PROBATION staff from Hartlepool and East Durham were among thousands who walked out yesterday in a protest at government plans to privatise large parts of the service.
Members of the National Association of Probation Officers (Napo) began the 24-hour strike from midday on Tuesday.
The union previously registered a trade dispute over proposals to transfer most of the service to private companies such as G4S and Serco.
The Ministry of Justice said the strike, which saw probation offices in Hartlepool and Peterlee closed, was “disappointing”.
The industrial action did not affect courts, with all listed cases being heard as scheduled in magistrates courts in Hartlepool and Peterlee as well as Teesside and Durham Crown Courts.
Napo general secretary Ian Lawrence said union members were entering unprecedented times in their bid to save the probation service.
“They strongly believe, along with other criminal justice agencies and experts, that Justice Secretary Chris Grayling’s plans will undermine public protection and put communities at risk whilst also not providing the adequate service offenders need to turn their lives around,” he said.
Across England and Wales, 7,500 staff were affected after 80 per cent of members voted in favour of industrial action.
A new public sector National Probation Service will deal with 31,000 high-risk offenders each year and the MoJ said more than 700 organisations had expressed an interest in the private contracts,
Probation chiefs have expressed their concerns about the plans, and the possible risks to the public.