order, the rules require the murder to be of multiple children, or to be sexually or sadistically motivated.


But here is Rob Allen explaining what happened last time the Tories tried this populist move:- 

The Lords of Mercy

What happened to the Government’s plans to increase the time in prison served by serious offenders? On 1st October, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland told the Tory Conference that for the most serious violent and sexual offenders … this Conservative Government will abolish automatic early release at the halfway point”. Two weeks later the Queen’s Speech duly announced a Sentencing Bill which would change the automatic release point from halfway to the two-thirds point for adult offenders serving sentences of four years or more for serious violent or sexual offences, bringing this in line with the earliest release point for those considered to be dangerous. The Bill of course got nowhere before the election was called.

But on the same day as the Queen's speech, Buckland tabled in Parliament the Release of Prisoners (Alteration of Relevant Proportion of Sentence) Order 2019. This Statutory Instrument (SI) would have brought the same change into force from April 2020 - much sooner than primary legislation would have allowed - but for prisoners sentenced to seven years or more, rather than four. Buckland explained the different thresholds to the Justice Committee on 16 October in terms of “trying to make sure that we create a system that is supported by the resources I need”.

Whatever length of sentence qualifies for the more restrictive arrangements, it’s surprising that secondary legislation can be used to introduce a measure which would so substantially increase levels of punishment, requiring 2,000 new prison places by 2030. But that’s what the Criminal Justice Act 2003 permits. At least the SI had to be laid under the affirmative procedure which means it must be actively approved by both Houses of Parliament.

The Commons Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments raised no concerns about it on 23 October but the following week the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee were less sanguine, drawing it to the special attention of the House “on the ground that it gives rise to issues of public policy likely to be of interest” to it.

In particular, the Committee took the view that the Order “represents one piece of a large and complicated jigsaw and the House may wish to ask the Minister for more information about how the pieces fit together. In particular the House may wish to seek reassurance from the Minister that adequate resources will be available in good time to meet this expanded remit, both in relation to prison accommodation and prison service staff”. The dissolution of parliament meant there was no time for such reassurance to be sought so the law has not been changed.

Should the Conservatives form the next government, the policy will presumably return whether through primary or secondary legislation. Before it does, the Ministry of Justice should take a step back and conduct a proper review of sentencing unlike this summer’s charade.

The MoJ redeemed itself a bit by preparing a detailed impact assessment about the longer periods of imprisonment. These highlighted not only the financial costs of the policy but the possible effects on prisoners and their families, on stability in prisons and on the lengths of sentences imposed by courts. In the light of these broader concerns, the House of Lords declined to be steamrollered in the way that Mr Buckland presumably hoped. It performed a valuable service. 

Rob Allen

Monday 18 November 2019

What's Going On in RRP? 2

Thanks go to the reader for forwarding the following:- 

Message for CRC members from NAPO national officials

Dear member,

As you will now be aware RRP has made the decision to run yet another redundancy programme. This time they are focusing on CSC staff and Community Payback across both of the CRC’s. The trade unions were initially informed briefly of the proposals on 5th November via teleconference. However it has since come to our attention that RRP chose to rush ahead with staff briefings, at risk notices and one to one meetings before any meaningful consultation with the trade unions had taken place. This is deeply disappointing and has caused additional stress to those affected as they were not able to access advice and support. I have reported this to the MOJ contract management team as a failure to engage or follow due process. We will consider the possibility of a joint dispute with Unison and keep you updated.

Your local reps and myself attended the first consultation meeting on 14th November where we received a full presentation of the proposals. We also challenged Adam Hart directly on the approach of the organisation and he has apologised. However, there is still concern that this process has been decided already and that we may not get meaningful consultation. As such we will do our best to keep you updated on progress made. It is never easy going through redundancies especially at this time of year. Please support your local reps and your colleagues that have been affected by this announcement.

The process in total will be carried out in three phases starting on 31st January. If you are at risk then please make yourself know to your local Branch Chairs; Ralph Coldrick or Dave Bellingham, so that they can direct you to the branch Reps who will advise and support you throughout. Please do not attend a meeting without a rep or be pressured into doing so. If you are then please contact your branch immediately. A more detailed update will be issued next week once I have received copies of the presentation.

Kind Regards

Tania Bassett 

Napo National Official Press, Parliament & Campaigns

Friday 15 November 2019

An Impossible Task?

It's still early days in this most extraordinary of election campaigns where the Tories are trying to outbid Labour with lavish spending promises in order to win over Northerners and the working class generally. Not only is austerity over, but so is financial probity it would seem. 

With the NHS pretty much covered, it's surely only a matter of time before crime and criminals get the attention of an increasingly desperate Tory Party determined to hang on to power by whatever it takes. So, well done to star reader 'Getafix for spotting that our old friend David Fraser has put pen to paper for the benefit of the good Conservative Women of this parish thus:-  

Licence to kiIl, maim and rape again

In January 2003, PC Gerald ‘Ged’ Walker, a dog handler with the Nottingham Police, was killed by David Parfitt a criminal who had been released from prison a year earlier after serving two years for robbery. Under post-release supervision by the probation service, his behaviour soon made it clear he was not to be trusted and he should have been recalled to prison.

Despite the widespread publicity given to the death of PC Walker and the attention drawn to the hazards of supervisors allowing dangerous criminals to slip off their radar, numerous similar examples continued to surface. In 2008, for example, a vicious criminal called Dano Sonnex, on licence following his early release from jail, murdered two young French students. Again, the warning signs he exhibited prior to the killings were ignored, and in some instances not even noticed, by his probation supervisors.

A year later, a Home Office inspection across ten London boroughs found that in almost half of the 276 cases examined, probation officers had not learned the lessons highlighted by the previous killings carried out by supervised offenders. These included a failure to take breach action; failure to carry out home visits; supervising officer negligence; poor record-keeping; no risk assessment or supervision plan; failure by managers to manage effectively; lack of communication, and no cover for supervising officers when they were sick or on leave.

But whether probation officers are lax or follow all the rules associated with supervising violent offenders in the community is irrelevant. Such offenders are not monitored twenty-four hours a day, and if they were, even an alert probation supervisor could not stop a determined and violent criminal from striking again. Double killer David Cook was monitored by the probation service following his release from prison in 2009, having served 21 years for the murder of Sunday school teacher Beryl Maynard in 1987. In 2011, Cook’s probation team, assiduously following the rules, visited him at his home. The record of their visit said that Cook behaved perfectly normally, offered them coffee, was relaxed and happy to talk to them. Meanwhile the corpse of Cook’s neighbour, Leonard Hill, lay in the bedroom directly above where they were sitting. Cook had strangled him two days earlier.

The figures for the number of killings, rapes and woundings by offenders being monitored by the probation service are chilling, and provide compelling evidence that the examples referred to above cannot be dismissed as anecdotal. They are replicated by the hundreds every year and dash the myth that dangerous repeat offenders can be managed safely in the community.

The total for eight of the most serious violent crime categories (murder, attempted murder, rape, attempted rape, manslaughter, kidnap, arson and ‘other serious sex and violent crimes’) committed by supervised offenders for the period 1998-2014 computes to a yearly average of 281 or five per week. The comparable figure for the more recent period 2012-2016 is 457 or nine per week, a 63 per cent increase.

To take two categories, for the period 1998-2014 the average number of murders per year committed by supervised offenders was 13. For the period 2012-2016 it was 76. For rape, the comparable figures were 52 and 204.

A 2018 report showed that the problem is as serious as ever. In the twelve previous months it was necessary for the Probation Inspectorate to carry out 627 serious further offence reviews. These highlighted poor standard of oversight, with large numbers of dangerous offenders being supervised by telephone calls every six weeks instead of at face-to-face meetings.

We should not be mesmerised by these figures, and whether they are going up or down is not the main point. There should not be any such offences. All those trusted with early release on licence have been assessed as safe to let out, and therefore we should expect that they present no danger to the public. But the level of violence associated with prisoners released under supervision shows this to be a pipe dream. Despite reporting on it for at least the last 25 years, our justice officials have resolutely failed to bring this debacle to an end.

Instead they indulge in the dark arts of obfuscation to mask the scale of the problem. For example, in 2008 they decided not to include Section 18 Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH) offences in their count, even though this crime is regarded as the most serious form of violence next to murder. The impact of this statistical sleight of hand can be seen from the fact that when it was introduced, the number of reported offences in the category ‘other serious sex and violent crimes’ fell from 367 to 81.

The probation service has been given an impossible task, and the chief crime of its senior management is not to have had the courage or sense of public duty to say so. As a result, staff must pretend they can protect the public. The ethos of denial this has produced is illustrated by the report of one senior probation manager, following an inspection of work carried out by her staff, as follows:

‘In the four-month period under review, there have been nine serious further offences committed by criminals currently under our supervision. The investigations of these crimes have revealed that in none of these cases could we have done anything to prevent the crime. In all of them, the government’s national standards, governing how we should supervise the offender concerned, were followed to the letter. This is a good achievement.’

So it might be from the point of view of the blinkered probation bureaucracy, which first and foremost wants to avoid blame. But for the public in the real world, nine serious crimes such as murder and rape committed in the space of just four months, in just one small probation area, by criminals thought safe enough to be in the community, was anything but a good achievement. If this was a good result, what would a bad one be like?

In February 2013, the then Prime Minister David Cameron visited India and described the 1919 massacre of 379 demonstrators at  Amritsar by the British Army as ‘shameful’. This publicly expressed sensitivity is in stark contrast to his silence in relation to the 2,348 homicides committed in his own country between 2010, when he came into office, and 2013 when he made the Amritsar speech. Many of these were committed by criminals allowed to roam because of lenient sentencing endorsed by his government, despite the violent histories of the killers concerned.

Offenders who can be trusted to live in the community do not need supervision. Those who do need supervision, therefore, cannot be trusted, and should not be in the community.

David Fraser

(References have been omitted - Ed)

Thursday 14 November 2019

What's Going On in RRP?

Ever since the government announced in May the decision to end the CRC contracts early there has been concern in a number of quarters as to what the reaction of the CRC companies would be. It's widely accepted that the Grayling TR probation privatisation has been an unmitigated disaster, not least in that the privateers have long shouted loudly regarding their inability to profit sufficiently from TR. 

We will all recall that as a result of vociferous collective bargaining and pleading by the CRCs the MoJ had to stump up a mountain of extra cash in the form of 'bungs' in order to try and keep the whole sorry mess afloat. Even so, Working Links collapsed and had to be bailed out. News is now coming in from a number of sources regarding possible redundancies in the areas run by the Reducing Reoffending Partnership in Staffordshire & West Midlands CRC and Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire & Rutland CRC. 

Apparently SWM & DLNR are looking for 40 plus redundancies from UPW and the Contact Centre, some by the end of December, some by the end of January and the remainder by the end of March. 
It would seem to be accepted that the Contact Centre system has failed and UPW is moving away from groups to placements, even though it is not possible for some clients to undertake placements. SPO grades, admin and supervisors are all said to be on 'at risk' notice.

There is a feeling in some quarters that RRP have never really understood UPW and its effective delivery with supervision groups regularly overloaded and attenders sent home if too many turn up, thus undermining staff trying to encourage people to complete their UPW hours. There is also a suspicion that this cost-saving decision might be connected to the ageing van fleet and the need for replacement.

It will be appreciated that this news is deeply upsetting for all involved, especially at this time of year, and there is growing concern regarding the handling of the process such as timely union notification and possible one-to-one meetings before proper consultation. It's understood that Union advice is that staff should not have one-to-one meetings or phone calls without Union representation. Staff are understandably shocked, upset and question their employers concern for their well-being. 

This news will undoubtedly bring back unpleasant memories of the original TR 'shafting' processes and the subsequent job losses and it's to be hoped this is not the start of something similar prior to NPS integration and the new outsourcing contracts for UPW and programmes.  


A view just in:-

"Not enough UPW orders? Or moving towards zero hours contracts? Or just too greedy? Perfect timing as ever - put staff under preXmas stress at a time of political hiatus with GE just around the corner. Prepare the shareholders & senior mgmt in case you need to do a smash'n'grab, e.g. a change of Govt."    

Saturday 9 November 2019

A Recipe For Probation?

Thanks go to the reader for pointing me in the direction of a recently-published collection of essays 'Crime and Consequence : What should happen to people who commit criminal offences?' published by the Monument Fellowship. A cursory scan of the 419 pages confirms that there's much in this, the third volume, produced as part of a legacy project funded by the former Monument Trust, part of various Sainsbury endowments.

What particularly struck me is how 'probation' continues its seemingly inexorable slide into irrelevance and oblivion under the ever-tightening dead hand of Civil Service command and control, but look hard enough and the case for our being reinvented is just about discernible! Apologies to the respective authors, but I have quoted selectively in order to make the point. 


Ok, so what should we do with people who commit crimes? That question, in this third book from a series prompted by the Monument Trust, is not as simple as it looks, but whether you’re an abolitionist or a supporter of harsh punishment, it has to be answered. Contributors to this book recognise that getting it wrong can have unintended consequences. Some sentences make victims feel worse, some contribute to reoffending, some increase the possibility of intergenerational crime. Put simply the answer to the question must be fair, it must also be intelligent. Our contributors have addressed the question from a range of perspectives and standpoints. They’ve responded in different and creative ways, through essays, poetry, collective responses; there’s even a play. They’re writing from many places including a number from prisons.

Anne Fox and Alison Frater



What should we do with people who commit criminal offences? This age-old question has troubled theologians and philosophers for millennia and much ink has been spilled trying to answer it. I’m not going to try to summarise or analyse these literatures in this short paper – I suspect that those who have commissioned this book of essays are seeking practical answers rather than philosophical responses. 


So, my short answer to this complicated question is this. When people offend, we should listen to what they have to say about it. We should talk to them about what they have done, why they have done it and how we might best respond to the wrong. In these kinds of sensitive and challenging conversations, rather than assuming a position of entitlement and moral superiority, we should ourselves expect to be surprised, challenged and corrected. If the dialogue identifies a need for some kind of help to assist the person to function and flourish in the community, then we might explore rehabilitative options. If apology and reparation can be made, then we should also explore those possibilities with all of those concerned. And if we are met with silence or resistance or rejection or violence, perhaps we may need, with regret, to make some use of penal power to impose constraints to protect ourselves and others. But, even then, we should ask ourselves, what were the roots of this silence, resistance, rejection or violence, and have we been complicit somehow in generating it – either because of our response to the offence or because of some earlier wrong that we have neglected to repair.

Fergus McNeill




In recent decades criminal policy has suffered from ‘the politician’s fallacy’. This is the Whitehall logic first coined 30 years ago in the TV programme ‘Yes Prime Minister’, which argues: We must do something. This is something. Therefore, we must do this. 

More often than not, the ‘something’ has involved creating more and more criminal offences and responding more harshly those who commit them. To be fair, the aims of dealing with people who commit crime have long included reform, rehabilitation and reparation to victims. But these ‘Three R’s’ are all too often outranked by punishment, deterrence and the protection of the public. It’s these latter three purposes which usually take priority in decisions about individual cases, new policy developments or the allocation of resources. With public concern about crime at its highest level since 2011, there’s a risk that criminal justice in the 2020s will take a yet more punitive turn. 

There are many reasons to be concerned about that prospect: 
  • the ethical, social and financial costs of punishment; 
  • the way it bears disproportionately on the poorest and on racial minorities; 
  • and the basic fact that it does relatively little to reduce crime. 
That’s why we need to adopt a very different approach. 

Doing More 

There are some activities in the existing system which we need to do much more of. 

One is finding out why individuals commit the offences they do and what factors lie behind them. Decisions about how best to respond to a criminal offence need to be informed by a genuine process of social inquiry into the context of what’s happened and the best way of addressing it. Probation officers used to prepare detailed and comprehensive social inquiry reports. Today’s pre-sentence reports have often become rushed and superficial – seen as a bureaucratic hurdle, to be dispensed with if necessary in the interests of efficiency and speed. Instead, they should be key to enabling the court to identify the right measures to impose in an individual case. 

Second, we need to offer more opportunities for people who commit offences to put things right through restorative and reparative measures. There’s good evidence that Restorative Justice (RJ) has positive effects by giving victims the chance to tell offenders about the impact of their crime and get an apology. Yet, despite support from successive governments, the proportion of incidents where victims are given the chance to meet the offender halved between 2010 and 2017 to just 4% – this is in spite of the fact that in almost a quarter of incidents victims say they would have accepted an offer to meet the offender. We clearly need to invest more in timely and effective mechanisms for engaging the parties involved and organising restorative activities whether conferences or mediation sessions.

Third, people who persistently commit offences need a much wider range of assistance to change direction with the necessary treatment, help and support available on the required scale – both in custody and in the community. This isn’t about developing and accrediting complex new psychological programmes but taking simpler, but more wide ranging, steps – for example, to ensure that life inside prison resembles life outside, where possible, and that people serving jail terms are encouraged and inspired make changes to their lives and desist from crime. 

On the outside, if that’s to be a reality, they will often need: 
  • access to employment or some type of income, 
  • access to education, 
  • suitable housing accommodation, 
  • medical services and addiction treatment services, 
  • debt counselling 
  • and supportive relationships to be able to sustain a new way of life.
Rob Allen



As the movement of justice reform in the United States has gained traction in recent years at both local and national level, debates have swirled around everything from bail practices to charging decisions, risk assessment, sentencing reform, mass incarceration and more. But at its heart, much of the debate can be boiled down to one question: What should happen to people who commit criminal offences? For centuries, the traditional court system’s response has been fairly uniform – determine what happened (by plea or trial), consider the individual’s criminal history (if any), and calculate a corresponding sentence (of course, in some circumstances, the individual may be acquitted entirely). The more serious the charge and more substantial the person’s criminal history, the heftier the sentence. 

The flaw with such an approach is that it overlooks the most critical question of all: Why did this person commit this offence? Problem solving courts were developed to address precisely this question, because if we do not address the underlying issues that led someone to commit an offence, how can we expect to change their behavior? The traditional approach to justice has produced high rates of recidivism, lack of confidence in justice, bloated federal, state and local budgets and a trail of unsatisfied victims. The problem-solving approach, in contrast, seeks to identify those underlying issues – such as substance abuse, mental health issues, trauma, unemployment, and so forth – and, where appropriate, use the power of the court to empower the defendant to address those issues. 

Once the root causes of the behavior have been identified, the system is then positioned to craft a response to address those issues, while balancing the need for accountability and public safety. To be sure, this is no easy task; but there are principles and practices that have proven to be effective in reducing recidivism while simultaneously promoting confidence in that justice system. These are the same principles that form the foundation of problem-solving courts in our system, and they should inform both the process and the outcome of a case. 

Who is the accused as a person? 

Our courts have historically been built to process cases, rather than to help people. They often reduce people to a charge, allowing the mistakes they have made to define them and viewing defendants through an overly simplistic lens that strips them of their humanity, thereby making it easier to mete out punishment and turn a blind eye to the system’s failures. Problem-solving courts, in contrast, take a holistic view of the person, acknowledging them for who they are in totality – a father, a daughter, a caretaker, a friend, a mentor, and so on – rather than what they have done. We must start from the premise that anyone who commits an offence is more than that one act, more than a simple charge or docket number or a moment in time. They are a whole person, with a past, present and future; a past that has likely been marked by trauma and victimization, including many circumstances beyond their control; a present that exists outside of this case, where they are part of a community, with obligations to loved ones or employers, and where they may face enormous instability, pain and stress well beyond this case; and a future for which they have hopes and dreams, aspirations and fears. It is within this complex package that every individual arrives at the doorstep of the justice system and must therefore be viewed and treated as such.

Judge Alex Calabrese and Amanda Berman