Tom Richmond: Chris Grayling's failings cannot be passed over any more '“ safety is again being put at risk

ANOTHER week '“ and another political scandal '“ which begs this all too familiar question: how on earth is Chris Grayling still in the Cabinet?

Chris Grayluing during a visit to Wakefield as Justice Secretary.
Chris Grayluing during a visit to Wakefield as Justice Secretary.

It’s an issue which Theresa May should be not allowed to ignore at the forthcoming Tory conference – domestic issues matter just as much, if not more so, to many voters than Brexit.

Mr Grayling’s failings when it comes to transport policy have already been documented and commuters are, rightly, insulted that he’s still in post.

Theresa May's misplaced faith in Chris Grayling continues to baffle voters.

Yet a report published by HM Inspectorate of Probation is damning of policies pursued by Mr Grayling as Justice Secretary in David Cameron’s government.

Its chief inspector, Dame Glenys Stacey, says some of the personal safety of Britain’s two million domestic abuse victims – and also children caught up in violent relationships – has been put at unnecessary risk because private probation firms are failing to supervise offenders properly.

In some areas, only 27 per cent of eligible offenders have been referred to accredited programmes to tackle abusive behaviour. “It is not an exaggeration to say that many individuals were drifting through their supervision period without being challenged or supported to change their predilection for domestic violence, and that simply won’t do,” she said in her report.

“Those left unchallenged and unassisted pose a particular threat to others, most especially those close to them. Too often we were left wondering how safe victims and children were, especially when practitioners failed to act on new information indicating that they could be in danger. Practitioners often underestimated the level of harm victims and children were exposed to. Some practice was of grave concern to us.”

The inquiry goes on to explain how the Government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme changed the delivery of probation services in England and Wales. Since June 2014, they have been delivered by two distinct sectors: a public National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Companies, which are independent organisations held accountable by the Ministry of Justice.

And who was Justice Secretary from September 2012 to May 2015 when these changes were being introduced and implemented? You’ve guessed it – Chris ‘Don’t Blame Me’ Grayling.

Not only have his reforms risked the safety of some of society’s most vulnerable people, but last week’s Office of Rail and Road report also revealed how this year’s timetable chaos – a legacy of his mismanagement of the Department for Transport – has put at risk passengers who, as a result of late trains, had to walk home late at night in the dark from remote stations.

No doubt Mr Grayling, who clearly has a cavalier disregard for detail, will say he was poorly briefed by officials. He usually does. Typically the Ministry of Justice referred questions about him to the Department for Transport. And the DfT, you won’t be surprised to hear, said it was an issue for their counterparts at the justice department. 
Either way, what does it stay about current standards in politics – and Mrs May’s dependence on her Cabinet ally – that Chris Grayling is not only still in office but presiding over policy mishaps that actually risk public safety? Prime Minister, abuse victims and commuters not only deserve an answer to these ‘burning injustices’ that, for those concerned, matter more than Brexit. They deserve better.

EVEN though the Department for Transport should have done more to alleviate the crisis on the railways, the official inquiry vindicated critics of train operator Northern’s haphazard communication.

Not only did staff have “no more information than passengers could access via apps”, but there were so many delays that ‘customer information screens’ on station platforms could not keep up and “passengers were denied the opportunity to plan and make informed decisions about their journey”. Who will accept responsibility? Not Chris Grayling.

AFTER his well-backed sprinter Son Of Rest dead-heated with Baron Bolt in a thrilling finish to the Ayr Gold Cup, trainer Fozzy Stack – whose father Tommy rode Red Rum to Grand National glory in 1977 – launched an astonishing attack on Brexit in an interview with Cornelius Lysaght and its unknown implications for horse transport between Ireland and Britain.

They were played on the BBC’s Sports Report programme on Five Live without a counter view being offered. So much for impartiality. If a trainer had spoken in favour of Brexit, would the Corporation have broadcast such comments? Perhaps it’s one for Philip Davies who is the Brexiteer MP for Shipley, BBC critic and horse racing devotee (and not necessarily in that order).

TALKING of Brexit, I assume this is the reason why Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn declined to be interviewed by Radio 4’s Today programme during his party conference. Given this reluctant interviewee, who dodged similar platforms in last year’s election, could be Britain’s next Prime Minister, it’s all the more reason that Sky News succeeds with its #MakeDebatesHappen campaign to ensure leaders are properly scrutinised in elections and that the rules of engagement are set in advance by an independent commission.

INEVITABLY, Labour backbencher Laura Smith’s call at a fringe meeting for a general strike to topple the Tory government if necessary provoked much comment. On the same platform, clapping enthusiastically, was the Leeds East MP Richard Burgon who just happens to be the Shadow Justice Secretary. Is this now official party policy?
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