Reoffending for those under probation supervision continues to fall

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The Ministry of Justice has today (30 January 2014) published the latest Proven Reoffending statistics (1).

The Government’s statistics show that reoffending for those given community orders who have recieved probation supervision is 34.0%, a drop of 0.2 percentage points compared to the previous 12 months and down 3.9 percentage points since 2000.

This is testament to the high performance of professional staff working in Probation Trusts across the country, achieving year on year reductions in the levels of reoffending to help protect the public.

In comparison, the Government’s statistics shows those released from short term custodial sentences of under 12 months, who currently receive no probation supervision, have a significantly higher proven reoffending rate of 57.7%.  The PCA have argued that existing Probation Trusts, who have demonstrated high performance at reducing reoffending and quality services, should be given the additional responsibility to supervise those currently released from short term custodial sentences.

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(1)    A proven re-offence is defined as any offence committed in a one year follow-up period that leads to a court conviction, caution, reprimand or warning in the one year follow-up. Following this one year follow-up, a further six month waiting period is allowed for the offence to be proven in court. These proven reoffending statistics relate to the period from  April 2011 to March 2012.

PCA Launch ‘Probation: a celebration of achievement’

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The PCA are pleased to announce the publication of a national probation book to celebrate the achievements and successes of the probation service.

The book features contributions from Probation Trusts, retired probation members and staff associations to reflect on their own highlights, memorable moments and proudest achievements.  An electronic version of the book has also been published so that everyone working in probation will have access to the book as a keepsake moving forward.

Access the electronic version of the book here:
Probation a celebration of achievement

Our book showcases the exceptional work undertaken by probation staff past and present, whether through collaborative partnerships and local projects or through personal endeavour.  In these challenging times, we are proud to be able to create a legacy that features some of the many achievements of the people who have helped to make probation an outstanding and award-winning service.

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Justice Select Committee’s Interim report on Transforming Rehabilitation

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The Parliamentary Justice Select Committee has today (22 January 2014) published its ‘Interim Report on the Government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme’ 

The Justice Select Committee highlights significant areas of concern with the Transforming Rehabilitation programme, many of which were touched upon by the PCA and PA in evidence submitted during the inquiry.

In summary, the report concludes:

  • There has been a lack of information given by the Ministry of Justice about the risks in implementing the programme, how those risks may be mitigated and contingency plans in the event that a new provider subsequently fails. The report recommends that the Government in its response should provide a full narrative of the programme risks (paragraphs 25-26).
  • Questions whether the Government has carried out a proper assessment over the affordability of the reforms, and recommends that the Government “set out the projected impact of the extension of rehabilitation to short sentenced offenders on the prison population and on associated costs” (paragraphs 27-35)
  • “The absence of piloting of payment by results for delivering reductions in reoffending by those subject to probation services means that some lack confidence that the Government’s reform programme will work better than the existing system” (paragraphs 16-21)
  • The proposed split of functions between the new Community Rehabilitation Companies  and the National Probation Service  in case management, service delivery, risk assessment and breach escalations presents  “additional risks over and above the current situation” of having one single case manager in a Probation Trust. The Committee concludes that this “will be challenging to remedy through contractual specifications” and that “it is essential  that very good lines of communication and cooperation” are put in place (paragraph 44-46).
  • There are risks to existing local partnership arrangements where Probation Trusts are a lead agency, and recommends that “Ministers put in place appropriate safeguards to ensure that new providers in the private sector appreciate the importance of working with existing local partnerships to reduce reoffending” (paragraphs 47-50)
  • The report expresses “considerable concern” that under the reform proposals Community Rehabilitation Companies “will not be required to have professionally qualified staff,” and recommend that the new providers “should be bound by a contractual requirement to have a minimum proportion of qualified probation staff related to the volume and risk levels of offenders supervised and to provide continuous training.” The Committee welcome the joint venture of the PCA, PA, UNISON and NAPO to create a Probation Institute to support staff to gain suitable accreditations and qualifications (paragraphs 62-65)

    For all PCA media enquiries please call 020 3657 7844

PCA Statement – Notice of Probation Trust contract termination

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The Ministry of Justice has given notice that Probation Trust contracts will be terminated on the 31 May 2014, as the Government transitions under the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms to a new operating structure for probation service delivery. Probation Trust staff and cases are to be split into 21 new Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) and a National Probation Service (NPS) to ‘go live’ on the 1 June 2014.

The PCA understands the need for the Government to delay the date for terminating Probation Trust contracts, originally scheduled for 31 March 2014. However, it still remains that the timetable for transition is extremely pressured. We have previously commented on the timetable for the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms, out of the need to ensure a safe and sustainable process that does not put the public at risk.

We have concerns that if the transitionary infrastructure is not implemented carefully and fully tested before the new organisations ‘go live’ on the 1 June 2014, this could have serious risks of an unacceptable fall in probation service quality and public safety implications.

The proposed Transforming Rehabilitation operating model fragments the ongoing management of risk, sentence delivery and breach/recall process across the NPS and the CRCs, risking creation of communication ‘gaps’ and delay between different parts of such a complex system. The Government will need to ensure that the procedures and systems to be put in place are safe, efficient and understood by staff.

In other developments, the Justice Select Committee’s Interim Report on the Transforming Rehabilitation programme is due to be published on Wednesday 22 January.

For all PCA media enquiries please call 020 3657 7844

Sentencing Council publish new ‘Sexual Offences Sentencing Guideline’

The new Sexual Offences sentencing guideline has been published today by the Sentencing Council.  The guideline will come into force in all courts in England and Wales on 1 April 2014.

The guideline covers 55 offences from rape to voyeurism and will bring about real and significant changes to the way sexual offences are sentenced by the courts.

They mark a step forward in how courts take into account the impact of sex offences on victims.  As well as physical harm, the new approach will reflect more fully the psychological and longer term effects on the victim, enabling courts to take into account the true extent of what the victim has been through.

The guideline also takes an expanded approach to how courts assess offenders’ culpability, looking at the full context of offending behaviour and motivation in committing any offence, rather than the more ‘technical’ nature of the offence alone.  This means giving more significant emphasis to important aspects like grooming activity by both individuals and gangs, the targeting of vulnerable victims such as those in care and offenders’ abuse of trust and positions of power or status so that these are clearly reflected in sentence levels.

The guideline provides sentencers with the full range of punishments for offenders ranging from life sentences for the most serious offending through to community-based sentences for offences of lower and medium seriousness.  Courts in these instances, especially where there is little age difference between offender and victim, will be expected to consider a range of sentencing options which might best protect the public and prevent re-offending.  Probation staff will need to be alert to the fact that courts may consider a community order – with suitable restrictive, punitive and rehabilitative requirements.

The full guideline is available to download from the Sentencing Council website.