Category Archives: Criminal Justice sector

The Crucifixion Cycle

And so it has started.

In truth it probably started a year or two ago, but various distractions have kept our blinkers in place.

The Crucifixion Cycle

Stage 1

Slash Resources

Government slashes the resources of the public body in question.  Be it NHS, Armed Forces, Police, Education, Coastguard, Fire Service, Probation…..the list just goes on and on.  They have all had their resources slashed to the bone (and possibly deeper) by this failing coalition government in the name of Austerity. Be under NO illusions, more cuts are coming, Gideon says so.

Stage 2

Highlight The Failings

Next Step is to commission a report highlighting the failings of said public body. Policy Exchange (other Think Tanks are widely available) are normally good at issuing reports that seem to support government’s plan of action.

Stage 3

Get the Press to Crucify the Public Body for Their Failings

Certain sectors of the British Press seem only too willing to publish articles, splashed across their front pages, or 1st item on the 10 o’clock news etc, crucifying the public body for their failings. They never seem to mention slashed resources at this stage, just how serious and awful the failings have been, whip up some public backlash, and launch a “heads should roll” theme to move it forward.

Police and NHS are currently suffering at the hands of Stage 3.  Whose turn next?

Stage 4

Privatisation.

These public bodies can’t be trusted to organise a beer-drinking event in a brewery.  Just look at the headlines at Stage 3. I know how to sort this out, we’ll privatise them.  We’ve got some Lords with interests in suitable private companies, let’s give them a shot at sorting it all out, perfect solution.

Am I wrong?

Is this NOT how it happens?

Where are you on the Wheel of Fortune?

Have you been crucified yet?

88% of Probabtion work to end up in Private Sector under Grayling’s plans

One indication of the unexpected scale and pace of Chris Grayling’s radical reforms came in an obscure Ministry of Justice “prior information notice” published to alert the markets. It puts the estimated value of the new rehabilitation and supervision contracts at £5bn to £20bn over the next 10 years. It adds that it expects the formal competition for the “payment by results” contracts in 21 areas across England and Wales to start this August. The detailed Ministry of Justice strategy document also published on Thursday makes clear that the original estimate that 70% of existing probation work could end up with the private or voluntary sector and only 30% with the rump of the public probation service is no longer valid. The addition of the new work supervising 50,000 extra short-sentenced prisoners on their release, which is to go to private security companies and charities, has now shifted that balance. The figures now appear to be 88% in the private/voluntary sector and only 12% left in the hands of the probation service.

via How will the probation service work under Chris Grayling’s plans? | Society | guardian.co.uk.Image

Probation chiefs have accused the justice secretary, Chris Grayling, of dismantling the probation service as he confirmed that the public sector would be barred from bidding for the payment-by-results contracts to provide his radical rehabilitation plan for prisoners leaving jail.

Cynical? Me?

Now I’m a cynical, sceptical old soul, but there are things going on (some may say many) in the world of government that I don’t understand.

Police Service – As much as possible seems to be in the process of being identified by privatising, probably to G4S. Budgets slashed by 20% and thousands of Police posts have to go across England and Wales.

Armed Forces – Too many Strategic Defence Reviews, servicemen being laid off, Armed Forces now at their lowest strength for decades.

NHS – Again, ripe for privatisation. Just look to see who the directors are of the companies in line to benefit.

Who is destroying our NHS

Who is destroying our NHS

And I don’t understand why, at a time when demand on Accident and Emergency Units has never been greater, A&Es across the country are being closed down. Does that make any kind of sense?

Target time to be seen in A&E is apparently now 4 hours. Nobody should have to wait 4 hours to be seen in A&E.

Probation Services – Being Privatised, again to G4S amongst others, and a Social Media Gagging Order imposed upon Probation Officers by Chris Grayling just in case they’re upset by what’s going and might want to Tweet about it, so I’ll do it for them, he hasn’t managed to gag me.

Coastguard Service – Coastguard Stations being closed down, service streamlined, Search and Rescue operations Privatised to an American Company.

Fire and Rescue Service – Fire Stations closed down, Fire Engines sold off or mothballed, jobs at risk or been lost.

Education – Schools turned into Academies, judged by complex League Tables. We nearly had to ditch GCSEs and create an English Baccalaureate Certificate (EBC), but Gove backed down on that one.  The National Union of Teachers has also warned that 2015 will bring an “unmanageable level of change which could lead to a collapse of the system.”

G4S are now teaching and looking after our children. Are we all mad?  A Blog by Tom Pride, read the full article Here

Banks – Apparently responsible for a lot of the mess this country now finds itself in, making huge losses still, some of them, but still manage to pay out millions in bonuses. How does it work that you get paid a bonus for making a loss?  And still they are not lending enough to ordinary folk to kick-start the economy and get the housing market moving again.

My first question is ‘Are they changing too much, all at the same time?’ This is a government that seems hell-bent on reforming everything in sight before the next election and its inevitable result. Naive? Arrogant? Greedy? Self-Serving? All of the above?

My second question is this; Why, in times of austerity when ‘We’re All In This Together’ are we laying folk off, privatising public services that have served us well for generations, closing down public buildings, letting foreign companies come in and run certain aspects of the service, all because the country cannot afford to maintain these services at their existing levels, why then do the government then reduce Income Tax for the richest people. Those who earn the most now pay less Income Tax, 45p in the pound instead of 50p.

This might not sound much, but is it going to provide an incentive for the richest folk to spend more? I don’t think so. Is it going to give you and I the incentive to go out and spend more? I don’t think so.

Why not consider having a two tier VAT system like certain European countries do; 20% for most things, but 5.5% for Restaurants, Bars, Home Improvements etc etc, giving folk the incentive to eat out more, employ builders more because the VAT bill is nothing like so big, and that’s just the beginning.

Raising Taxes is never going to be a Vote Winner, never has been, but we’re seldom in the pickle we are now.  Once these services are Privatised they are very unlikely to be unpicked and put back into National ownership again.  As long as it was fair I think I personally would prefer to pay a modest sum more each year in taxes and keep British Public Services in Public, British, ownership. There is nothing wrong with making these services as efficient as they can possibly be, but Police, Fire, NHS, Teachers, Armed Forces etc etc are NOT BUSINESSES. They cannot be run like businesses, they should not be treated like businesses. They are not for profit, but if G4S, amongst others, come in, make no mistake their first priority will be to make a profit for their shareholders, anything else will be secondary, less important.

Lobby your MP, sign all the petitions you can find, demonstrate peacefully when the opportunity arises, make your voice heard. The government are getting away with this massacre because not enough people are standing up to them. they are behaving like playground bullies, and we don’t like bullies do we?

If we don’t these services will be irrevocably changed and some may disappear forever.

Let’s All Pull Together

I am indebted to @Cate_a_Moore of Twitter fame for raising this issue today.  Thank you Cate.

There have been several marches, demonstrations, petitions and arguements at various conferences over the future of so many public services.  Police, NHS, Teachers, Coastguards, Armed Forces, Probation Officers, Lawyers, Firemen, Ambulance they are all under attack by this coalition government in the name of Reform.

Only today my old friends Policy Exchange seem to be promoting further privatisation of public services, although I must admit that I haven’t yet summoned up the enthusiasm to read beyond the synopsis.

What is needed, in my humble opinion, is ONE Campaign, similar to the #DoItRight campaign promoted by the Police Federation in tandem with one, co-ordinated campaign to raise public awareness of the threat to public services and the British way of life.  Once they are gone it would take a miracle to restore them.

Make no mistake this government doesn’t give one hoot what happens beyond 2015 because they will no longer be around, they are making themselves unelectable and they don’t care.  All of their (and Policy Exchange’s) ideas for Reform are being rushed through before 2015 with scant disregard for the consequences and long -term catastrophes.

Short term profits for shareholders is all they seem to be interested in together with feathering their own nests for their retirements.

I don’t really have an opinion on who heads up such a campaign and takes the ‘Lead’, but please Britain, why can’t we try it?  Can anyone think of something better? This arrogant ConDem coalition HAVE to be stopped before they disassemble Great Britain plc forever.

At the Big Picture we have blogged before on the various disasters that are being perpetrated by this government in the name of Reform, and it really is time to see The Big Picture. The future is out there and it really isn’t very bright.

Join in, do your bit, Retweet this blog far and wide, make suggestions as to how we can move forward, but above all Stop This Government before they destroy everything that we have worked hard for and can still be proud of.

Who The Hell Does Chris Grayling Think He Is?

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

How many people are on remand because they did not have an interpreter? The Ministry does not know!

My buddy blogger @Alanw47 asked the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) the following question on the 28th of October:

“Could you please tell me how many prisoners are in custody, on remand, awaiting the services of a Court Interpreter? I am specifically interested in prisoners who might not necessarily be in custody on remand if they could have received the services of an interpreter but there was not one available.”

On the 20th of November the MOJ wrote back saying that they were declining the FOI request because it would take to long to collate the information stating:

“There is no central record which goes into the level of detail you request. As a result,
providing the information you have requested would mean contacting all the courts
across the MoJ estate to obtain these details. In addition no start or end date is
specified in you request. As a result there are a significant number of records to
consider and these would need to be sifted to extract the relevant information on the
reason for remand. It is therefore my assessment that providing the details you ask
for would take more than 3½ days.”  You can read the full response here.

 

However, their response began with “I can confirm that the Ministry of Justice holds information that you have asked for.”

In fairness, yes a start and end date would have helped them to supply the information and may even have brought it down to below the £600 limit. However the fact that there is no central record of this information means that they do not know how many prisoners are on remand are awaiting the services of an interpreter and more importantly how many are there because they did not receive the services of an interpreter.

If they had a central record – a spreadsheet for example then producing the requested data would have taken them a few seconds and would have come in way under their £600 limit.

Maybe the answer is none – there is no one on remand because they did not receive the services of an interpreter at court. Maybe its ten, or a hundred, or a thousand who knows not even the Ministry of Justice can answer that one! If however they had a spreadsheet they could answer the question

Does it matter? Again this is difficult to judge but potentially it does because there could be individuals who are in prison on remand simply because an interpreter was not at court  to assist them. If this is the case then their Human Rights may have been breached and as I said in an earlier blog that may at some future point result in a claim for wrongful imprisonment and potentially a compensation bill. Cases could even be lost because of this issue.

All speculation I accept but if it turns out to be accurate speculation then the buck will stop at the Ministry’s door because they made the decision to award the contract to ALS since purchased by Capita and it appears that at present they have no idea as to the scale of the potential problem.

As the timely provision of interpreters is something of an issue at present – with the MOJ having effective gagged courts from reporting problems other than to themselves –  it would seem reasonable that they would know the number of people who are on remand because they did not have an interpreter at court?

Perhaps someone could write & send them a suitable spreadsheet!

Courts prevented from reporting failed interpreting cases?

There has been an interesting development in the ALS/Capita/Ministry of Justice interpreting saga  in that the Ministry of Justice has gagged courts from reporting interpreting problems to the Justice Select Committee according to this article.

It seems that the Ministry has set up a central collating service to record complaints about the interpreting service and in doing has effectively prevented magistrates from providing data to the House of Commons Justice select committee.

However the devil is in the detail as they say and there are a couple of comments towards the end of the article which caught my attention.

The first of these is from Peter Beeke chairman of Peterborough Magistrates court He warned the committee about relying on statistical reports from Whitehall, saying: “I am told that there is a new logging system for ALS and other service-provider failures. This will only record the amount of court time lost due to such failures.

This will seriously understate the real cost, but will look good when Whitehall reports to Parliament. You should regard such reports with the greatest scepticism. It will not show extra costs for prosecutors, defence lawyers, secure transport services and custody costs.

The second is from Geoffrey Buckingham, chairman of another body representing translators in the criminal-justice system, the Association of Police and Court Interpreters, added:

“The amount of money that is being wasted in ancillary costs is colossal.”

These ancillary costs are pushing up the bill every time Capita et al  fails to provide an interpreter for a court hearing. There is the cost of the court, the defence, the prosecutor, the cost of transport, the potential cost of witnesses and police time together with the costs of the court itself. All of whom have to reconvene at a later date to take part in a judicial process that should already have been completed.

I wonder who the bill goes to whenever a case is adjourned because no interpreter is present? I suspect it goes to the tax payer – whereas perhaps it should go to Capita or a.n.other organisation that agreed to supply the interpreter on that day.

So not only are we paying Capita to provide the service we are also paying whenever they fail to provide the service but we have no idea as to how much this might be costing us!

Tom Pride sums this up very well in his blog post on this story and asks whether the government might extend this gagging  strategy to other areas of the public sector?