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Councillor’s concerns as probation reforms labelled unfit for purpose

Hartlepool Civic Centre
Hartlepool Civic Centre

The leader of a local organisation that monitors offenders is to be invited to appear before Hartlepool councillors amid concerns national probation services are not fit for purpose.

In 2014 and 2015 the Government introduced major changes to the probation system, known as Transforming Rehabilitation which included dissolving 35 self-governing probation trusts and creating a public sector National Probation Service and 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs).

Councillor Lesley Hamilton

Councillor Lesley Hamilton

The National Probation Service manages offenders deemed high risk while CRCs supervise low or medium risk defendants.

But after an eight-month inquiry the House of Commons’ Justice Committee published a critical report of the reforms and says it is not convinced they will ever deliver an effective or viable probation service.

Out of 21 CRCs, 19 have not met their targets for reducing the frequency of reoffending.

And despite a bailout of £342 million taxpayers’ money, 14 are forecasting losses.

Without a good probation service you will not get good rehabilitation rates

Councillor Lesley Hamilton

Ben Priestley, UNISON national officer for probation, said: “Her Majesty’s Prisons and Probation Service has shown itself to be totally unfit to be in charge.

“It’s not only failing to support offenders but putting the public at risk too.”

Reducing reoffending is one of the key priorities of the Safer Hartlepool Partnership’s Community Safety Plan.

Hartlepool Councillor Lesley Hamilton, who works in the criminal justice system, told a meeting of Hartlepool Borough Council’s Audit and Governance Committee: “In Hartlepool probation services have been depleted with the actual building being closed.

“In the report the CRC under Chris Grayling is being absolutely pulled apart, it’s not fit for purpose and in some cases you have prolific criminals being managed by a phone call every five weeks and that is not good enough.

“Without a good probation service you will not get good rehabilitation rates.

“Good organisations working alongside defendants is key to getting them off this cycle of criminal conduct.”

John Graham, director of operations for the Durham Tees Valley CRC, and who also sits on the Safer Hartlepool Partnership, will be invited to a future meeting of the Audit and Governance Committee to answer questions.

Rachel Parker, of Hartlepool Community Safety Team said: “I do believe that the CRC that covers Hartlepool has had a good rating compared to other CRCs.”