Probation changes ‘link to murders’

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Published: Tuesday 2nd December 2014 by The News Editor

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A shortage of probation officers and changes to the way offenders are supervised in England and Wales might have contributed to two murders, a union has claimed.

In an 18-page letter to Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, the National Association of Probation Officers (Napo) said an offender with a history of domestic violence murdered his partner and killed himself when he was being supervised by an “overworked” trainee.

Another probation officer working for a newly formed community rehabilitation company (CRC), who had an “excessive caseload”, was unable to spend sufficient time with an offender who went on to commit murder.

Napo also said staff working under the new CRC model do not have full access to criminal records, which in one case could have contributed to a probation officer being sexually assaulted as she was unable to see a “risk flag” to signal that the offender should not be seen alone by women.

A package of £450 million of probation contracts was offered to private and voluntary-sector organisations, covering the supervision of 200,000 low and medium-risk offenders each year on a payment-by-results basis.

Contracts have been split across CRCs in 20 English regions and one Welsh region, while the National Probation Service (NPS), a new public sector organisation, has been formed to deal with high-risk offenders.

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: ” Public safety is a key priority and we have tested our progress at every stage while rolling out these crucial reforms to rehabilitation.

“We will be robustly defending the allegations made by Napo and expect new providers to be in place and delivering services by early 2015. Reoffending rates have been too high for too long, and we must act now to turn the tide on this unacceptable problem.

“It would be inappropriate to comment further while legal proceedings are ongoing.”

Appearing before the Justice Select Committee, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling was asked about Napo’s claims.

He said: “The trade union has, on occasion, put forward information and have not given full context or accuracy of the situation.”

He added: “There will always be serious further offences, however we put together the system.

“It is regretted; one serious further offence is one too many and something we will always try to prevent.

“I hope as time goes by we will see few serious further offences.”

Mr Grayling said there have been serious further offences committed since June.

The Justice Secretary is to decide whether he should transfer shares to the CRCs tomorrow.

Twenty of the 21 contract areas will be led by new partnerships and joint ventures between private sector firms and rehabilitation charities. Kent, Surrey and Sussex is the only region to go to a single bidder.

Half of the partnerships chosen as preferred bidders also include ”mutual” organisations set up by current probation staff to take over their own organisations.

The complete list of preferred bidders includes 16 charities and voluntary organisations, four probation staff mutuals and seven private companies.

Published: Tuesday 2nd December 2014 by The News Editor

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