Lord Willy Bach
On the day that the Chief Inspector of Probation said that the part-privatised probation system is ‘irredeemably flawed’ criminal justice experts from across the East Midlands were attending a high-profile conference examining the future of probation services in the region.
The event, hosted by Leicestershire Police and Crime Commissioner Lord Willy Bach at the city’s King Power Stadium, scrutinised the current system for managing offenders when they leave prison and highlighted key areas of improvement needed for future public safety.
Willy Bach, a former barrister and justice minister and more recently Shadow Attorney General and Shadow Legal Aid Minister, a role he resigned from upon his election as PCC, was among a panel of key speakers who emphasised the importance of learning from past mistakes when designing the new arrangements.
“We welcome the Government’s decision to revise the current system and seek better outcomes for our communities across the East Midlands,” he said.
“We’ve learned some hard and painful lessons from the original reform measures which have seen the descent into administration of three of the original private service providers. What is important now is how we use this experience to identify better and more robust arrangements moving forward and achieve the desired outcomes that have long been promised to the public.
“But we also need the opportunity to have greater input and a leadership role as PCCs, thanks to our unique position in the criminal justice system, so that we can really bring our experience to bear.
“As we saw today, there is a lot of energy in the region to get this right. As PCCs we are already in touch with the exceptional local providers who are ideally placed to deliver this vital public service.
“This event has been highly productive, pulling together ideas, experiences and ambitions into one workable vision. We have to deliver a system that is right for victims, perpetrators, the public and criminal justice workers.
“We all saw the importance of continuing to work with the MOJ to shape a robust and effective model for the service going forward and I was delighted that the attendees agreed to become a reference group to influence that work. Because after one abject failure, there is no room for error or misjudgement, the future safety of our communities depends on the decisions we make now.”
The conference was opened by former probation leader and Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner Hardyal Dhindsa, who has offered his depth of experience to develop a better model for the region.
Mr Dhindsa is among a number of PCCs to publicly raise concerns at the Government’s decision to part privatise the probation service, questioning the validity of a rehabilitation system driven by growth and profit.
The changes came in June 2014 when the Government dismantled 35 probation trusts in England and Wales and instead created 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) in their place. These organisations had the task of supervising some 200,000 low to medium-risk offenders every year.
Under the system, private companies, voluntary groups and charities had to bid to win multi-million pound contracts to run the CRCs while the National Probation Service was formed to supervise 31,000 high risk offenders – a system PCCs said was flawed with little evidence of falling reoffending rates.
The Government has since recognised that the quality of services has fallen short of expectations and announced the contracts of CRCs will be terminated in 2020 – two years early. The MOJ is consulting on what should replace them.
Part of the team providing insight at today’s conference in Leicestershire, which examined a Public Health approach to reducing reoffending, was Jim Barton, leader of the Probation Programme, Leicestershire Chief Constable Simon Cole and Paul Hindson Chief Executive of Leicestershire OPCC.
Media Enquiries: Sallie Blair 01283 821012
Posted on Friday 29th March 2019