UK

Probation Service Reform Labelled 'Monumental Failure' After Shocking BBC Panorama Documentary

Offenders missed 15,000 appointments with one private firm.

26/10/2017 21:21 BST

The Labour Party has damned the part-privatisation of the probation service as a “monumental failure” after a shocking BBC documentary revealed serious failings in the system.

The Government has come under pressure after Panorama exposed how one private contractor failed to take action on more than 15,000 missed appointments over 16 months in London, according to internal documents seen by the BBC’s reporters.

Offenders reportedly failed to carry out unpaid work and missed appointments with probation staff at which they would have been expected to discuss problems and progress.

Panorama also exposed how a series of families had been badly affected by the system’s shortcomings, including a woman whose son was battered to death by a man on probation.

Nadine Marshall’s son Conner, 18, died following a brutal attack in Porthcawl, south Wales, in 2015.

David Braddon, a 26-year-old man from Caerphilly who murdered Conner, was being monitored by probation workers after being convicted for drugs offences and assaulting a police officer. He had missed eight probation appointments, the programme reported.

Nadine told the programme: “Conner was attacked and murdered in March of 2015. It wasn’t until August 2015 that we had a standard letter sent from the probation service just letting us know that the offender that had been charged was already under probation care for two other separate orders.

“It was just devastation ... it was just horrific to learn he was known and the whole case was a shambolic state.”

The programme also revealed how five-year-old Alex Malcolm was murdered by a violent criminal, Marvyn Iheanacho, put on probation in London.

His mother, Liliya Breha, told Panorama how no-one from the government-run National Probation Service (NPS) had told her about his conviction despite Iheanacho having a history of violence dating back to 1994.

The NPS deals with the most high-risk offenders while the supervision of low and medium-risk offenders has been farmed out to 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), who secured contracts worth almost £4 billion over seven years when probation was split in 2014. 

Last month, HuffPost UK revealed these private firms have been handed millions of pounds an additional £37m by the Government last year despite an explosion in violent reoffending. The move was branded a “bung” by probation union Napo and “rewarding failure” by Labour.

The number of offenders on probation charged with murder, manslaughter, rape and other serious violent or sexual crimes has risen by more than 25% since the service was privatised and prison numbers continue to rise.

A joint report of the prisons and probation inspectorates in June also gave a damning verdict on the CRCs’ Through the Gate (TTG) programme.

It found 10% of long-term prisoners leave jail homeless and just two out of the 98 prisoners surveyed as part of the report were found accommodation before they were released - 10% of that number were back in jail within 12 weeks.

Two of the private companies running CRCs had threatened to pull out of Government contracts in March, citing unsustainable finances. 

On Panorama, one whistleblower described how there had been an “explosion” in reoffending following the reforms.

Dame Glenys Stacey, the chief inspector of probation, told Panorama that she had “grave concerns” about the number of missed appointments and the number of people not being seen at all in the capital by private company MTC Novo, which monitors 25,000 offenders in London.

In a statement MTC Novo said: “Any missed appointments are a matter of concern. Staff are directed never to ignore these and always to follow up with the service user.”

After the programme aired, Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon condemned the “reckless part-privatisation” of probation as a “monumental failure”.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said it was “right to reform the system”. The MoJ said public protection was its top priority and while probation needed to “work better” it was absolutely right to reform the system which has led to 40,000 previously unmonitored short-term offenders being supervised.