THE Probation Service operates under a simple premise – to support the rehabilitation of offenders while protecting the public. Yet, following a botched part-privatisation process overseen by then-Justice Secretary Chris Grayling in 2014, there are serious question marks over whether it is fulfilling its duties.
The overhaul, which saw 35 trusts replaced with 21 privately-owned Community Rehabilitation Companies and the public-sector National Probation Service, has been disastrous with staff shortages, sub-standard performance of private providers and an increase in reoffending rates being reported. In 2017/18 alone, 627 supervised offenders were charged with a violent or sexual offence committed while they were back out in the community.
The Ministry of Justice plans to end the existing CRC contracts early and create a new system but the human cost of the problems has been highlighted after a Probation Service internal review was ordered into the circumstances around the death of Jacqueline Wileman, a grandmother killed by a criminal gang in a stolen lorry while she was out walking last year in Brierley, South Yorkshire. One of the gang members, David Mellor, who stole the vehicle involved, was on probation at the time of the offence. The review comes just weeks after a coroner highlighted “missed opportunities” by the Probation Service that may have prevented the murder of property developer John Gogarty, who was murdered in 2015 in Wombwell by a convicted killer called Ian Birley. Public confidence demands the Government now creates a fit-for-purpose probation system.