Thanks to the wonderful Talking Pictures TV channel, last night I finally got to see this landmark film of 1952 which enjoys a bit of a cult status amongst POs of a certain vintage. I wasn't really sure what to expect, but from the outset I got a shiver and was instantly transported back to my early days.
Even from the 80's, it was all recognisable. My own office with nameplate on the door; reverence and disdain from clients in equal measure; a constant stream of life's flotsam and jetsam; matrimonial one minute, criminal cases the next; the urgent call for a Probation Officer at court over the road and being routinely 'volunteered' due to a life-long habit of wearing a tie.
It might be tempting for some to mock the quaintness of language, dress, social more's, practice and procedure of the time, but for me all the fundamentals of probation practice are present right from the beginning, as indeed the reasons why the role was so attractive to people with a degree of life experience under their belt.
The court room scenes in particular sent a shiver down my spine, not least because I was there, in court on my feet, saying those very words! I can still hear the Bench chair now "Your Probation Officer seems to feel you warrant a further chance. I will revoke the current order and make a fresh order for 12 months. You are free to go." It was a great feeling because you felt justice had been done; you had earnt your salary; they had another chance; it was the right decision for them and society.
But lets not get too misty-eyed. Very early on we hear the classic line from the star PO "A Probation Officers life is full of disappointments". A truism of course, because the 'failures' keep coming back and the 'successes' we generally never see again. But we never give up and that's the essential message of this wonderful film.
It may be portraying life 70 years ago, but the basics are exactly the same. Probation as we would recognise it very rarely features on the big or small screen, so try and watch it simply for its rarity value. It may just serve to confirm you made the right career choice and help you deal with all the current managerial and process-driven crap.