Thursday 30 July 2020

A Bright New Future?

Well here it is - a bright new probation future outlined by those expensive and numerous bright young things in the MoJ comms team at HQ in London. Make what you will of all the guff:-  

Public safety boosted with 1,000 new probation officers
  • Thousand new recruits boosting workforce by 29% to improve public protection
  • Major three-year plan to improve training and better share workloads for frontline staff will help reduce reoffending
  • Part of Government’s plan to make the country safer alongside police recruitment and prison building
With 800 new probation officers already in training, the commitment to recruit at least 1,000 more this year alone will see the workforce grow by 29%.

The move is part of the Government’s efforts to make the country safer, with the recruitment of 20,000 more police officers and the building of over 10,000 new prison places.

Public protection will also be improved by staff having a more balanced workload when services are brought back under National Probation Service control next June. Under the changes, probation officers will also support less dangerous criminals with underlying issues such as drug and alcohol addiction, as well as continuing to keep the public safe by supervising high-risk offenders.

The Probation Workforce Strategy published today also sets out plans to improve training and shift administrative work away from frontline staff so they have more time and skills to better monitor and support offenders and help cut crime.

Prisons and Probation Minister Lucy Frazer QC MP said:

"Every day we hear about the work police officers do to capture criminals and bring them to court, but whether offenders first go to prison or get a community sentence, it is probation officers working hard behind-the-scenes who help them turn their backs on crime.

This new vision sets out our long-term plan to boost the workforce not just in numbers, but also in terms of experience and skill, so that the Probation Service continues to play its vital role in reducing reoffending, already at a 12-year-low."

The Probation Workforce Strategy also includes plans to:
  • Develop new IT systems with greater automation giving staff more time to focus on working directly with offenders.
  • Foster the skills of the most talented officers through new training programmes and career opportunities, helping retain staff and make better use of their experience and knowledge.
  • Create a new route for existing junior probation officers to achieve senior roles helping the Probation Service make quicker use of the experienced staff it already has.
  • Improve wellbeing schemes and give more emotional support to frontline staff with professional counselling and buddy schemes.
HM Prison and Probation Service will also review how recruitment and training works to attract a more diverse group of jobseekers and respond better, and quicker, to increased demand. This could mean having more regular intakes, introducing apprenticeships or making changes that make probation as attractive to university leavers as other graduate programmes.

There are also plans to increase diversity with targeted recruitment campaigns, new regional Race Ambassadors and inclusivity training for all staff.

The selection process for new recruits has already changed, with a new online behaviour-based assessment at application-stage and role-play activities at interview that allow applicants to show how they would react to real-life scenarios they are likely to face as probation officers. These innovative changes have already proven to be an effective means of increasing the diversity of those appointed.


The Probation Workforce Strategy, developed by HM Prison and Probation Service, sets out our collective ambition for a more positive, inclusive, and diverse probation workforce, and the steps we are committed to taking to achieve this over the three years from 2020 to 2023.

The strategy sets out our commitment to investing in staff wellbeing, ongoing professional development and ensuring that probation is an excellent and rewarding place to work. It confirms we will increase recruitment of probation staff this year and have a minimum of 1,000 new probation officers in training by January 2021.

It has been tailored specifically to reflect the needs and ambition of probation and the wider changes probation staff have undergone in the past few months. Working together with leaders and staff across probation we have assigned five key objectives for the new probation workforce:
  • Promoting wellbeing for everyone
  • Attracting and retaining talented people
  • Supporting and developing our people
  • Creating a more diverse workforce where everyone feels included
  • Fostering confident leaders who inspire and empower others
In addition to these five objectives, the strategy is underpinned by tangible actions that explain how we will achieve these goals. To ensure that the strategy remains reflective of the workforce and up to date, it will be refreshed on an annual basis. We will continue to work closely with members of staff, probation leaders, trade unions, and yourselves and organisations, as we develop and implement our plans.

Please get in touch with any questions or feedback:



Probation is at the heart of Government plans to strengthen the Criminal Justice System. It sits firmly within HMPPS as a fundamental service that reduces reoffending and protects the public. 

The service you, our valued workforce, provide changes the lives of those who need your support and keeps the public safe. 

Thank you for all you have done to continue to provide this service to a professional and unflinching standard while we have faced such unprecedented change as we tackle COVID-19. We know this has required a mammoth effort from all of you. 

We are also facing an opportunity to create a new, unified probation service, with one consistent service delivering end-to-end sentence management and the best possible unpaid work, accredited programmes and structured interventions. As new colleagues join us, we look forward to sharing best practice and learning from the breadth of skills and experience they bring. 

Alongside this, the challenge of COVID-19, and the current important debates about equality and inclusion we know that our entire workforce is critical, and as the workforce evolves over the next few years we are determined to support you and invest in the skills, capability and ways of working you need to do your jobs to the highest standard. 

This also includes championing and investing in our commitment to tackle racism and other forms of discrimination where it exists in the service and widen our diversity. We are firmly committed to doing more to create positive change in this space, and we hope that the actions and commitments outlined in this strategy give you a clear indication of that.

This workforce strategy contains our ambition for a positive, inclusive and diverse workforce and the steps we will take to achieve it over the next three years. You may have already seen the HMPPS People Plan, which sets out five key objectives that will allow the service to grow as an organisation and focus on our people over the next three years. 

The Probation Workforce Strategy has developed from the People Plan, with engagement from across probation services, setting out our approach to achieving the service’s vision that is tailored specifically to probation and our core purpose to Assess, Protect, Change. 

The vision of the strategy applies equally to all our workforce, regardless of where in the system you work, and sets out our commitment to you in investing in your wellbeing, your ongoing professional development and making sure that probation is an excellent and rewarding place to work. 

It also reflects the importance of flexible borders, where it is easier to move across HMPPS, MoJ and the wider Civil Service to help build up a diverse talent pipeline. Our focus on diversity also emphasises the importance of supporting staff from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities and widening our recruitment so that our workforce better reflects wider society. 

As we move from the Exceptional Delivery Model to the Recovery phase of our response to COVID-19, we will learn about the new ways of working that have made things easier for you, and those you are keen to move away from.

This is a fundamental tenet of our Recovery work. As the specifics of this emerge, we will keep you informed so that you are aware of and confident in these changes. 

The strategy is our template to ensure that the changes happening in probation and wider society go hand-in-hand with positive changes for our workforce, reflecting our desire to work more closely with all of HMPPS, especially prisons, and support the aim of the wider HMPPS Strategy to enable people to be their best. We value the impactful and often challenging work you do with integrity, every day. 

This is a new beginning for probation and the transition towards a new era. We owe it to you and the public to seize this opportunity and make probation a brilliant place to work.

Jo Farrar Chief Executive Officer, HM Prison & Probation Service
Amy Rees Director General of Probation and Wales, HM Prison & Probation Service

Monday 27 July 2020

Frontline Messages

Yesterday saw a surprising jump in viewing figures for a Sunday and I'm mystified as to the reason. Twitter may have played a part as over time I've been increasingly aware that posting pithy reflective soundbites from blog contributions seems to drive extra interest and hence traffic. All very obvious to marketing strategists I suppose, but still somewhat novel to my prosaic world of public service. 

Maybe it's all to do with the science of 'nudge theory' even though I gather it's neither a science nor theory. Anyway, it seems to work and as I've already remarked, regular reader 'Getafix is very adept at supplying 'Twitter-ready' soundbites such as the following, 'liked' and retweeted many times yesterday:-

"The large numbers of prisoners that are now being released homeless reminds me just how vague and abstract the concept of rehabilitation has become. Building more prisons to help with rehabilitation. Reshaping probation to help with rehabilitation. How? Where? When? The word rehabilitation has become an insert into a verbal phrase designed to sound positive, but has no real meaning or context anymore. It's become a soundbite. I think it's time the State defined what it actually means when it talks of offender rehabilitation, because I for one haven't a clue anymore." 


Not a 'soundbite' as such, but I want to highlight the following heartfelt contribution on the subject of housing which certainly reflects my own thoughts and experience over the years. I well remember being outraged when my local Housing Authority proudly announced in the 1990's that police officers were being seconded to their allocations team in order to ensure only 'suitable' people were offered housing. I would remind readers that in those days an independent Probation Service was able to set up its own housing projects in order to address such social policy failures. Of course this is not possible nowadays under direct civil service command and control:-   

"The UK takes a capitalist approach to housing, and that saddens me; in the UK if you cannot "afford" a house, then frankly you can't have one. Landlords, second home owners, people renting rooms have all profited - the system is so skewed in favour of landlords who ask for ridiculous sums of money up front, incentives, rent deposits, month up front, and when they sell the house having done nothing to earn it, they throw the tenants out, who have to start the whole cycle again.

In my world housing would be a basic human right - in the UK we have voted in countless Tory majority governments and this is the price of that.

Housing service users has been the biggest bane of my probation life from the start, i.e. for decades. Legislation only requires local authorities to house those "in priority need" and the rest scrabble around trying to get what they can, with immense pressure put on the probation officer who has no access to houses and no money to pay for them. If an AP manager asks me again "what have you done about X or Y's move on" once again I swear I will throw the phone across town into their face. Local authorities use risk as a get out clause all the time NOT to house people (who are not priority need), whether it be they are "too risky" or "not risky enough". The single young men who have no family are usually in the most dire straits.

The Probation service whether it be the Trusts or NPS have known about this problem for years. It is by far and away the BIGGEST issue as reported by service users themselves in countless "offender surveys" year after year - they don't advertise the results of this, despite putting immense pressure on us to get near 100% completion rate of that damn survey year after year.

And yet despite this the MoJ wasted vast amounts of money on a "through the gate" service which essentially gets armies of staff filling out the OASYS BCS identifying issues with housing, benefits, lack of ID, lack of bank account, with little time/incentive and certainly no money to actually sort the issues out.

If the MoJ gave that cash to the probation officers/service users to pay for deposits/rent in advance, it would free up SO MUCH time, create far less stress, and lead to outcomes - but nope, for the past 7 years it has preferred the Through the Gate staff to spend their time form filling. I'm disgusted and yet know in my heart of heart the service can’t or won't listen because we have a government that does not think that anyone, let alone someone who lost their housing due to their own offending, should have a right to the basic human right of a place to live."

Sunday 26 July 2020

Slow Sunday

With Parliament having packed up for the summer and the Transport Minister embarrassingly caught out by his own department changing the rules after heading off to Spain, I guess covid notwithstanding, we are now technically in the silly season:-  
Definition of silly season. 1 : a period (such as late summer) when the mass media often focus on trivial or frivolous matters for lack of major news stories. 2 : a period marked by frivolous, outlandish, or illogical activity or behaviour.
Homelessness is most definitely never a frivolous matter, but this BBC news item is somewhat recycled from a couple of weeks ago and even blogs are sometimes stuck for something new to say:- 

Nearly 200 released sex offenders had nowhere to live

Almost 200 sex offenders were released from prison in England and Wales in one year without having anywhere to live, Ministry of Justice (MoJ) figures show. More than 100 of them were classed as posing a "high" or "very high" risk to the public. Probation inspectors have warned that freed prisoners who sleep rough are more likely to commit further crimes.

The Probation Service said it worked closely with local councils to help those leaving prison.

The figures, for England and Wales in 2018-19, were supplied by the MoJ under the Freedom of Information Act. They show that on 68 occasions "high and very high risk" sex offenders, who were on licence for more than six months, had no accommodation on release. A further 53 homelessness cases involved "high risk" sex offenders with a licence period of more than 12 months, and 70 involved "medium risk" sex offenders with more than six months on licence.

Earlier this month, the chief inspector of probation, Justin Russell, criticised the lack of a "cross-government" approach to housing offenders, pointing out that prisoners with no settled accommodation were almost twice as likely to be sent back to jail within 12 months of release.

In an inspection report, he blamed the problem on:

  • housing shortages
  • high up-front rental costs
  • low-priority on housing registers
  • lack of support services
  • benefit delays
  • "providers averse to accommodating people with substantial criminal records"
Mr Russell said: "We were particularly disturbed by the high numbers of higher-risk prisoners being released into homelessness or unsettled accommodation." The report found that in 2018-19 at least 22% of prisoners presenting the highest risk to the public were homeless or had nowhere stable to stay, amounting to 6,515 individuals.

In total, there were 11,435 occasions when prisoners were homeless when they were let out - 16% of released male offenders and 18% of female inmates.

The Probation Service, which is part of the MoJ, said the figures for sex offenders showed accommodation on the day of release and did not necessarily mean they "remained homeless afterwards". It says it has introduced new teams dedicated to finding housing, and is increasing places in "approved premises", also known as "bail hostels" or "probation hostels". It adds that it has helped "hundreds of offenders" stay off the streets as part of the Government's Rough Sleeping Strategy.

A spokesperson said: "Public protection is our number one priority. Sex offenders on licence must report regularly to their probation officer and abide by strict conditions which if breached can see them go back to prison."

During the coronavirus lockdown, BBC News discovered that 142 prisoners were put up in hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation to limit the spread of Covid-19.

Saturday 25 July 2020

Public Service Announcement

The following was issued by Napo in a mailout on Friday 17th July:-

Wearing Face Coverings at your workplace

Napo is aware of our members concerns over the use of Face Coverings following revised Government guidance and what this may mean for you in your workplace. Please remember that, where you can work at home you should continue to do so. For most of our members working completely at home is not an option so they will need to be in the workplace part or all of the time.

In our engagement across all of the employers where Napo are recognised we have insisted that before any workplace is reopened or where the number of face to face interviews with clients and families are to be increased, a risk assessment process which includes control measures such as social distancing and hygiene measures as well as PPE, must have been conducted and have had appropriate trade union involvement. We have secured additional time for our accredited representatives to be able to assist in this work.

We now know that Face Coverings are compulsory when people are using public transport and soon to be when in a shop but the Government advice on what to do at work has understandably caused members to raise questions with us. The following statement from Napo seeks to add clarity to the guidance issued by HMPPS:

The guidance note circulated by HMPPS remains accurate but for the avoidance of doubt, even when social distancing is maintained exhalations may spread virus particles and this may be more of a risk in areas used by multiple people. Following the PPE and social distancing guidance we expect employers to ensure safe working practices across their estates. Whilst the current Public Health England guidance does not require the use of a face covering in workplaces where social distancing is possible, Napo acknowledges that members may wish to use a face covering when entering and leaving their workplace and when moving around their building. Members may prefer to remove their face covering whilst situated at their personal workspace and when settled in an interview or group room with a client. As noted in the guidance face coverings are not PPE and offer little protection for the wearer but may assist in limiting the spread of the virus by the wearer when used in accordance with widely available advice.

For security reasons members working in prisons are prevented from covering their face in the prison except when the 2m social distance cannot be maintained. In these circumstances PPE provided for this purpose by the Prison can be used.

The advice remains that if you are able to work at home you should do so. For work that cannot be done at home, in situations where a 2m social distance cannot be maintained members should be using appropriate PPE as previously advised and detailed in the HMPPS guidance. Suitable PPE (along with training in its use) for these circumstances will be provided by the employer.

Members who may have particular difficulties in fitting face coverings or face masks (perhaps due to a disability) or cannot wear face coverings or a mask due to a disability must raise this with their line manager as part of their individual risk assessment.

In addition to this advice, members are reminded that all staff and clients should maintain 2m social distance from all others and carry out regular hand hygiene.

Friday 24 July 2020

The Case Must Be Made

I notice Napo have submitted the following Motion to the TUC Congress for wresting probation from the malign clutches of the civil service. This is all-well-and-good, but the test will surely be in the quality and commitment to a campaign that can make a successful case? It's to be hoped the ever-resourceful Lord Ramsbotham can once more be mobilised to assist.  

Rebuilding the Probation service

On the 13th June, the Secretary of State for Justice announced that all probation services will revert to public ownership and control, bringing an early end to the 20 Community Rehabilitation Company contracts in June 2021. This change of direction represents a significant victory over a privatisation policy that has been an unmitigated disaster for staff, clients, victims and the taxpayer.

Now that the first part of the campaign to save Probation has been achieved, Congress believes that there is a need for substantial investment in the Probation service in order that the damage of the last 6 years can start to be repaired and the service can once again excel at reducing reoffending and protecting the public.

Congress instructs the General Council to work in partnership with the probation unions and the Official Opposition to press government Ministers to take the necessary steps to recover what was once a world class probation service with the following objectives:

1. Fully unified service provision delivered within the public sector and never for profit

2. Removal of Probation from the civil service and release from the prison dominated culture which means that Probation is the forgotten ‘P’ in HMPPS

3. A service built on evidence based practice

4. A service rooted in the local community and partnering with local specialist providers

The General Council should include a progress report to the 2021 Congress


A reminder of Lord Ramsbotham's stirling groundwork last year:- 

Saturday, 25 May 2019


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

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

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

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

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

Wrong is done if any of the three is neglected.

Archbishop William Temple, 1930

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday 22 July 2020

Who Exactly Does Cummings Work For? 2

We're all gradually learning more about the maverick Dominic Cummings, his modus operandi and the fact he's indispensable to Boris because basically he's running things! In addition to hiring and firing at Downing Street, running Covid policy, shaking up the Civil Service and putting a rocket under the Military and Security Services, he's also been satisfying his inner-geek by buying some satellites. Unfortunately it seems they are the wrong kind, rather expensive and his list of enemies grows ever larger. This from the Guardian on June 26th as the story first broke:-  

'We've bought the wrong satellites': UK tech gamble baffles experts

The UK government’s plan to invest hundreds of millions of pounds in a satellite broadband company has been described as “nonsensical” by experts, who say the company doesn’t even make the right type of satellite the country needs after Brexit. The investment in OneWeb, first reported on Thursday night, is intended to mitigate the UK’s loss of access to the EU’s Galileo satellite navigation system.

But OneWeb – in which the UK will own a 20% stake following the investment – currently operates a completely different type of satellite network from that typically used to run such navigation systems. “The fundamental starting point is, yes, we’ve bought the wrong satellites,” said Dr Bleddyn Bowen, a space policy expert at the University of Leicester. “OneWeb is working on basically the same idea as Elon Musk’s Starlink: a mega-constellation of satellites in low Earth orbit, which are used to connect people on the ground to the internet.

“What’s happened is that the very talented lobbyists at OneWeb have convinced the government that we can completely redesign some of the satellites to piggyback a navigation payload on it. It’s bolting an unproven technology on to a mega-constellation that’s designed to do something else. It’s a tech and business gamble.”

Giles Thorne, a research analyst at Jeffries, agreed. “This situation is nonsensical to me,” he said. “This situation looks like nationalism trumping solid industrial policy.” Every major positioning system currently in use – America’s GPS, Russia’s Glonass, China’s BeiDou, and Galileo, the EU project that the UK helped design before losing access to due to Brexit – is in a medium Earth orbit, Thorne said, approximately 20,000km from Earth. OneWeb’s satellites, 74 of which have already been launched, are in a low Earth orbit, just 1,200km up.

Bowen said: “If you want to replace GPS for military-grade systems, where you need encrypted, secure signals that are precise to centimetres, I’m not sure you can do that on satellites as small as OneWeb’s.” Rather than being selected for the quality of the offering, Thorne suggested the investment was made to suit “a nationalist agenda”. OneWeb is nominally a UK business, with a UK HQ and spectrum rights registered in the UK through Ofcom.

“Let’s give the government the benefit of the doubt: if the output the government wants is a UK-branded positioning system, a projection of UK power around the world and supporting the UK satellite industry base, then it is probably quicker and cheaper to smash the square peg of OneWeb into the round hole of a Galileo replacement than it is to do it from scratch,” said Thorne.

On Friday evening a government spokesperson said: “We have made clear our ambitions for space and are developing a new national space strategy to bring long-term strategic and commercial benefits to the UK. We are in regular discussions with the space industry as part of this work.”

OneWeb filed for bankruptcy in March in the US, where most of its operations are located, after failing to secure new funding. Previously, the UK aimed to build its own global navigation satellite system, which independent experts estimatedwould cost £3bn-£4bn.

In December 2018, Theresa May, the then prime minister, said the UK expected to work with the US and other “Five Eyes” partners – a term for the multilateral intelligence agreement – to do so. But in May this year that project was put on hold, just weeks before a feasibility study into the scheme was due to be published, as its estimated cost ballooned to £5bn.


Today the government published the exchange of letters between the acting Permanent Secretary and the Minister directing the purchase. An extract from Sam Beckett to the Minister:- 

You will recall that following earlier discussions you also asked the UK Space Agency (UKSA) to procure a separate independent technical assessment. It highlights the substantial technical and operational hurdles that OneWeb would need to overcome in order to become a viable and profitable business. Taking that into account, UKSA consider that there is a high likelihood of further investment being required to complete the constellation and encourage user uptake of the services, increasing the risk that further HMG investment would be required in order to realise the potential benefits. As a result, UKSA’s judgement is that the independent technical assessment further illustrates the considerable uncertainties in the modelling done for HM Treasury. 

I completely understand your, the Prime Minister’s and the Chancellor’s interest in wider benefits such as the potential long-term geo-political advantages for foreign policy and soft power that would come with sovereign ownership of a fleet of satellites. Moreover, I do not underestimate the potential opportunity that this investment represents for UK interests globally. It would be the first mega-constellation operator, if it succeeds, and would have the potential to connect millions of people, in particular those in remote, rural locations without broadband access. There are also broader potential benefits that could be realised beyond global broadband. If OneWeb is successful, the UK would have a share in a global space platform, including through possible future research and development, and potentially bringing future manufacturing to the UK. There could be wider, less quantifiable benefits of signalling UK ambition and influence on the global stage. 

That said, the purchase – both in its scale and the fact that the company is early in its journey towards a first-of-a-kind satellite constellation and generating revenue – is unusual for government. Whereas this will form part of a broader portfolio for co-investors, we would be making a single investment, which makes the risks with the investment more stark for us. While in one scenario we could get a 20 per cent return, the central case is marginal and there are significant downside risks, including that venture capital investments of this sort can fail, with the consequence that all the value of the equity can be lost. 

Having reflected carefully on the information provided, I have concluded that whilst there may be a commercial case for investing alongside other commercial investors if you accept advisors’ assessment of One Web’s business plan projections, as a standalone high-risk investment with a possibility that the entirety of the investment is lost and no wider benefits accrued, I cannot satisfy myself that this investment meets the requirements of Value for Money as set out in Managing Public Money. Therefore, whilst I believe the risks around the other Accounting Officer standards of regularity, propriety and feasibility are manageable, Managing Public Money requires me to seek a direction from you. 

In taking your decision, I appreciate that you are able to take into account wider considerations that I cannot bring to bear in my own assessment. These considerations include the unique opportunity of this investment, the potential it has to deliver significant development in the telecommunications field, and the wider strategic case. If you decide that you wish to direct me to proceed, I will instruct officials to commit funds and work with third-party advisors as required to finalise the bid. 


The FT makes clear who's bright idea it is:-

Under the terms of the deal Bharti Global, a subsidiary of the conglomerate run by billionaire telecoms tycoon Sunil Bharti Mittal, will also hold 45 per cent of OneWeb and the rest will be held by existing creditors, including SoftBank, which has loans outstanding of $913m, according to bankruptcy documents filed in the US. The investment came as the government backed away from a plan launched two years ago to develop its own sovereign satellite navigation system after being forced out of the European Galileo system, which the UK had helped finance and develop, as a result of the Brexit vote. Costs for that proposal had soared to £5bn, from an initial estimate of £3bn to £4bn. 

Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson’s chief adviser, has been instrumental in pushing the case for the UK government to invest in OneWeb in the face of fierce opposition from supporters of the original satellite navigation project. Darren Jones, chair of the Commons business select committee, questioned the accountability and “lack of transparency” of the investment. He said the committee would hold an inquiry into why the decision was taken. “This near half-a-billion-pound investment using taxpayers’ money seems to have been purely a commercial decision by Downing Street without any assessment of value for taxpayers’ money or agreement from experts about the technical capability that OneWeb offers the UK now that we’ve lost access to European Union satellites.”

Who Exactly Does Cummings Work For?

I can't let yesterday's publication of the Russia Report pass without comment, not least because Parliament packs up for the summer holiday's today and the silly season is almost upon us. No Piers Morgan and no Andrew Marr until September. Prime Minister's Questions had better be good later today and Keir Starmer on top of his game. It's all a shocking saga and as a good a resume as any comes from this extract by Ian Dunt:-  

Russia report: The government left us completely exposed to Kremlin interference

The security services were wary of getting involved in British democratic processes. That attitude, the committee found, was foolhardy. This is about protecting the democratic process, not interfering in it. But what was telling was that the government did nothing to protect against this problem before it emerged and then made no effort to find out what happened in the wake of it.

In fact, quite the opposite. This report was completed a year-and-a-half ago. It has sat gathering dust. Why? We thought for a while it was because it contained details of Russian donations to the Tory party. That appears to be wrong - the report doesn't go into that issue. Instead it seems to have been the result of Dominic Cummings, the prime minister's senior adviser, trying to kill it because it would have given a platform to Dominic Grieve, the former chair of the intelligence committee - the battle of the Dominics.

Cummings led the Vote Leave Brexit campaign, which is now installed as the organisational mechanism of British government. Grieve was a prominent Remainer. Brexit loyalty didn't just stop the government looking into what happened. It led it to try to stop people reporting that it wasn't looking into what happened.

In the build up to today's publication, the government went out of its way to try to limit the impact of the report by releasing material which took the focus away from Brexit. Confirmation of publication came last week after No.10 failed in an attempt to rig the chairmanship of the intelligence committee. As soon as it came, foreign secretary Dominic Raab confirmed for the first time that Russia interfered in British democracy through the "online amplification" of leaked documents in the 2019 election. That related to then-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's use of leaked documents about UK-US trade deals and the effect on the NHS.

This was telling for two reasons. First, he sought to portray it as a Labour issue, rather than one which operates in British politics in general. Second, unless the timing was completely coincidental - which not even the most generous commentator could credibly claim - he was clearly acting to reduce the impact of the report. In other words, the government was using Russian interference in British politics for its own domestic political agenda.

Briefings to journalists overnight seemed to follow a similar pattern. "Kremlin 'tried to meddle in Scottish independence vote' - but did not target Brexit," the Telegraph splashed yesterday - a finding which does not tally at all with what is contained in the report.

This is a complete failure of basic patriotic and democratic responsibility. The Russian attempt to undermine the UK is based on exacerbating 'wedge' divisions in the domestic political debate. To our considerable shame, we have ended up with a government which operates by doing precisely the same thing. Vote Leave won the referendum by inciting and sustaining cultural division. It operates in government in precisely the same way. Instead of acting on the committee's demand that more be done to assess Russian interference and prevent it, the government tried to delay the report. Instead of taking its recommendations on board, it tried to use the issue of Russian interference as a weapon against the SNP, Labour and Remainers.

We don't know what an inquiry into Russian interference in the Brexit referendum would find, but there is good reason to assume that it would have two chief conclusions. The first is that it did interfere. This is in line with its well-documented tactics and priorities. The second is that it is impossible to know whether that interference swung the result. And yet even a report of that type would help give people confidence. It would show that the government cared about and was trying to protect British democratic processes. It would offer some degree of reassurance about the validity of the results. 

Instead we are left with complete absence - an utter dereliction of governmental duty. And that corresponds to Russia's broader long-term aim: of creating a world in which no-one knows what is true, in which nothing can be completely trusted. They couldn't ask for a more useful British government than the one they have now.

Ian Dunt is editor of 


No matter what the big political story is, it always seems to have evidence of Dominic Cummings' disruptive handiwork all over it. We learn Boris Johnson continually lied over the reasons for not publishing the Russia Report mainly because of his adviser's disdain for the principled and prominent 'Remainer' Dominic Grieve. 

No doubt the same 'career psychopath' hatched the unsuccessful plot to install Chris Grayling as Chair of the Intelligence Committee; arranged for the weekend Russia Foreign Office distractions; orchestrated yesterday's 'dead-cat' public sector pay award smokescreen and publication of the government's Russia Response perfectly timed as a spoiler for the Intelligence Committee press conference. It's all pure Cummings game-playing, but who does he actually work for? 

A fluent Russian-speaker, Cummings worked in Russia between 1994 and 1997 and last September the Moscow-based journalist John Helmer filled in some details:-
Cummings graduated in mid-1994 from Oxford with a degree in Ancient and Modern History; he was just shy of 23. In one of his authorized biographies, he claims that “on leaving university his adventurousness found its first outlet in going to Russia for three years. He helped set up a new airline flying from Samara, on the Volga, to Vienna. The KGB issued threats, the airline only got one passenger, and the pilot unfortunately took off without that passenger. Cummings is a Russophile, speaks Russian and is passionately interested in Dostoyevsky. In 1997 he returned to London.”

By the contemporary investigative standards for detecting Russian agents, sleepers and fellow-travellers set by the British Government’s Integrity Initiative, Cummings’ Russian connection ought to have attracted more attention than it has.

A month ago, the London Daily Mirror reported that it had found an American named Adam Dixon, currently living in Connecticut, who said he had employed Cummings in Russia, paying him to commute weekly between Vienna and Samara. According to Dixon, “I met Dominic Cummings in the 1990s, when I was working with a Russian partner to develop a regional airline Samara Airlines into an international carrier – in order to link the city of Samara (an economic and intellectual power on the Volga River) directly to Europe. For anyone who didn’t experience the total anarchy and fast-moving chaos of Russia in the ‘90s, it is hard to imagine now what it was like then – there was a deep fear that the country would descend into civil war or simply disintegrate, and it was a constant theme of conversation how, when, and by whom order would be restored.”

“Although he did not speak much Russian [sic], Dominic was fascinated by the anarchy and the potential for catastrophe, and willing to work in these bizarre and sometimes dangerous circumstances…Since we were a small team without much money, I gave him some responsibilities which he then quickly led me to regret, because he leveraged the fact that we now ‘needed him’ to sometimes behave as he liked, which included offending people that we needed to get on with – and this could be very counter-productive.”

“Left to himself, he would dress out of his laundry bag and had a silly objection to wearing a tie, and he was usually unshaven and often looked hung-over and unwashed. This was all an obvious liability when there was widespread concern that Russian airlines were negligent about maintenance. On the other hand, he was courageous, clear-thinking, and could really ‘hold his drink’, which, on several particular occasions, was much more of an asset than it should have been.”

“Although he did not leave us completely in the lurch, he certainly did go much too abruptly, and on his schedule, not mine. I made it plain that I felt I had been generous to him in every way, and therefore, that he should not think of me as a good reference for future jobs – and I never heard from him again. A few years later, I read in a bio-blurb that he had ‘started a Russian airline with a friend’, a distortion that was annoying, given the real circumstances.”
Putin has officially denied that Russia has tried to influence any elections in another country, so it must be true and of course sowing discord and political chaos in the West serves Russian interests perfectly. As Cummings' wish for a no-deal Brexit becomes almost certain, the Kremlin must be feeling pretty pleased with itself for having successfully influenced several elections to its advantage, got away with it and still have such prominent dupes in both London and Washington. Incredibly, Trump is preparing the ground for election chaos in November by already questioning the outcome and still wants to cosy-up to Putin!
I can't resist rounding these reflections off without returning to the historical parallel of FDR and his 'rasputine-style' adviser Harry Hopkins in the 1940's. Basically there is still some discussion as to whether Hopkins was a soviet agent rather than merely a 'dupe', but what is clear is that Soviet interests were significantly assisted by both FDR and Harry Hopkins acting either deliberately or unintentionally. 
For those who share my love of history as well as contemporary politics, there's much to be found on the internet including this gem from the CIA in 2007 with some very sobering contemporary echoes:- 

In recent years, the statesmanship of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in particular his handling of Soviet affairs, has come under attack in historical studies. The situation has reached such a pass that even a psychiatrist who examined FDR’s medical records has opined that toward the end of World War II the US President ceded the better part of Eastern Europe to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin because he was “gripped by clinical depression.”

Certainly the President’s moves can be questioned, but questionable policy can be founded on factors other than low spirits—which, in point of fact, were not generally observed in FDR at the time. Rather, the operant factors were: the President’s supreme confidence in his own powers of persuasion, his profound ignorance of the Bolshevik dictatorship, his projection of humane motives onto his Soviet counterpart, his determined resistance to contradictory evidence and advice, and his wishful thinking based on geopolitical designs—mindsets supported and reinforced by his appointed advisors. Taken together, these factors produced a false view of US-Soviet relations and inspired policy that had only superficial contact with reality. As an instance in point, they induced the President of the United States to do the unthinkable: walk into a surveillance trap, not once, but twice, and willingly.

Tuesday 21 July 2020

Time To Speak Out

This from yesterday's Justice Committee Report:-
"Since Covid-19 hit, around 20% of the NPS staff of 11,000 have been off work each day, putting considerably more stress on remaining employees."

The Report generated some strength of feeling:-

I am literally creaking under the weight of my workload (over 150% WMT) My back is aching and my knees click. And NPS had the temerity to offer overtime payments ... for me to do MORE. Not a chance. There is no more blood to be squeezed out of this stone.

To make any progress in unravelling such a shitty position we need to understand how staff are being put in that position.

Peer pressure?

Let's use the extraordinary platform provided using anon posts to try & make progress, understand & make a stand. We know the blog is read & feared by a range of influential decision-makers regardless of their publicly dismissive attitude towards it, e.g. their use of trolls to try & destroy it (a sign of their concern at the blog's value outwith their control). Safely, anonymously but effectively we can unravel the Escher Workload Model.

Having trained as a probation officer approx 12 years ago (albeit jumped ship to a less demanding role within the service, due to burn out and apathy), my observation is that the number of people each person works with has remained relatively stable....but it's the sheer demands of relentless tasks that have increased year on year exponentially. Examples:-

  • ARMS assessments
  • Delius - HETE data, risk registers, the relentless amount of clicking and trying to write records in ridiculously tiny boxes which don't accept large emails/copies and pastes due to being "too large"/trying to edit them
  • Writing case records under 'CRISSA' format
  • OASYS QA giving ridiculously prescriptive guidance about every single box, such as "sources of information", "current situation", "offender comments", "assessor comments" - ultimately boxes nobody reads or cares about
  • New AP referral for every new ROTL visit (we used to be able to block book them all in advance....not now!)
  • Even a simple non AP ROTL has become far more paperwork heavy over the years
  • GPS Tagging and all that comes along with it
  • Polygraph for sex offenders, and all that comes along with it
  • AP placements only lasting 3 months, meaning you never get any respite from "move on" tasks
I could go on but NONE of the above makes ANY DIFFERENCE whatsoever to the service user, or indeed the probation officer working with them. Layers, upon layers, upon layers of additional tasks have been added to a caseload of 40/50 people.....and yet WHY? WHAT FOR? WHAT's the POINT?

So yes guys if we are going to use this blog to organise and you all feel NAPO is not helping, then we need to start a movement from within - no more CRISSA! No more "risk registration updating"! No more filling out stupid boxes in OASYS! No more HETE data, no lengthy ARMS assessments, no meaningless "pull through" OASYs - If we ALL (but it would take each and every one of us) say NO, and focus on the tasks that DO MATTER to us and the SERVICE USER maybe we will switch off at 5/6pm and actually do a better job.

Good points well made. Sounds like staff are doing several jobs where one would do:

- case admin repeated across numerous systems
- case management
- risk assessment
- risk management
- referrals for anything/everything
- tag management
- housing management

"If we ALL (but it would take each and every one of us) say NO, and focus on the tasks that DO MATTER to us and the SERVICE USER maybe we will switch off at 5/6pm and actually do a better job."


The future of the Probation Service


Probation services have gone through substantial change in the past five years.

After the financial failure and withdrawal of several CRC providers, the MoJ decided to end CRC contracts 14 months early (during this year) and to return to having a single national probation service for all offenders, but with some services still contracted out to private, voluntary or statutory providers.

On 11 June 2020, The Lord Chancellor announced that the competitive process for Probation Delivery Partner contracts would be ended, and instead these elements of probation delivery would be brought back under the control of the NPS. The new model of probation is due to go live in June 2021.

The Committee’s inquiry will examine the proposed model for the new probation service and seek views on how well the proposed model addresses the problems identified in the past.

Additionally, the Committee will seek to understand the effect Covid-19 has had on the delivery of probation services and what the potential impact may be going forward into the next phase of the Probation Reform Programme.

The deadline for written evidence is 7 September 2020.

Monday 20 July 2020

Coronavirus and Probation

Published today:-

The Justice Select Committee has released a report today on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Her Majesty’s Probation Service and at the same time launch an inquiry into ongoing reforms in the service. The report, ‘Coronavirus (Covid-19): The impact on the probation system in England and Wales’ sets out how the pandemic has profoundly affected the way probation services are delivered.

Many former prisoners and those serving community sentences are now supervised remotely by Probation Officers – through phone calls or Skype. Released prisoners who would often need help finding accommodation or accessing Universal Credit benefits may well find physical offices dealing with these matters closed, with staff working from home. 

Helen Berresford's comments

An official from the prisoner and ex-prisoner charity Nacro, Helen Berresford, painted a picture of the situation for the Committee:

“It’s an incredibly different situation out there. Almost all support is being provided remotely at the minute, so we need to make sure everybody leaving prison has access to a mobile phone. They will also need to have enough money to get them started. To be honest, they will need some of the essentials like soap, a toothbrush and some basic food and drink to get them through the first few days. They may be released to somewhere they do not know. They may be released having to take public transport – which may or may not be running.” 

Minister of State's comments

The Minister of State at the Justice Ministry, Lucy Frazer, told the Committee that the Ministry was working very closely with the charitable sector:

“We are working very closely with them to see how we can feed in offers of support outside the core services we have to set up. We have had a number of very interesting offers.”

The Committee report welcomed the Ministry’s commitment to work with the charitable sector but said it was unclear what specific additional support had been put in place for those released from custody during this time.  The Committee recommended that the Ministry of Justice and Her Majesty’ Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) set out what additional measures they have put in place to support prison leavers. 

'Exceptional model of delivery'

The delivery of probation supervisory services in the wake of Covid-19 is officially known as an ‘exceptional model of delivery’. High risk offenders are supervised by the National Probation Service (NPS) through a combination of remote methods and doorstep visits. Medium and low-risk offenders are currently supervised by private sector organisations called Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs).

The National Association of Probation Officers told the Committee that there was some inconsistency in the way the model was delivered across the NPS and CRC systems. This led, the Association said, to anxiety among staff about their own safety. Another witness said the inconsistency led to concerns among individuals trying to adhere to their licence conditions to avoid potential recall to prison.

The Justice Committee report said it was concerned about these inconsistencies and recommended that the Ministry of Justice and HMPPS set out what guidance had been issued to CRCs and how they are monitoring the models being delivered by different CRCs. 

Backlogs and staffing issues

The Committee’s report also said it was concerned about the backlog which the lockdown measures have necessitated – for example the unpaid work which some people have been sentenced to has stopped. The Committee said it recognised why this had happened but recommended that the Ministry and HMPPS set out how the probation service intends to address the backlogs.

Finally, the report also looked at staffing issues in the NPS. It found that even before the pandemic, there were over 600 vacancies across the service in England and Wales and that workloads were heavy. Since Covid-19 hit, around 20% of the NPS staff of 11,000 have been off work each day, putting considerably more stress on remaining employees. The Committee recommended that government and HMPPS set out what existing and additional measures are in place during this time to support staff well-being.

The coronavirus pandemic has severely affected the probation service at a time when it was already in the throes of its second major restructuring programme in the past five years. In addition to its report on the effect of the pandemic, the Committee is today launching an inquiry into the latest proposed reforms, which are due to be in place by 2021. 

A new model

In 2014-15 the Ministry of Justice implemented a programme of privatising parts of the Probation Service. This led to the CRCs contracting to deliver some strands of work, including supervisory services for medium and low-risk offenders. HM Inspector of Probation released a series of reports on this new model which variously described it as having ‘deep-rooted problems’ to being ‘irredeemably flawed’. The previous Justice Committee Chair described the system as ‘a mess’.

In June 2020, the Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland, said the disruption caused by Covid-19 meant it was vital that the Ministry obtained the flexibility to deliver a national response to any future challenges. For this reason, he said, he was to streamline the reforms by unifying the management of offenders under a single operation.

This new model means the effective renationalisation of the Probation Service by 2021. It would mean all key elements of offender case management and supervision of unpaid work would return to the overall control of the NPS – although some elements of delivery are still to be outsourced and overseen by the National Probation Service. 

New inquiry on proposed reforms

The Justice Committee inquiry being launched today will ask for written submissions and take oral evidence from stakeholders on the new model for the delivery of probation services. The deadline for written submissions, which should be sent to the Committee website here will be September 7. It is anticipated that a report will be published in February 2021. 

Chair's comments

The Chair of the Justice Committee, Sir Bob Neill, said:

“We’ll want to know if this new model will work and whether it will be capable of clearing the backlog of probation work caused by the pandemic. We’ll be asking whether private sector providers were consulted about these proposals, whether there were counter-proposals, and how the new model will supply the necessary services.  But above all we will want to see improvements in the rehabilitation of offenders, improvements in probation service staff morale and robust protections for the public. In short, we want to make sure these latest reforms do not repeat the errors of the past so that the Justice Committee will, in future years, be scrutinizing a Probation Service fit for the twenty-first century.” 


Napo's response sent out this afternoon:-

Covid 19 and Probation

Today the Justice select committee has published their report on probation during the Covid pandemic. On 14th April 2020 Ian Lawrence General Secretary and Katie Lomas, National Chair gave evidence to the committee in relation to the impact of Covid on service delivery and the Exceptional Delivery Model. This report highlights the committees findings and recommendations to the Minister. The key findings and recommendations are outlined below.

Staffing Shortages:

The report highlights the significant staff shortages in Probation even before the crisis. Now with approximately 2000 staff off sick this issue is really affecting members and the already excessively high caseloads. The committee were also concerned about risk management which HMIP reported as being an area that was already poor and has been exacerbated by the Exceptional Delivery Model. The EDM itself also came under scrutiny. In particular that each CRC had developed their own so there was no consistent approach across providers.

“The National Association of Probation Officers told the Committee that there was some inconsistency in the way the model was delivered across the NPS and CRC systems. This led, the Association said, to anxiety among staff about their own safety. Another witness said the inconsistency led to concerns among individuals trying to adhere to their licence conditions to avoid potential recall to prison.”

As such the Committee has made the following recommendations:

(1) What guidance was issued to CRCs and how will the MOJ monitor the various EDMs they have in place?

Back Log of Work:

The committee were keen to hear how the MOJ plans to deal with the back log of work as a result of lockdown. This is particularly prevalent in Unpaid Work and Programmes but will also include Court work. Witnesses said that although online experiments for programmes had begun, it was a poor relation in comparison to face to face work. The committee will be following this issue closely and have asked for the MOJ to set out how it will address the back log and what can be learnt from the process.


Workloads have been a long standing issue for many members. The EDM and instructions to staff during lock down has only added additional pressure. The committee heard that 60% of Probation Officers are over 100% on the workload management tool. Katie Lomas told the committee “There has been an increase in client contact as well as new assessments for each client. Morale is difficult to measure as workloads have been unacceptable since 2014. Poor well being on managers also impacts on their ability to support front line staff.” Her Majesty’s Inspectorate also said “There was already concern about workloads, particularly in CRCs.”

The final part of the session was looking forward to the transition of probation into the NPS. Napo welcomes the Committee asking for a detailed timeframe in which the transition will occur and to be updated on progress and delays. Napo will continue to provide evidence to the Justice select Committee on both Covid recovery and the transition period.

Overall the JSC report reflects well on Napo members efforts to maintain vital services during this unprecedented health emergency, but it also lays bare the fragmentation that has occurred over a number of years because of the ill-fated Transforming Rehabilitation reforms as well as the continually unreasonable demands placed on hard working staff.

Napo HQ

More Courts!

We all understood where Nightingale Hospitals came from as an emergency response to the pandemic, but courts for heavens sake? What the hell is the logic there then? Are we going to have Nightingale prisons? I can't claim credit for this as it was Rob Allen on Twitter who suggested they be named after a distinguished former Lord Chancellor - Sir Thomas More 1478-1535 hence 'More Courts'.

10 ‘Nightingale Courts’ unveiled

The Lord Chancellor has today (19 July 2020) announced locations for 10 ‘Nightingale Courts’ which have been rapidly set up to tackle the impact of coronavirus on the justice system. 
Middlesbrough Town Hall, the Knights’ Chamber within the grounds of Peterborough Cathedral, and the Ministry of Justice’s headquarters in London are among the venues that will soon be in use.

The 10 sites will host the so-called Nightingale Courts with ongoing work to identify more potential locations. This will start to alleviate the pressure on courts and tribunals resulting from the pandemic – ensuring that the wheels of justice keep turning.

Spanning England and Wales, they will hear civil, family and tribunals work as well as non-custodial crime cases. The move will free up room in existing courts to hear other cases, including custodial jury trials, which require cells and secure dock facilities to keep the public, victims and witnesses safe.

A court set up in East Pallant House, Chichester, is expected to begin hearing an expanded list of cases next week, with all 10 locations up and running in August. The move forms part of government plans to ensure courts recover from the coronavirus pandemic as soon as possible and to avoid any delays getting criminals behind bars.

The confirmed sites are:

Former county court at Telford, Shropshire
Hertfordshire Development Centre, Stevenage
Swansea Council Chambers, Swansea
Cloth Hall Court, Leeds
Middlesbrough Town Hall, Teesside
East Pallant House, Chichester
102 Petty France, London
Prospero House, London
Former magistrates’ court at Fleetwood, Lancashire
Knights’ Chamber and Visitor Centre, Bishop’s Palace, Peterborough Cathedral

The Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland QC MP said:

"Our action to keep the justice system running throughout the pandemic has been globally recognised, with these Nightingale Courts being the latest step in this effort. They will help boost capacity across our courts and tribunals - reducing delays and delivering speedier justice for victims. But we won’t stop there. Together with the judiciary, courts staff and legal sector, I am determined that we must pursue every available option to ensure our courts recover as quickly as possible."


All Buckland's rhetoric is cobblers of course, with Covid proving useful cover for drastic cost-cutting and incompetence at the MoJ and confirmed by justice insiders on Twitter such as Catherine Baksi, Barrister 'now award-winning freelance hack, writing for The Brief TimesLaw, Guardian and Telegraph' :-

Since 2010 the Ministry of Justice has closed 295 courts - almost a third of all courts in England & Wales, including over half of all magistrates' courts and eight crown courts - most recently the large and modern facility at Blackfriars Crown Court. At the end of 2019, there was a backlog of 37,500 crown court cases, due to Ministry of Justice spending cuts, that meant courtrooms were left idle, while the number of cases waiting to be dealt with increased. Since lockdown the backlog has risen to over 41,000.

In 2019 only 12,000 crown court trials were completed. The backlog of crown court trials is now 26,500 -- more than twice the number of trials heard in the whole of last year. This means victims & defendants are left in legal limbo for up to three years before trials take place. In the magistrates courts, which hears 95% of criminal cases, the backlog of cases is over 500,000.

The lord chancellor, Robert Buckland, said: "Our action to keep the justice system running throughout the pandemic has been globally recognised, with these Nightingale Courts being the latest step in this effort." It is possible that he is living in an alternative reality. 
Last week a report from the Bar Council said the Ministry of Justice spends 39 per person per day on the justice system -- less than the price of a pint of milk.

Caroline Goodwin QC, chair of the The Criminal Bar says the 10 Nightingale court are "a start, but just that" and urges the MoJ to open more courts and fund the justice system properly. Caroline Goodwin QC, CBA chair: "Time is of the essence. Two months of delay getting these 10 [Nightingale courts] on stream just piles on the human suffering to get trials on that have been delayed for between 1 & 3 years, impacting tens of thousands of those left waiting."

Caroline Goodwin QC, The Criminal Bar chair, continues: "The government was quick to cut a court budget by 15% last year & just as quick to sell off a perfectly good & much-needed crown court at Blackfriars. Lets see the same government ... invest" and open up court buildings.

As well as Nightingale courts, the Ministry of Justice tells me other options to tackle the backlog, incl crown court trials heard by a judge & 2 lay magistrates, reduced jury numbers & extending court sitting times during the week & at weekends, are still on the table.

Catherine Baksi


J Mellor court reporter on Twitter:-

London’s 10 Crown Courts have about 100 court rooms (approximate figures based on quick tally of lists) 18 trials are starting or ongoing on Monday 36 court rooms are probably overflow/public gallery/jury retirement rooms 46 court rooms are left ‘not sitting’ Breakdown:

Old Bailey: 4 trials (4 not sitting) 

Southwark: 2 trials (5 not sitting) 
Inner London: 1 trial (4 not sitting) 
Woolwich: 2 trials (3 not sitting) 
Croydon: 2 Trials (2 not sitting) 
Kingston: 0 Trials (7 not sitting) 
Isleworth: 2 Trials (3 not sitting)
Snaresbrook: 1 Trial (9 not sitting) 
Harrow: 1 Trial (6 not sitting) 
Wood Green: 1 Trial (3 not sitting)


Judge Itis on Twitter:-

We are now struggling to cover lists with Deputy DJs as they to begin to pick up their own practices post lockdown. A number of lists cancelled this week. So these new civil and family Nightingale Courts are going to be populated by?



From Twitter - John McNamara - Crime & Proceeds of Crime Barrister at 5SAHLaw Assistant Sec The Criminal Bar Association 

***43% of the criminal court rooms in purpose built courts are not being used today*** 

Empty court rooms/no declared purpose: 196 Total court rooms on list: 458 42.7% of court rooms are not sitting/not listed. But the MoJ say their handling of this crisis is world leading. This is important - the government have add 3 "dedicated" nightingale courts. They say we must work longer hours - but they are not even "sweating" the existing estate yet. There are NO recorders sitting. Part-time judges who would happily sit now to clear a backlog. We are 4 months into this, and there is still no apparent urgency to provide a solution. The longer the situation continues the more Government will state EOH [extended operating hours?] is a necessity to remove a purposefully created backlog & and now the delay in providing judges to speed up the courts.

Methodology: Court counted as empty/not sitting if stated so on listing, or if court room fails to appear on list. Where courtroom stated as being used for trial e.g. jury room/public gallery not counted empty. Where HHJ doing box work or reading court room not counted as empty. ? means unsure that the full number of courts rooms are listed. Help would be appreciated! The number of court rooms is based on the listings, if the numbers are incorrect it is because the courts do not appear on the lists.

It's been a very very long train ride this morning. Court's below as listed = no. empty/total no. court rooms: 

Aylesbury -2/3 
Basildon – 1/5 
Birmingham – 8/17 
Bolton- ? 
Bournemouth – 0/5  
Bradford – 5/8 
Bristol -5/8 
Burnley – closed 
Cambridge – 1/3 
Canterbury – 3/7
Cardiff – 3/9 
Carlise – 0/3 
CCC – 13/22 
Chelmsford – 0/6 
Chester – 1/4 
Croydon – 2/7 
Derby – 1/4 
Durham – 0/1 
Exeter – 0/2 
Gloucester – 2/3 
Great Grimsby – 5/8 
Guildford – 2/5 
Harrow – 4/8 
IL – 6/10 
Ipswich – 1/4 
Isleworth – 4/13 
Kingston (Hull) – 1/4
Kingston (London) – 7/11 
Leeds – 6/13 
Leicester - 8/12 
Lewes – 3/5 
(Hove – 1/3) 
Lincoln – 2/4 
Liverpool - ? 
Luton – 2/7 
Maidstone – 5/9 
Manchester – 9/15 
Manchester Minshull – 5/10 
Merthyr – 1/3 
Mold - ? 
Newcastle – 4/11 
IOW – 1/2 
Northampton – 1/5 
Norwich – 0/4
Nottingham – 4/10 
Oxford – 6/9 
Plymouth – 2/3 
Portsmouth – 4/7 
Preston – 5/11 
Reading 2/9 
Salisbury – 1/2 
Sheffield – 2/10 
Shrewsbury – 1/2 
Snaresbrook – 10/21 
Southampton – 2/4 
Southwark – 7/15 
St Albans – 4/8 
Stafford - 0/2 (?) 
Stoke on Trent – 0/2 (?)
Swansea – 2/4 
Swindon – 0/2 (?) 
Taunton – 1/2 
Teeside – 2/5 
Truro – 0/1 (? Mixed use court centre) 
Warwick – 1/4 
Winchester – 3/9 
Wolverhampton – 4/7 
Wood Green – 5/10 
Woolwich – 4/9 
Worcester – 0/3 
York – 0/2