Tuesday, 7 February 2023

MoJ Top Table Changes

Senior changes from 1 February

From today (1 February) Phil Copple, as Director General of Operations for HMPPS, takes on responsibility for the Probation Service.

Phil was appointed as Director General last August, but he takes over line management of the Chief Probation Officer today, bringing the Probation Service under his own remit. This coincides with Kim Thornden-Edwards taking over as Chief Probation Officer, replacing Sonia Flynn. Sonia now takes on a key role driving professional standards in probation.

Speaking of the changes, Phil said: 

“I am delighted to be taking on this responsibility and working with Kim and all of you to deliver this crucial service across England and Wales. I want to recognise Sonia’s extraordinary work during her six years as Chief Probation Officer. Sonia guided the Probation Service through both the pandemic and the service’s unification, remaining focused on driving professional standards across the organisation throughout. 

We all owe Sonia a huge debt of gratitude and I am delighted we are retaining her experience as she assumes her new role leading on learning and development and setting up a professional register for probation. I’ve spent more than 32 years in public protection roles spanning all areas of HMPPS. 

I see clearly the benefits of bringing the various strands of the Ministry of Justice together so that we can work to change people’s lives, reduce reoffending and protect the public.​​​​​​Probation is a critical part of this picture and I am excited about the roles Kim, as Chief Probation Officer, and I will be carrying out.”

Chief Probation Officer

Speaking of her appointment, Kim said: 

“I would like to echo Phil’s heartfelt words about Sonia and her remarkable leadership as she guided probation through the pandemic and early stages of unification. I started my career as a probation services officer in Kent in 1992 and went on to qualify as a probation officer in 1996. I have experienced many different roles in the service, spanning both public sector and Community Rehabilitation Company delivery. During that time, I have developed a deep understanding of the work we do and the vital public protection role we play.

“Combining my experience with your feedback and the ambition set out by our Chief Executive Officer Amy Rees – that everything we do concentrates on the frontline and our overarching aim of reducing reoffending – I have developed three strategic priorities.

“Firstly, delivering excellent practice, with a particular emphasis on risk management and public protection. This is my number one priority. The need for this focus has been underlined by the two recent Serious Further Offences involving Damian Bendall and Jordan McSweeney, which many of you will have seen covered in the national media. These terrible and tragic events really bring home the critical importance of us all delivering the best possible risk management practices.

“Secondly, continuing our relentless focus on recruitment and retention in collaboration with the Probation Workforce Programme so we can deliver our Target Operating Model.

“Thirdly, strengthening ways to support our senior probation officers, in recognition of the tough demands and swift pace of change faced by this crucial staff group.”

My commitment to you

“Late last year we heard from Teresa, who spoke to the BBC about how Probation Officer Catherine Bateman helped her turn her life around. Teresa had finished a short prison sentence after committing an assault and agreed to wear an alcohol tag to help her continue the positive changes she’d begun in prison. She believes probation’s unstinting support has helped her embrace a new life. I know each and every one of you is working towards supporting people like Teresa and I am committed to championing the incredible work that you deliver day in and day out across England and Wales.

“Finally, I want to hear what you have to say so we can ensure our service continues to improve. I know some of the best ideas come from the frontline and that’s why I’ll be meeting as many of you as possible over the next 12 months. Myself and my senior leadership team are dedicated to supporting you to deliver on our collective promise to change lives, manage risk and protect the public by reducing reoffending.”


The BBC article referred to:-

Sobriety tag changed my life, says alcohol offender

"I was using it as a mechanism when I was feeling down and sad, but then I'd drink too much at one time and end up binge drinking." 

Teresa - not her real name - was sentenced to 28 weeks in custody for an alcohol-fuelled assault. On her release, for 60 days she had to wear a "sobriety tag", which were introduced in Wales exactly a year ago. Now the 33-year-old says it has allowed her "self-recognition" and is rebuilding her life. The tag monitored her sweat every 30 minutes and alerted probation staff if she drank alcohol.

"Initially it felt like an additional sentence or punishment but over time, without drinking, there seemed to be no issues, no dramas, my life was better," she told BBC Radio Wales Breakfast with Oliver Hides. Those who are found to be in breach of their drinking bans can face fines or be sentenced in court. Nearly 1,000 prison leavers have been tagged in the first year of the scheme designed to crackdown on booze-fuelled crime. According to UK government figures, alcohol plays a part in 39% of all violent crime in the UK.

"It was a harrowing experience going to prison," said Teresa. "Because I didn't drink every single day, I didn't crave it, or have any shakes or anything like that."  Some 20% of offenders supervised by the Probation Service are classed as having an alcohol problem. "The only time I'd done some sort of offence was under the influence of alcohol," she said. "It helped me recognise that without the alcohol there was no offending behaviour," she said.

Probation officer Catherine Bateman suggested that as Teresa's offences were triggered by drink, as a licence condition, a 60-day tag would give her time to reflect on her life. She also said it would enable her to work with her to address the underlying causes for the offending.

"People who've been in prison have had a period of very restricted time where they can't actually access any alcohol and then they're released into the community where it's readily available," she said. "That is a very big challenge for those people who often struggle. The alcohol monitoring allows them that transition back into the community."

Teresa thinks wearing the tag has changed her life around. "I probably would have come out and just gone back to drinking," she said. "It gave me time to do some self-recognition and it's been brilliant. "I've started an access to university course, I'm out running with my dog, I've joined a netball team and I've got new friends. "I do look back on it, just so I can take some accountability, and think what was I doing?"


  1. FFS What a self congratulatory bunch! Nauseous!

  2. Another sad day for probation and probation officers. Effectively we have a prison officer / governor running the probation service. The Chief Probation Officer will be in name only and the prison service’s OneHMPPS agenda to absorb probation will reign free.

    ….. He joined the Prison Service in 1990 as a prison officer before undertaking a range of managerial posts at different prisons, as well as Headquarters. He took up his first Governor post at HMYOI Deerbolt in 2000. He was Governor of HMP Frankland from 2002 to 2006, after which he became Area Manager for North East prisons and then the North East Director of Offender Management within the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) with…

  3. Self serving platitudes from people who would shove you under the bus as soon as look at you.

  4. Not one of them would face up to the major criticisms reported by #Channel4 news on The word of a so called senior probation "whistleblower"

    Those of us who predicted catastrophe from 2013 could not have expected it to be this bad.

    1. Oh yes would Andrew and it'll get a fair bit worse yet. These stupid greedy people are only interested in self . Their acceleration to higher pay. Bonuses that are disgusting in contrast to the way staff are treated. Bonuses in a public sector job fucking scandalous is polite. People who are judging the absurdity of the pay scale issues cannot see what they do to to get so much money for poshing it up. The prisons cannot be proud of themselves it's not so far back the night staff Feltham jail sorted inmates into particular cells they termed their sick depraved game gladiators . We know of their institutional racism and deliberate incitation of murderous violence. The incredible overworking of probation staff de- proffessionalnalization and dumping exploiting psos. This has come directly from the Napo failure to protect vigorously previously established workloads weightings by written contractual rights. Dean Roger failed us Lawrence failed us.they sold out on pay on and the white pages given up for nothing. Post amalgamation they should have been right back on the table. Instead under this crap we have no way of finding any terms and conditions of service or staff fair policies now managed by the Nazis in sccl privatised hr. All are invisible but the impact is felt. Lawrence ensures staff terms are gone. No union members can fight to protect their jobs no wonder the despicable circle then pocket a 20k bonus while we work on a Napo recommended 3% and they didn't get that right. The corruption by the well paid in charge is so thick now they are choking the life from us. Retirement just a small 18 months to go. In the meantime the police think they own our work while their colleagues are as bad as they can get and they claim they don't know. I have seen 4 pos vetted by visor by the police odd when they have murderers and rapists a plenty. We are lowly rated today less than poa police and traffic wardens. Ignorant despicable management unions and government.

  5. "I want to recognise Sonia’s extraordinary work during her six years as Chief Probation Officer. Sonia guided the Probation Service through both the pandemic and the service’s unification"

    So what *did* she do?

    * She sent all frontline staff to work in very high risk health conditions while senior managers sat calling the shots from home with generous allowance to compensate

    Er, that's it.

    Phil Copple?

    2017 - The bonuses were "awarded" the previous year when the chief inspector of prisons said many jails were "unacceptably violent and dangerous". The Prison Officers Association (POA) called it "scandalous and shameful". While Spurr got close to £20,000, Phil Copple, the chief operating officer and interim director of probation, Colin Allars, director of probation, and Ian PorĂ©e, director of commissioning, were given bonuses of £10,000-15,000.



    Dear Colleagues

    Further to the recent communication from Phil Copple and Colin Allars, this letter introduces the new role description for probation staff working in public sector prisons.

    The attached role description sets out the new role for custody probation staff in public prisons. This role is being revised due to the PSP Benchmark. This sees the offender supervision task within custody delivered exclusively by prison officers, with the exception of open prisons and the women’s estate, where National Probation Service (NPS) cases will see offender supervision delivered by custody probation officers."


    Or lets go back a bit further:

    "Police were brought in to investigate the two jail guards, but their trial for GBH was abandoned in January 2009 when a judge at Newcastle Crown Court ruled evidence missing through “serious negligence” by HM Prison Service would hinder a fair hearing.... The men, who are both on treatment for depression, deny inflicting the injuries and claim the blame was pinned on them when they refused to co-operate in a cover up to under-report prisoner injuries to the authorities."


    "Mr Copple denied that injuries to prisoners at Castington were misreported as part of a cover-up to safeguard the reputations of HM Prison Service chiefs."

    1. That's the point she wants to recognise Sonia's work so do we all . What's she done exactly. Yes nothing so what is she recognised for then.

    2. Aw, come on now, you're all being a bit harsh aren't ya? OK so the pandemic thing was a bit management-friendly & frontline-rough, but what about the reunification? All those promoted chums from the CRCs who were found managerial posts in the NPS. See, she didn't do nothing. And then there were the celebration dinners, the drinky-poos, collecting awards, having profile pictures taken...

      Interesting that a well-known internet search engine gave me this answer today:

      "Who is the head of the probation service England?

      Justin Russell, HM Chief Inspector of Probation"

  6. If you have not had enough of Sonia Flynn you can watch her here https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=agAw9vsyErk

  7. Channel 4 News tonight:-

    The majority of the Probation Service is currently working at excessive capacity, leaked internal figures obtained by Channel 4 News reveal, raising further fears that the service is struggling to cope.

    Over the past week, more than two thirds of the service – eight out of the 12 probation regions in England and Wales – had caseloads exceeding 110%, the figure defined as an excessive workload by the Ministry of Justice.

    The current national average stands at 111.7%, with the two most under-pressure areas – London and Yorkshire & Humber – currently working at 126.8% and 117.8% respectively.

    A senior Probation Service manager told Channel 4 News’ Social Affairs Editor Jackie Long that the figures explicitly demonstrate a risk to the public, adding: “We’re in a system that is creaking.”

    A government spokesperson said did not comment on the present capacity issues but said “immediate steps” had been taken to “address serious issues raised by recent reviews”.


    The Probation Service is under unprecedented pressure following a spate of damning reports; the service was judged to have let down the murder victims of Damian Bendall and Jordan McSweeney, both of whom carried out the killings while on probation.

    The latest insight into the strain on the service comes after a separate whistleblower told Channel 4 News last week that there was “organisational pressure” to downgrade the risk of offenders because of resourcing pressures.

    The government strongly denied the claim, with the Labour Party demanding an independent investigation.

    Analysis of Ministry of Justice data also revealed that almost 700 people had been murdered by an offender on probation since 2010 – the equivalent of one murder every week.

    Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell has repeatedly refused to say whether he believes the public are safe from further harm given the problems within the service.


    Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the manager – with decades of experience in the Probation Service – said some colleagues currently had individual workloads of well beyond 150%.

    “All the time you’re juggling as a probation officer – 30, 40, 50, 60 individuals with changing risk patterns,” he said. “To be able to do all that under constant pressure when there’s no sign of relief is very difficult.”

    He added: “It’s right that there is a spotlight on where it goes horribly wrong and where people have died, been seriously injured or raped. But it’s fair to say that we need to see this in context of what probation is going through and what needs to change to improve public protection.”

    The father of a young child whose mother was murdered by her abusive partner – just weeks after he had been released from prison – told Channel 4 News that failings left families like his “feeling numb”.

    “You have to explain to small children that their mother has been taken away unnecessarily – it’s just a total feeling of devastation,” the man, who cannot be named due to ongoing legal reasons, said.

    He added: “If this [the Probation Service] was an aircraft it would have been grounded months ago.

    “There doesn’t seem to be anyone out there prepared to take ownership of this and prevent these unnecessary deaths from happening.”

    A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “We have taken immediate steps to address the serious issues raised by recent reviews and are investing £155m more every year into probation to improve the supervision of offenders and reduce officers’ caseloads and recruit thousands more staff to keep the public safe.”


    1. “are investing £155m more every year into probation”

      … by grossly underpaying probation staff, by contracting out core services to organisations that don’t know their arse from their elbow and by employing trainees who’ll take 21 months to qualify and still won’t be able to do the job,

    2. From when The Conservatives completely abandoned pre-entry training in about 1995 -

      under Michael Howard as home secretary - who saw ex military personnel as an appropriate alternative - something Harry Fletcher led campaigninhg against-

      I encouraged potential probation officers - particularly from the then burgeoning ranks of probation service officers - many who were superb - but without the CQSW/DIPSW qualification - denied an officer level salary and conditions of service - to train to be a social worker & thus have wider long term employment opportunities and wider training experiences - I believe that route is still open and presume if Local Authority qualified social workers want even now to work in probation, they would be accepted -

      Sadly we in Napo weakly accepted Jack Straw's seperate probation only pre-entry training alternative - I still recall confronting Helen Schofield who was Napo's lead rep on re-introducing pre-entry training post 1997 on the issue in a side meeting at the Napo AGM attended by not enough to fill a small minibus - but to my chagrin I did not take the issue to the conference floor in a motion.

      It was utterly bizarre as Napo's first ever national strike in about April 1983 was in support of trainees salaries & not about officer salaries - so in just 14 years we lost the plot about the vital nature of specific training as SOCIAL WORKERS - social work by then being the academic professionl discipline of probation.