The justice secretary, Chris Grayling, has issued instructions that Probation Officers face the risk of disciplinary action if they publicly criticise on Twitter or other social media his plans to outsource 70% of their work with offenders. SO LET ME DO IT FOR THEM.
Who the hell does Chris Grayling think he is to tell a body of professionals that they must not criticise proposed plans for privatisation? A huge chunk of the population are opposed to privatisation already, they won’t be affected one way or the other by Probation Officers speaking out.
We’ve already seen at least one of our number trampled underfoot by a sodding great elephant in the room, but this takes it to the next level, doesn’t it? We know of at least one person who was previously gagged from engaging with anyone on Social Media, but at least that was by his own disciplinary body. That was not instigated by a government minister, at least not overtly, who knows who was really behind it?
There seems to be plenty of opposition to the Ministry of Justice’s proposals, but it seems that the actual practitioners are prevented from voicing their disapproval.
Proposals to transfer the bulk of probation services to the private sector are “dangerously misguided” and threaten public safety, unions have warned.
Lower-risk offenders will be supervised by private firms and charities on a “payment by results” basis as part of a major shake-up of rehabilitation
Max Chambers, head of crime and justice at think-tank Policy Exchange, said there was no alternative to much greater use of the private sector.
He said: “Payment by results will mean the taxpayer only paying for what works – reducing reoffending and cutting crime, or your money back.”
Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan said payment by results in criminal justice was “untested” and the Government was taking a “reckless gamble” with public safety.
Mr Khan said every probation trust in the country was rated either good or exceptional by the Government in 2011 and warned that Mr Grayling’s proposals risked replacing them with private firms such as G4S.
And now we have the prospect of a Government Minister effectively bullying staff into staying quiet.
The wide-ranging gag includes “any comments that are made in criticism or designed to undermine the justice secretary’s policy or actions“, and even warns that retweeting others’ comments will be taken as “incitement or approval“.
The ban was announced by Michael Spurr, the chief executive of the national offender management service, which runs prisons and probation, in a recent teleconference call with probation trust chief executives.
“He advised that the government are unhappy with CEOs and other senior managers being critical of government policy, regarding Transforming Rehabilitation on Twitter,” said one probation trust senior manager.
“He told them to behave like civil servants as they are being paid by the government. So much for free speech and democracy. It seems government policy cannot be questioned in public arenas. I am furious that staff and managers are effectively being gagged in asking questions and objecting to the direction of travel.”
Caroline Corby, the chair of the London Probation Trust says failure to comply with this rule may result in disciplinary action and for probation trust board members that could include suspension or removal from office if the justice secretary takes the view that there is a loss of confidence or a breakdown of trust involved. She adds that for the “avoidance of doubt, the following are non-exhaustive examples of unacceptable postings, endorsements tweets or retweets”. The list not only includes the usual ban on derogatory statements and offensive or abusive comments but also “comments that are made in criticism or designed to undermine the justice secretary’s policy or actions” and “political campaigning under the banner of the London probation trust”.
Call me old-fashioned but that seems like bullying to me.
A ministry of justice spokesperson confirmed that the new policy applied to all probation service staff and not just chief officers: “We have not gagged anyone. There are channels for people to express their views, but it has always been the case that public bodies and their staff are expected to act impartially to preserve their integrity,” he said. “The government has engaged with trusts every step of the way during the consultation on the proposed reforms and will continue to do so.”
The education secretary, Michael Gove, has also adopted an aggressive response to social media critics of his policies.
So there we have it, opposition to government policies on Social Media (NB It does not state Official Account, so one assumes ANY account) will be trampled on from on high. I don’t condone public officials ranting on SM from an Official Account, but when did we lose the right to Free Speech. Surely Human Rights are being usurped by this government AGAIN, no wonder they want to extract themselves from ECHR. They want to abuse Human Rights too much to stay in.
Free Speech is gone, Human Rights under threat, Big Brother is alive and well, do what the government tells you to do or face the consequences. Democracy? I don’t think so. To me it seems more like a fascist regime abusing Human Rights, just like this hypocritaical government accuse other regimes of doing, but it doesn’t seem to matter when they’re doing it. They may not lock people up,and torture them, Human Rights can be abused much more simply than that, and Freedom of Speech is one of them.
RIP Free Speech