Now that I am retired having been many years a magistrate with a long awareness of the declining freedoms enjoyed by the ordinary citizen and a corresponding fear of the big brother state`s ever increasing encroachment on civil liberties I hope that my personal observations within these general parameters will be of interest to those with an open mind. Having been blogging with this title for many years against the rules of the Ministry of Justice my new found freedom should allow me to be less inhibited in these observations.





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Tuesday, 25 March 2014

THE ZEALOT OF PETTY FRANCE



Let me begin today`s offering with two statements: one is fact and the other is opinion; my opinion.  The fact is that the M.O.J. press office is rarely underemployed.  The scribes in that edifice in Petty France London SW1 roll out their releases with unfailing regularity and today`s is  no exception.  It is my very humble opinion that contrary to an initial impression anybody with knowledge of the underlying situation and recent history of such ministerial statements will see that behind the bland brownie points being offered to  magistrates the way is being prepared for their activities to be ushered out of the courtroom and into an office of one kind or another.   

A probation service which is being transformed on the basis of payment by results and is akin to a driverless train heading for the buffers is being ordered to offer its services to those on short (12 months maximum) sentences and my colleagues and I are being tasked in some so far indeterminate  manner to assist in their “rehabilitation”.  J.P.s are not social workers.  Our position is to do justice to all and that function takes place in the public forum known as a courtroom. . When, as is certain, the Magistrates` Association and other so called representative bodies of J.P.s endorse these recommendations they are effectively consigning to history the role of Justice of the Peace.   

 As per my post of 21st March  27,719 offenders received immediate custodial sentences (6 months maximum) at magistrates` courts in 2013.  The numbers of qualified probation officers are certain to be reduced under the proposed new  contracts.  So we will have fewer such people dealing with all these new “clients”.  Such is the path of a Secretary of State whose actions are akin to those of a zealot and we know where such actions  lead:- destruction. Perhaps he should have been appointed Secretary of State for Transport and at least the trains might have been made to run on time.

6 comments:

  1. I am a current Probation Officer and have recebtly had training for the new 'Transforming Rehabilitation' (transforming a silk purse into a sows ear, but there you go). The amount of work that is going to be coming to Magistrates Courts up and down the country by way of breaches etc is going to be massive. You are looking at 50,000 'new' offenders subject to the new release licences and a sizeable majority will have a lengthy period of Probation supervision whereby breaches are laid before the Court. Even 10% is 5000 new case a year!!

    In addition, the Court staff have been tasked to complete new assessment forms following sentence, this regardless of whether the offender has been given a community or custodial sentence. This is going to impact on their availability for the Court for FDR's/SDR's. Factor in that they may also have to delay prisoner transport (which I doubt the private companies will be happy with) to ensure that all boxes are ticked.

    I URGE all Magistrates (and those who are involved in the Criminal Justice System) to read this blog: http://probationmatters.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/courts-special.html

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  2. Everyone working within the Criminal Justice System, courts, prisons, probation, should come together and demand (take action to effect if necessary) Graylings removal from office.
    Not only is he destroying a system that in my opinion works very well indeed, he is now putting public safety at risk by handing the management of offenders into private untrained and unskilled hands.
    The easy answer is to make the 12months and under cohort subject to the well trained and well functioning probaton service.
    After all, they have been successful in crime reduction, and I doubt that some of the catering and IT companies currently in the running to take probation contracts will be able to match that success.
    GRAYLING MUST GO!

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  3. It's not good enough that they match it; they must BEAT it!!!

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    1. Less transformation - more like demolition. The good working relationships betjene agencies at court will suffer due to the 'processes' the MoJ intend to impose on what would be left of the public probation service. Lengthy new risk assessments will mean cases take longer to resolve. Current straightforward queries on custody list 'extras' will become complicated by a necessity to research multiple systems to track down supervising company, let alone officer, for feedback on orders. We feel the proposals are impossible to implement but predict will be under pressure to 'make' them work. My view is that the ultimate aim is to 'deprofessionalise' the work carried out in court - reduce the quality of meaningful assessments to assist with the delivery of justice as we currently understand it. We will be reduced to making rushed, superficial assessments in accordance with MoJ dictate. This is my personal nightmare coming true - that without humanity, the administration of 'justice' will become a mere administrative process, in which case we might as well be living under a dictatorship, with court duty officers gagged by the Official Secrets Act. Grayling must go before he destroys a system that at least remembers that Defendants are human beings first.

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  4. On another - Probation Orientated Blog the following questions have been raised, for bidders to consider....I suspect any Justice of the Peace looking at them will gain some insight into just how much of a shambles TR is:-

    Projected numbers of under 12 month custody cases?
    Expected breach rates in these cases?
    Success or otherwise of new court allocation processes?
    What happens to payments if people have multiple Orders?
    What happens if someone on a Community Order is sent to prison for a few years for an offence committed before the start of the CO?
    How will payment be calculated for the following (sample) of Court Orders or combinations of these:-

    -12 month CO with 30 day RAR, and mental health treatment requirement
    -12 month SSO with 25 day RAR and 9 month DRR
    -18 month CO with 40 day RAR and 6 month ATR
    And any of the thousands of variations that are possible.

    What if someone on 18 month Community Order completes their 30 day RAR within 12 months but in their last appointment explains they are ready to relapse into heroin use or become homeless - is there any contractual obligation to support them for the remaining 6 months of their Order given that they have used up all of their RAR days?

    What happens if a service user misses his appointment in Bolton and re-appears in Weston-Super-Mare?

    What happens if an under 12month YO belonging to Gt Manchester is in HMP/YOI Doncaster (a different CRC area),or a female prisoner belonging to Cumbria is in HMP Styall (again a different CRC area)?

    Will CRC service users have access to Approved Premises?

    If a risky service user from north Wales is working in London for a period, will they be allowed to report to the local CRC office in Lambeth?

    Will video-conference facilities be shared?

    Where someone is recalled due to very risky behaviour, would CRC staff have to attend Oral Hearings if called as a witness?

    Will CRC staff have to provide progress reports to Court where this is asked for?

    What happens if a Court breach fails because CRC has not provided adequate information?

    What happens if we (CRC) believe UPW hours are unworkable but NPS disagrees?

    Under what circumstances would CRC staff be expected to undertake home visits?

    What happens if an Order is amended (eg UPW hours are removed and Activity days imposed)?

    Is there any obligation to pay travel costs for service users?

    At what point will an under 12 month custodial sentence be over if the person is continually recalled?

    Is breach of a Community Order deemed to be a reconviction?

    Is breach of a non-molestation order deemed to be a reconviction?

    If a CRC member of staff sees someone on their caseload committing an offence (eg, smoking cannabis, DWD) do they have a duty to report that to the police given that a PbR would depend upon no convictions? Of course, CRC staff will not be officers of the court.

    Indeed that last question is can of worms in itself - if a CRC get an extra payment for there being no convictions, should they be obliged to compromise this by reporting any witnessed illegal activity?

    Just a few to get started. There are huge issues regarding equal access to IT systems and protocols across services/agencies and co-location in offices, who does what? A shared reception area in which CRC staff will not be able to engage in discussions with NPS clients, and NPS staff will be reluctant to get involved with anything that smacks of poor practice - for poor practice read - CRC - which is little more than a signposting service.

    It is truly a mess of enormous proportions and what is so frustrating, the MoJ refuse to listen. Sad, very sad and dangerous.

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  5. Another post from a very worried probation officer. I urge all involved in the justice system to support the strike on Monday and Tuesday. In my office we are being reduced to tears at the destruction of our service by Chris Grayling. I had to tell an offender today that he's got to change Probation Officer because I am assigned to the CRC (Private sector) and he cried and I have had to contact his CPN. Do you all realise that as with all Probation Officers assigned to the CRC, all my Lifers, MAPPA cases, and sex offenders are also having to be allocated a new probation officer - I worry about the instability this will cause and whether their risk may increase further because of TR. We who are striking are not overly militant but caring individuals who are watching the slow collapse of the Probation service on a day to day basis. It is not too late for the process to be reversed. Please support an ongoing wish for JUSTICE not for profit.

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