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News Archives: Index

October 7, 2010: Probation Set For Industrial Action

October 5, 2010: Turning Prisoners Into Taxpayers

October 4, 2010: Murder Changes Now In Force

September 20, 2010: Probation Programmes Face Cuts

August 24, 2010: Victorian Poor Law Records Online

August 10, 2010: Justice Job Cuts

July 28, 2010: Prison Violence Growing

July 22, 2010: Police Numbers: Latest Figures

July 22, 2010: New Jurisdiction Rules

July 16, 2010: CCJS On Prison And Probation Spending Under Labour

July 15, 2010: Latest Statistics On Violent And Sexual Crime

July 15, 2010: Latest National Crime Figures

July 15, 2010: New Chief Prisons Inspector

July 14, 2010: Hard Times Ahead For Prisons: Anne Owers

July 14, 2010: Prison Does Not Work: Ken Clarke

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform: Sentencing and Rehabilitation

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform Priorities

July 12, 2010: What Price Public Protection, Asks Probation Chief Inspector

July 12, 2010: NOMS has failed, says Napo

July 10, 2010: IPCC To Investigate Death of Raoul Moat

July 9, 2010: Women In Prison: New Report

July 9, 2009: Unjust Deserts: Imprisonment for Public Protection

July 8, 2010: Police Search Powers Change

July 7, 2010: Make 'Legal High' Illegal, Says ACMD

July 2, 2010: Failing Children In Prison

July 2, 2010: Police Buried Under a Blizzard of Guidance: HMIC

July 1, 2010: Freedom To Change The Law?

June 30, 2010: A New Outlook On Penal Reform?

June 30, 2010: Revolving Door Of Offending Must Stop, Says Clarke

June 30, 2010: Ken Clarke: Speech on Criminal Justice Reform

June 29, 2010: No More Police Targets

June 26, 2010: Family Intervention Projects Questioned

June 25, 2010: Cutting Criminal Justice

June 24, 2010: Napo on Sex Offenders Report

June 23, 2010: Closing Courts: The Cuts Begin

June 23, 2010: Strategy To Tackle Gangs

June 15, 2010: Courts and Mentally Disordered Offenders

June 8, 2010: Working With Muslims in Prison

June 1, 2010: Your Chance To Nominate a QC

October 7, 2010: Probation Set For Industrial Action

It is looking increasingly likely that swingeing cuts in funding for criminal and community justice will lead more imprisonment and industrial action

Delegates to probation union Napo’s 98th AGM, held in Scarborough from 7-9 October, look set to vote for a campaign of industrial action if the 25% cut to the Probation Service and threats to privatise unpaid work and hostels go ahead as expected.

Currently the vast majority of probation expenditure is spent on staff costs.  At the moment the service employs 20,000 people and this is expected to fall by 5,000 by March 2012.  This will undermine the ability of the Probation Service to carry out its statutory duties.

Industrial action is likely to involve concerted activity across the criminal justice unions and the public sector as a whole.  In addition, Napo will be organising a mass lobby of parliament in March. 

Critically, major cuts and reductions in the number of probation employees will lead to changes in court report writers’ and sentencers’ behaviour.

Probation staff have a professional duty to provide the courts with information on the suitability and availability of court sentences.  Staff have a responsibility to inform magistrates of the availability of relevant programmes and unpaid work, in accordance with Ministry of Justice National Standards.

These currently state that offenders must be seen within five days of orders being made, that programmes must commence no later than six weeks after the court date and that the first unpaid work placement must be within 10 days.  Increasingly, and in the future, those standards will not be met.  Courts will be reluctant to sentence people to community orders if, because of staff redundancies, supervision cannot be guaranteed. 

The Probation Service currently supervises over 240,000 people on community orders and pre and post custody release.  Of these  50,000 individuals have been convicted of sexual or violent offences and are monitored by joint police and probation panels known as Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA).  In addition the service prepared 225,000 court reports for magistrates and judges last year.

A 25% cut in staff would lead to a similar reduction in court orders and would affect all programmes that are successfully run by the Probation Service.  This will involve programmes dealing with domestic violence, sex offenders and thinking and social skills.

The vast majority of people on programmes are prolific offenders.  Last year 40,000 individuals completed programmes.  The reoffending rate for prison is 66%, for supervision orders it is 50%, but for those who complete programmes it falls to 34%.  The curtailment of programmes is bound therefore to lead to a rise in reoffending. 

In Napo’s view courts will be forced to use short prison sentences if no resources are available for community orders.  Ironically that will result in an increase in the short term prison population – the exact opposite of what the Coalition desires.

Most of those who are given a short prison sentence will serve an average of two months.  A 25% reduction in court orders therefore will see an increase in the daily prison population of 6,000.  The Coalition will need to build four new 1,500 bed jails in order to cope.  It currently costs over £60 million a year to run a prison and up to £500 million to construct a new establishment.

The government will build any new prisons under the private finance initiative and will end up repaying over 25 years up to two to three times the nominal cost of building the prisons.  The additional cost to the Ministry of Justice of running the extra prisons will be in the region of £500 million per year.  This will be up to five times greater than the savings made by cutting probation.

Napo is today launching a 10 point action plan to fight the cuts and privatisation which includes:

  • Napo members will be advised, on professional grounds, to take into account when making recommendations to the courts the ability of the service to meet its statutory requirements for all forms of supervision and unpaid work.
  • Napo will join forces with other criminal justice and public sector unions for days of concerted action.
  • Napo will organise a national lobby in the New Year to bring home to parliamentarians the effect of the cuts.  Locally, Branches will lobby their MPs on the issue of cuts and privatisation, additionally briefing the press and local professionals/stakeholders.

Napo has also produced a briefing for all parliamentarians warning of the consequences of the cuts for sentencing and the prison population.  This will be sent to all MPs when parliament recommences on 11 October.

The Coalition also intends to privatise and expand unpaid work and hostels.  The preferred bidders are Serco, Kalyx and Mitie.  It is taking this action in order to cut costs and toughen-up supervisions image.  Unpaid work supervisors are currently paid £8.50 an hour.  It is difficult to see how those rates could be reduced further in order to maximise profits. 

Successive governments have tried and failed to toughen-up community orders; the reality is they will never be seen by the public as a tough alternative to jail.  The government needs to recognise this and invest in programmes and initiatives that are known to reduce reoffending in the community and are much cheaper than custody.  All attempts to introduce privatisation so far, such as bail beds and cleaning and maintenance contracts have failed.

Harry Fletcher, Assistant General Secretary of Napo, who is launching the campaign against the cuts today, said:

“The Probation Service can’t fulfil its statutory duties and adhere to National Standards if 25% cuts go ahead.  The immediate effect will be redundancies, fewer court reports recommending non custodial options and a rise in the short term prison population.  Nap members are committed to the concepts of rehabilitation and protecting the public but these aims will be compromised when the cuts take place”.
“Industrial action is inevitable and will involve joint initiatives with other public sector unions.  It is ironic that if the Coalition invested in the Probation Service in the short term it would save massive amounts in the medium and long term.  The government should invest in probation and not cut and privatise it”