Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Penal Reforms 2

My attention has been drawn to the following article on the JusticeGap website and which raises some difficult issues regarding any reforms that might be under consideration by the new justice secretary:-  

Resistance from within to Gove’s prison reforms

There is anticipation surrounding Michael Gove’s forthcoming speech at the Tory Party conference, with the Times giving him a front page splash on Saturday. Ahead of the speech Gove has spoken of his desire to sell off old Victorian prisons, and cited the American policy ‘guru’ Arthur Brooks as an influence. As I have noted previously, Brooks is billed as a compassionate conservative, and is on the record as favouring a reduction in the US prison population. Gove has been making all the right noises about following that path, possibly by abolishing short-term prison sentences, but it remains to be seen whether he is brave enough to ride out the inevitable media onslaught that would follow and, importantly, whether he has backing from Number 10 to do so.

What we do know, however, is that Gove will confirm plans to ‘shake up’ prison rehabilitation. The term ‘shake up’ has been seemingly preferred to ‘revolutionise’, that term having been toxified by Chris Grayling’s disastrous ‘rehabilitation revolution’, which essentially involved selling off parts of the probation service to the private sector. Gove’s shake up has the much more noble aim of prisoners bettering themselves through education. It has even been suggested that engagement with education and training could be linked to a prisoner’s entitlement to early release. Whether or not that transpires, in general terms the policy is likely to attract widespread support, as it will appeal as much to social conservatives as it does to prison reformers.

But can it succeed?

The difficulty facing Gove comes not from public opinion, but from those within the system, and indeed from the system itself. At the heart of this lies an addiction: the addiction of ‘the system’, mostly in the embodiment of probation service and prison psychology departments to offending behaviour programmes (OBPs). Under this system, the mantra is not ‘education, education, education’ but rather ‘courses, courses, courses’.

OBPs are courses that aim at reduce risk by teaching offenders about their risk factors and providing them with ‘tools’ to manage them. Courses are identified and put in the prisoner’s formal sentence plan. If he engages, he can be sure to achieve a higher privileges level, and to progress through the system; perhaps even to an open prison. Most notably, for indeterminate sentence prisoners (or ‘lifers’), OBPs hold the key to the gate, with release often being dependent on compliance with programme assessments.

Perhaps the most familiar course is the sex offender treatment programme (SOTP), which is intended to ‘treat’ offenders by addressing aspects of their lives that may be linked to their offending. The mere fact the SOTP is referred to as a ‘treatment’ programme hints at the underlying problem. ‘Treatment’ is a term that many prisoners take exception to, understandably, as it implies that there is something medically wrong with them.

The term provides greater insight, however, into the minds of those within the system, because it implies that the ‘treatment’ works (many OBPs are formally ‘accredited’ by the Ministry of Justice, which carries the same implication). In fact, the reconviction rates for sex offenders are so low generally that it is difficult to gauge the effectiveness of the SOTP. And the problem is not limited to sex offenders. In many cases programmes are rolled out before there has been any realistic opportunity to carry out any assessment of their efficacy. The best that can be said about many OBPs, perhaps, is that they allow offenders to show willing, and that they cannot do any harm (although I’ve heard some psychologists disagree even with that).

But the key issue is not whether OBPs work, but the fact that they are assumed to do so. This is a belief that is ingrained in the system. Probation officers and prison psychologists rely on risk assessment tools that give great weight to OBPs, but very little to educational achievement. I recall one instance of a client completing a psychology degree to be met with lukewarm praise, but overt suspicion that he was trying to outfox them. In any event, the completion of such a degree will count for nothing when it comes to an appearance before the Parole Board or the Category A Review Team. It comes under the umbrella of ‘good behaviour alone is not enough to demonstrate a reduction in risk’, which translates as: ‘do our courses or you’re going nowhere’.

If education is to be given an increased prominence in prisoner rehabilitation, it is unrealistic to expect that the Probation Service, the Parole Board, and the various other agencies involved can be easily weaned off offending behaviour programmes (OBPs). The danger is that resources will be diverted away from them at a time when there remain thousands in the system who are expected to engage with them as a pre-condition of release. HMP Full Sutton, for example, is currently offering the Healthy Sex Programme (a ‘necessary’ programme for those with offence-related sexual interests) to men whose tariffs expired in 2013. In other words, 2 years after they became eligible for release. This is despite a case late last year in which a judge criticised the lack of provision for the HSP and acknowledged that it made release “effectively impossible”.

If education is to be put at the heart of the rehabilitation programme, it cannot – however commendable – be at the expense of OBPs for as long as they remain a pre-requisite to release. It would be a welcome move if the courses mantra were challenged. But if education is to be recognised as an end rather than a means, it is an idea that will face enormous resistance from a system that will be stubbornly resistant to change.

Matthew Stanbury is a barrister at Garden Court North Chambers. He practices in human rights, public law, prison law and crime.


The article prompted this comment:-

Offender Behaviour programmes a total load of crock. The research that has been done into them overwhelmingly concludes that they don’t work. The only thing that would work to change someone’s behaviour is to get that individual to a place where they are willing to change. The route to that is as individual as the person the system is trying to change. There is no one size fits all solution. It’s the same with risk assessment, the tools used are simply not fit for purpose and simply do not accurately predict someone’s risk of reoffending etc. You’d probably get more accurate results tossing a coin. Anyone who has been through the system and who has even a modicum of self analysis would be able to tell you what would work and what wouldn’t for them. But the last thing the current system does is actually ask the offender their opinion!


I have long had doubts regarding these programmes and have written about the subject on a number of occasions, such as here in 2010:- 

Monday, 20 September 2010

Sex Offenders

To my surprise, some of my most rewarding work has been with sex offenders. They often pose the greatest challenges because as a group they are more likely to be in denial and prone to minimisation in terms of their behaviour. This in turn means they remain a high risk of re-offending and pose a serious threat due to the nature of their offences, which are invariably disturbing and serious. Being responsible for a generic caseload both in and out of prison, I have had my fair share of cases in this category, but for many years felt that the prognosis would always be bleak in terms of trying to make any progress in reducing the risks they posed. I always felt it most unlikely that clients displaying seriously deviant sexual behaviour were going to be amenable to change.

But then some years ago I was offered the chance of joining two other colleagues in running a self-styled Sex Offender Project based on group and individual work. Although we were only allowed about a day a week each, we still managed to set up a 'core' group, a 'maintenance' group and 'adapted' group for the learning disabled, in addition to individual work with very high risk clients. The latter had typically been released from long prison sentences on Parole Licence, specifically in order to take part in the project and resided at probation hostels. Due to the level of risk they posed they had to be escorted for individual sessions. The maintenance group was designed both for those who completed the core group programme and for voluntary attenders when their order had finished. (Yes, just imagine that concept nowadays!) We accepted referrals at all stages, right from PSR and even undertook to write the report for the referring PO. Management just allowed us to get on with it, but paid for a consultant to give advice and support every few months.

The whole project had been running successfully for a number of years, designed in-house by my experienced colleagues, with each aspect tailored to an individuals needs, as was felt appropriate. Imagine that, no manual, no bureaucracy, no monitoring. They were halcyon days indeed and we did amazing work with some of the most scary and damaged people I've ever met. I will always feel priviledged to have had the opportunity of proving beyond doubt that even the most dangerous of offenders can and did respond to some skilfull, patient, understanding counselling. In some cases it took a great deal of time, but there were no time limits, no prescriptive programme and no video or tape recording.

I mention all this because what I am describing is now history and has been replaced with something very different, the authorised and highly prescriptive Sex Offender Treatment Programme (SOTP). This now operates in all probation areas and is available in certain prisons. Run strictly according to a manual, sessions are video-recorded to ensure compliance with the programme and tutors performance is monitored afterwards by so called 'Treatment Managers'. All dreadful nomenclature in my view. Admission to the programme is by no means automatic and for example excludes those in denial or those with learning disabilities.

Now, as I declined to put myself forward for this new initiative, it would not be fair to say too much, beyond perhaps the not-surprising observation that I remain sceptical that the 'one size fits all' approach is right. Clearly it would not have benefited the vast majority of our clientele. So, in a sense, I've come full circle in feeling that once more there is a group of sex offenders for whom the prognosis remains very poor indeed. Progress?

Sunday, 4 October 2015

TR Latest News 7

Napo, Unison etc should have had the safety & wellbeing of staff uppermost in their minds when they were seduced by & got into bed with the MoJ & CRC's. No use complaining after the fact. All that glistens isn't gold... the result being that the complicit managers have been well rewarded, the unions left hung out to dry whilst probation staff have been force-fed a big, fat, sticky shit sandwich. So IL's blog is nothing but extra garnish - which we never ordered but we're still being charged for.

CRC in the North East are pulling out of offices already, seeing service users in church halls, community centres in rooms next door to creches, exercise classes. Agile working, but we are not expected to work from home, but no-one except the senior managers and corporate staff will have workstations, not even disabled staff, so I will have little choice, I want to keep my home separate from work. I have learned that Napo and Unison are acting against this, thank goodness, but H&S regs are being ignored. I feel so sorry for the service users who have to be called participants, no confidentiality, no relationship and no opportunity to tell us what matters and help us manage risk. This blog should be about what really matters, it is not a gossip column or a tool to shoot us all in both feet.

Jim, are the rumours that nobody, including elected reps and chairs is going to the AGM true? I'm appalled if this is true as people have no right to represent members if they cannot be bothered to attend the most important meeting of the year. Union officials are given relief time from work duties and should respect their position. Is it just an avenue to skive and get paid for it. Another scandal from NAPO officials and reps taking money for nothing. The hypocrisy is sick.

Let me assist you because I have been a NAPO rep for years and am having to take a break because I am exhausted. I worked many evening and weekends (my own time you will note) because that was the only way I could do a decent job for my members. Facility time was given to me but only to attend the actual meetings where I was repping. No NAPO rep is given time to attend the AGM, that is something done be taking leave...so to put it plainly, you are simply wrong. In my opinion the work horses of the union are the reps....

I won't go, you just cannot support the top table, they are a crock. Lawrence is appalling and the reason we have lost credibility. He got control of the union and yet has no real history of any achievement. The failure he blames on us members, yet he never had any strategy or appropriate action taken. If no one is going to AGM it's a vote of no confidence and less to do with time off. NPS are left parked with lack of local supports from Napo as they are all being restricted, while the CRC union members are virtually off the reservation now. Napo is split, opinion is divided, the checkoff might hopefully see them checkout.

Sadly unions have no real power. I have colleagues working for a partnership agency who this month are earning 7k less than they did this time last yr. They either signed the new contract or were out of work. They wrote 'signed under duress' on the contract and were told to remove it. Their union is/was Unison who could do nothing.

It is still almost impossible to hear any mention of probation and TR in the news or newspapers; nothing from Jeremy Corbyn or Lord Faulkner etc, and no empathy from Gove. The prisons and courts are the top kiddies, and the successes and principals and expertise of probation as it was, appear to have been air-brushed from history already. Gove's report above referred to the prisons not just having governors and (prison) officers, they have such as artists, cooks etc. Not one mention of a probation officer.

My branch has gone from 37 CRC members to 21 out of 133. It feels less and less credible. NPS are haemorrhaging staff too. It's tragic.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Penal Reforms

I'll start this off with a snippet from today's Times and an interview with Michael Gove. It has to be just a taster I'm afraid due to the pesky paywall, but hopefully a kind reader might supply a bit more. Basically the new Justice Secretary is beginning to firm up the ideas he first floated in July in his widely-welcomed speech on prisons, The treasure in the heart of man - making prisons work. This from today:-  

Michael Gove is to free prisons from Whitehall control in the biggest reorganisation of the penal system in a generation. The justice secretary will give governors new powers over budgets, education and even the perks offered to prisoners for good behaviour. In his first interview since becoming justice secretary, Mr Gove has revealed that he is also looking at extending the scheme under which inmates are allowed out of jail on licence in preparation for their release. He also confirmed that he was looking at selling inner-city Victorian prisons on lucrative land ripe for housing development. Mr Gove disclosed that a new criminal justice board had been set up to ensure that justice was speeded up after he was horrified to discover that the average time it took to complete a…

I might point out here that the idea of giving greater autonomy to prison governors was floated in the piece I penned for Russell Webster back in March and in his series If I were Justice Secretary:- 


Whilst a Royal Commission obviously takes time, fortunately all new Ministers are allowed a honeymoon period and I would use the opportunity to signal a fundamental change in culture, especially within the prison system. In times of austerity it becomes more important than ever to acknowledge that safe and decent prisons only come about by listening to staff and inmates. I would seek to dismantle the present MoJ command and control structure and return to a position where Governors have authority to innovate and find local solutions that can improve each regime as they see fit.

Of course if NOMS and the MoJ begin to loosen their command and control function over prisons, one begins to wonder what purpose is being served by having such a bloated department down there in London?


Now the hot summer is history and the anticipated widespread trouble in prisons due to over-crowding didn't materialise, the government clearly feel more confident in finally getting to grips with the vexed question of smoking:- 

Smoking in prisons

Letter from Prisons Minister Andrew Selous to Robert Neill MP, Chairman of the Justice Select Committee regarding smoking in prisons.

I am writing to inform you of my department’s intention to implement a full smoke free policy in all prisons in Wales from January 2016 and at 4 early adopter sites in England (HMPs Exeter, Channings Wood, Dartmoor and Erlestoke) from March. This announcement will be confirmed through a Written Ministerial Statement following recess.

Since the introduction of smoking legislation in 2007, our desire has been to move towards smoke free prisons but, given the high prevalence of smoking and the unique environment of prisons, you will appreciate that implementing smoke free prisons is a difficult thing to do.

National policy currently allows prisoners to smoke in their cells but not in communal areas. The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) has continued to keep this issue under review and introduced measures to reduce the risk of exposure to second hand smoke while ensuring order and control is maintained. This requires a careful and phased approach as we move towards fulfilling our long standing goal of smoke free prisons.

Our steps to date include the recent and highly successful roll out of electronic cigarettes to all prisons. These are available in every prison shop and offer a comparable alternative to traditional tobacco products in cost terms. From next month, prisoners in open prisons will not be able to smoke indoors and will only be able to smoke in designated outdoor areas. Plans are also underway to provide voluntary smoke free areas in all prisons from early next year.

However, we need to do more. Two recent academic studies commissioned by NOMS have identified that high levels of second hand smoke in some communal areas are still prevalent in some prisons. These will be published on GOV.UK on 29 September 2015.

The findings of these studies have reinforced our commitment to move towards smoke free prisons as soon as possible in a safe and controlled way.

In developing our plans for smoke free prisons, we have learnt from a number of other jurisdictions who have already successfully implemented a smoke free policy across their prison estate. Canada has been smoke-free since 2008, New Zealand since 2011, and parts of Australia since 2013. Broadmoor Secure Hospital also went smoke free in 2007. We have used the lessons from their experiences to inform our strategy, including a long, phased implementation period, in order to move to smoke free safely.

Following these preparations, we are now ready to move forward with these plans in a controlled and careful way. In partnership with the Welsh Government we will begin to implement a smoke free policy in all prisons in Wales (HMPs Cardiff, Parc, Swansea and Usk/Prescoed) from January 2016, and at 4 prisons in England (HMPs Exeter, Channings Wood, Dartmoor and Erlestoke) from March 2016. From now until the smoke free implementation date these prisons will be encouraging and supporting prisoners to stop smoking through a range of smoking cessation support and advice, including nicotine replacement therapy. We will continue to take a sensible and considered approach, using the experience of the first prisons to go smoke free to inform the speed at which we move to smoke free across our remaining prisons.

We have no plans to move to smoke free prisons overnight and will only do so in a phased way that takes into account operational resilience and readiness of each prison. The operational safety and security of our prisons will always be our top priority.


Not connected to prisons, but a reminder that the consultation period on further court closures is due to end shortly. The following extracts from a council report in the north west is a typical example of the significant geographical realities they just don't seem to understand down there in London:-


At the Executive meeting held on 4 August 2015, the proposed closure of West Cumbria Magistrates and County Courts was discussed and a decision was taken to refer this to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to look at the implications of the closure to the residents of the Borough and to look at other options available. This meeting of Executive is the last scheduled in order to achieve the deadline of 8 October 2015 for responses to be received by the Ministry of Justice.


The OSC supports the Executive in objecting to the proposal to close the West Cumbria Courts in Workington and strongly urges the Department of Justice to reconsider for the following reasons: 
  • Copeland is unique in that being located on the extreme west coast of Cumbria, with little or NO public transport or infrastructure traveling to the far north or south of the county is almost impossible. 
  • Copeland is one of the most deprived districts in England and the impact on those with the lowest incomes, should the proposals go ahead and the courts be relocated, is unacceptable. 
  • The only road linking the north and south of the borough to Carlisle is the A595, which has been described in a recent Police report to Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner as ‘the most dangerous road in the county’. 
  • During periods of extreme weather, journey times would be very much increased, if not impossible. 
  • OSC believes the court usage figures quoted in the Department of Justice proposal are not accurate and do not include the Family Court and Tribunals. 
  • In some cases, only one train or bus is available to arrive at court on time, which could result in all parties (prosecution and defence) travelling together. The OSC is therefore concerned regarding the ‘Safe Conduct of Witnesses’. 
  • OSC has explored the alternatives to meet the needs of our community but the provision of court facilities by Copeland Borough Council within its current property portfolio is not feasible. 
  • The use of digital technology was considered, but due to the lack of reliable internet or mobile phone reception, particularly in the remote rural areas, this suggestion was discounted. 
  • With construction of the new Nuclear Power Station at Moorside due to start in the near future, the population of Copeland will increase by more than 10,000. This could bring with it a proportional increase in demand for court services. 
  • 2015 sees the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta bringing access to ‘Justice for All’, Overview and Scrutiny Committee strongly objects to the proposal to close West Cumbria courts thus removing access to Justice from the residents of Copeland.

I notice that with the departure of Chris Grayling, relations between the Howard League and Justice Secretary have thankfully returned to normal with Michael Gove agreeing to address their AGM next month:-

Michael Gove to speak at Howard League event

The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, will be the guest speaker at our next AGM and Public Meeting.

Mr Gove will speak at the King’s Fund, London, on Wednesday 4 November 2015 from 7pm. Members of the public are welcome to attend.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Latest From Napo 80

Extract from the latest blog post from Ian Lawrence, Napo General Secretary:-


The post-TR shambles manifests itself in increasingly incredulous ways and now we are investigating reports that the relocation of established office premises is adding even worse problems to the general chaos, where new premises have yet to be secured or refurbished.

I have had a conversation with a member who believes that a colleague was instructed to conduct an appointment with a client in the back of the practitioner’s car because the arrangements to see their client in another government building fell through. Another report from a different part of the country indicates that staff, having been told to arrange to interview clients at another would be provider of temporary accommodation learnt to their horror that staff there were not comfortable with the idea of Probation clients pitching up.

Elsewhere, agreements have apparently been reached to let clients into temporary premises but the host organisation closes on the money at 5:00pm, so no late night reporting there then.

In one NPS location (like many) the reception area has gone over to a CRC, which resulted in clients not getting in as the doors were locked. Then it appears that a number of CRC clients turned up there too as they had no idea as to where they were now supposed to report to.

All a bit amusing to those who revel in state sponsored chaos, but no fun for our members’ that’s for sure.

‘Into the community’

Now there won’t be many practitioners who do not support the idea of getting out into the community a bit more, so no worries if you can’t interview someone in your car, because there is always a local cafe, pub, or nearby street corner (best done before the winter nights draw in of course). Most worrying is a suggestion from on high that staff will have to carry cash with them at all times so they can pay the travel-expenses of clients under supervision.

The blog understands that in this instance reassurances are being offered and that mobiles will be issued in case of trouble. Mmm.. but who does one phone these days with no office base to report your last or current whereabouts to? And why not advertise to the whole world that you are walking around town with a heavy brief case and a wad of cash in your pocket?

Say No

While some of these problems have been flagged up in the NPS, it is a fact that a number of the CRC owners are starting to see that they have been taken to the cleaners over hidden accommodation costs and other liabilities. This has resulted in them running back squealing to the MoJ and putting plans in place to drastically reduce their costs.

Napo’s advice to members is simple. These types of working practices are unacceptable and in some cases downright dangerous, so if they are (or are due to be) in place, insist individually and through your union that full risk assessments are undertaken. All of the new ways of working – flexible working/agile working - will have to be risk assessed and TU safety reps are entitled to be involved in this assessment process. Safety reps have the right to visit the new work location to carry out a safety visit-both before staff have started to work from there and after they have started to work from there.

You can also e-mail campaigns@napo.org.uk (from a private e-mail address only) to let us know what’s going on and we will do our best to get you advice and if needs be get the local media involved. Members facing this nonsense should also hold an office or team Napo meeting, instruct their local reps to register a dispute and if you decide that you are prepared to take industrial action we will gladly ballot you at the earliest opportunity.

Your safety and wellbeing is paramount and just too precious to be put at risk.

TR Latest News 6

Given the Omnishambles that TR has become, it's somewhat surprising that the MoJ team responsible have been put forward for an award. This by Napo's David Raho on Facebook:-

Somewhat surprisingly the MOJ has been shortlisted under the commercial and the project management category for Transforming Rehabilitation. History teaches us that the victors often get to rewrite history and claim that might was right. TR is a prime example of how focused ideological power and treachery and skillful use of misinformation can be used to overcome reason, good governance, and professional legitimacy.

That the civil service could even consider giving recognition to such a fundamentally flawed project that ignored evidence and expert advice, created an artificial market for purely ideological rather than practical and effective reasons, deliberately and systematically failed to engage with those with concerns involved in it beggars belief.

However it might be considered by the MOJ to be a commercial success by virtue of the fact that in the past they have been accused of letting multinational beneficiaries pull the wool over their eyes and make them look incompetent and inept. However with TR they have thus far managed to get away with the scandalous swindle that has meant that the bidders for CRC's had little idea what they were actually bidding for (hence the delays and setbacks in rolling out their respective operating models). They now realise that along with the family silver the MOJ also sold them a job lot of old rope and potentially expensive problems that could impact on their ability to do what they may have planned to do.

Some might say that on the evidence the MOJ should certainly get an award but this should be the Arthur Daley Award for being economical with the truth and being able to claim commercial sensitivity in increasingly more creative ways when challenged..


Explore the role of the state and criminal justice interventions in producing safe and just societies

Crime and criminal justice are vast and fascinating issues that highlight the complexity of defining and solving social problems.

What traditional and innovative responses to crime and victimisation work? Why do people stop offending? Which interventions are seen by the community as being fair, lawful and effective?

The age of austerity in which we currently find ourselves has made these issues all the more significant and politically sensitive. Join us as we explore the criminal justice system, from crime to desistance

Through this free online course you’ll develop an understanding of, and critical perspective on, the role of the state in the regulation of criminal behaviour and the key parts played by those involved in the criminal justice system.

Together, we’ll explore key themes of classic criminological research, contemporary debates on criminal justice institutions and processes, and international developments in policy and practice, focusing in particular on:

  • crime and criminal justice;
  • policing;
  • victims and victim support;
  • restorative justice;
  • prisons and places of confinement;
  • community sanctions and measures;
  • desistance.
​Learn with criminal justice academics and professionals. Over seven weeks, you’ll learn with a team of specialists from the Centre for Criminological Research in the School of Law at the University of Sheffield.

​As well as academics, we’ll talk to those with firsthand experience of the criminal justice system, including probation officers, former prisoners and criminal lawyers. We’ll visit the police service in situ, witness a victim mediation session and even travel to Italy to learn about Cesare Lombroso, the father of modern criminology.

You’ll be invited to share your experiences and debate the key issues with other learners. What should the role of the police be? What are victims’ experiences of criminal justice and how can we support victims? Are there alternative responses to crime instead of 
prosecution and conviction?

FREE online course
Duration: 7 weeks
3 hours pw
Certificates available


This is an introductory course and anyone can enjoy it without prior knowledge or experience of the subject. A basic knowledge of criminal justice will be helpful but is not essential. The course will focus on criminal justice in England and Wales, but is designed so that learners from any country can participate.

The course will be useful for those considering an undergraduate or postgraduate degree in the fields of criminology or criminal justice.


Is Probation practice at risk from Electronic Monitoring?

Alarm bells are being rung at the Probation Institute this week following the meeting of the Institute’s Electronic Monitoring Working Group which includes, practitioner, academic, sentencer and industry input.

The group, in their third meeting since being established, is calling for probation leaders and practitioners to take a far more pro-active stance on electronic monitoring (EM) or risk having the technology forced upon them without proper consideration of how it should fit into ethical and best probation practice.

“The technology is moving forward rapidly,” said Savas Hadjipavlou, the Institute’s Chief Executive. “There is the potential for it to enhance the work of probation and our relationships with service users but only if we play our part now in shaping how the technology is used rather than letting the technology drive our practice.”

The group listened to presentations by technology providers this week so that they could understand latest developments and then discussed a range of key issues in terms of ethics, the evidence-base for EM’s effectiveness, how it’s currently being use by police and sentencers and its potential impact on community rehabilitation companies and their contracts.

The EM group is currently working on a report covering all these issues and is holding a stakeholder consultation event in November to lay down the challenge to probation leaders on how they are going to address current and future challenges. Other stakeholders at the event are expected to include representatives from the Ministry of Justice, Police, PCCs and EM technology providers.

“Community rehabilitation companies are currently focusing most of their attention on designing their delivery models to meet the demands of their contracts. This is understandable but if we miss the boat on shaping electronic monitoring now the consequences could hit probation a couple of years down the road, when it will be much harder to change the direction of travel,” said Savas Hadjipavlou.

Practitioners can keep up-to-date with developments in electronic monitoring, including relevant documents and research, by joining the Probation Institute and signing up for the EM professional network. Find out more here: http://probation-institute.org/membership/

Members of the Institute Electronic Monitoring Practitioner network include:

David Bebb – Head of Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan, Wales CRC
Trevor Beckford – Solicitor & Legal Enforcement Advisor, Electronic Monitoring Services (EMS)
Jo Easton – Head of Policy & Research, Magistrates Association
Savas Hadjipavlou – Chief Executive, Probation Institute
David Hearn – Darzi Fellow, Oxleas NHS Trust
Andy Homer – Operations Support Manager, Electronic Monitoring Services (EMS)
Anthea Hucklesby – Professor of Criminal Justice, University of Leeds
Mike Nellis – Emeritus Professor of Criminal and Community Justice, University of Strathclyde
Neil Moloney – Chief Executive, BENCH CRC
David Raho – Probation Officer, London CRC (Seconded to NAPO)
Tessa Webb – Independent Criminal Justice Consultant


10am - 4:30pm, 20th October 2015

Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) became live from 1 February 2015 when the ownership of the Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) was transferred to the successful bidders. In effect, TR had been running in shadow form from mid 2014. The scale of changes to the offender resettlement and supervision landscape brought about by TR was significant and its implementation has of necessity required ongoing learning.

This conference will give attendees the opportunity to take stock of progress made and to share lessons learned as TR develops to meet the key objectives of reduced reoffending to include a wider cohort of offenders, better public protection and reduced costs. The new arrangements have created two fundamental organisations; the National Probation Service (NPS) and CRCs, with the CRCs now owned by a number of new players. Clearly relationship building and communication between and within the NPS and CRCs (and their subcontractors) is of the utmost importance to ensure that the new system can operate effectively. Add to this communications with the National Offender Management Service (NOMs), Staff, the Police, Victims, Courts, the Parole Board, Local Authorities (crime reduction responsibilities and child protection arrangements), MAPPA, Third Sector Partners, Police and Crime Commissioners, Offenders, coupled with changing operational, IT and other arrangements and we can see that major challenges probably remain.

Those most likely to benefit from this event are senior leaders from NOMs, the NPS and CRCs, the Third Sector, the Magistrates Association, the Parole Board and the wider criminal justice sector. The day will include key inputs allowing those from the various key organisations to describe what is working, and how, and what needs to improve with suggestions as to how such required developments might be achieved. We anticipate that key themes will be raised through inputs and the very important discussion opportunities for attendees, this will include:

  • operational achievements and learning points; 
  • relationship building within and between relevant organisations, building on what is working and what more needs to be done; 
  • communications within and between relevant organisations, showcasing effective work and how gaps can be filled; 
  • building confidence in the new arrangements.
There will be other themes that contributors and attendees will want to bring to the table. Our role is to do no more than to facilitate an open and honest exchange of information and ideas with a focus on enabling plans for improvements to be formulated and shared. We will record and make available descriptions of successes as well as areas for development and any emerging plans and ideas as to how remaining challenges can be tackled.


Community sentences since 2000: How they work – and why they have not cut prisoner numbers

Over the past decade, the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies has been charting developments in community sanctions and calling for a more ambitious approach to criminal justice policy, informed by principles of social justice. Our research has shown that the UK’s increased use of community sentences has not led to any overall reduction in the number of people in prison. At best, it may have controlled the growth of short-term prison sentences. At worst, it has simply expanded the net of criminalisation and punishment, exacerbating rather than resolving social harms. 

This report offers a unique review of the range of alternatives to custody in the UK, from bail, through community sanctions and probation, to early release from prison. It gives an overview of how governments have attempted to control the staggering rise in prisoner numbers since 2000 by the use of so-called ‘alternatives’ – and largely failed to do so. The key measures are explained in Appendix 1, with supporting statistical and financial data for the separate jurisdictions of England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland in Appendix 3. Probation practices under the three systems are described in Appendix 2.


First of all, thanks for the blog, it has been a great source of information for so long.

As a long time reader, I wonder if you could help me? I'm being kicked out of my CRC at the end of November and need to get some online survey responses collected before I go. I'm half way through my part time PhD which has a focus on the use of intelligence in probation. The plan was to do this kind of fieldwork in the new year but the Sodexo severance axe has fallen on us so I've had to speed things up. The survey takes two minutes - it's a micro-survey with only ten "tick box" questions.

Is there any chance that the weblink below could appear as a post in your blog?


Thanks again.


Far be it for me to suggest there's alarm at Chivalry Road concerning the numbers for the AGM in Eastbourne, but I see the early bird discount rate of £45 is now extended until October 12th due to "ongoing postal delivery problems". 

Seriously guys, the future of this union is in our hands and I would urge members to get their arses into gear and pack for the seaside - besides, good friend of probation Lord Falconer has said he's coming and is always worth a listen.     

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Latest From Napo 79

BR 95/2015

28 September 2015

To: Branch Chairs
Family Court SEC (for info)
Cc: Probation Negotiating Committee
NEC Co-Reps
Napo Officers and Officials

Dear Colleague

Branch Briefing - Meetings between NOMS and probation Trade Unions

Please forward immediately to Napo members in your branch

As reported to last weeks meeting of Napo's National Executive Committee, the following meetings have taken place since BR 77/2015 was issued:

  • Probation Consultative Forum (PCF) – 3rd September
  • Probation in Prisons Briefing - 24th August
  • E3 'meetings - 2nd & 16th September
The following issues are reported on in summary form below:

1. Probation Training – PQF etc.
2. E3
3. Approved Premises
4. Probation in prisons
5. ViSOR vetting
6. Vetting (general)
7. The potential for future CRC disaggregation
8. Equality & Diversity
9. Estates
10. Active Risk Management System (ARMS)
11. CRC ICT Transition
12. Employee Care & Workload Prioritisation Agreement

Please direct any queries on this Briefing to: mmcclelland@napo.org.uk

1. Probation Training - An update on the Probation Qualifications Assurance Board, the PQF Review Group and the work of the Probation Institute with regard to training is to be found under the Learning and Development tab on the website.

2. E3 (NPS) - The last meeting of the E3 Forum was in June and a report on this meeting can be found in BR70/15. Napo, UNISON and GMB/SCOOP attended an enigmatically named Trade Union Design Workshop in place of the E3 Forum on September 2nd. We were again presented with the Design Priorities which are reported in BR70/15. The position, from a union perspective, appears to be much as previously reported though there was some acknowledgement of the need for greater union involvement. Another meeting then took place on September 16th. As reported in NPS News, the Programme is due to produce an operating model ('blueprint') by the end of October and it is suggested that this will provide the basis for more detailed engagement with the Trade Unions. Central to these discussions will be exactly who does what? - PO/PSO in the NPS. No decisions have been made on this yet, but a favoured model is likely to be presented for consultation. There are unlikely to be any great surprises about the shape of things to come - though the scale and extent of role boundary changes will be critical.

Design & implementation items for discussion with the TUs were listed as follows:

Design: - Role Boundaries, Job Descriptions, Resourcing including caseload levels, Management Structures, Staff supervision & quality of practice, Admin support to LDUs, Line Management of operational admin, Use of countersignatures, Out of hours arrangements, Double Waking Night Cover, Use of agency or sessional staff in NPS (also volunteers), Harmonisation of sessional staff rates, Staff wellbeing (including clinical supervision)
Implementation:- Consultation & Negotiating Framework, Communications to staff, Restructuring, Displacement of roles, Managing surplus situations, Mobility & daily travel for redeployment purposes, Removal of legacy Job Descriptions, Pay Protection arrangements, Learning & Development, Vetting issues.
So lots to do. These matters will be pursued in various fora including the NNC and the PCF. At last weeks meeting of the National Negotiating Council the Probation Unions again requested high level confirmation that engagement in the E3 project should not count as Facilities time.

3. Approved Premises (NPS) - There was some discussion at the E3 meeting (see above). This centred around the FM contract which is due to be renewed next year. No firm decisions on this have yet been made. It was also acknowledged that there are a number of significant HR issues outstanding for AP staff - many of them legacy issues from Trust days. Work on these has stalled and the unions sought to have them 're-invigorated'. We will report further if this meets with any constructive work being done.

4. Probation in Prisons - The final decision with regard to the Custody OM review has now been reported, and the proposed model is out for formal consultation. The final recommendations have been endorsed by NOMS and work is due to commence on implementation following consultation. This was reported in the General Secretary's Blog on 11th September, where Michael Spurr's letter was commented upon. It will be interesting to see how consistent end-to-end case/offender management is to be achieved as prisoners move from establishment to establishment through their sentences. Then, plans to move PSOs out of prisons remain current on an establishment by establishment rolling programme. There have been briefing sessions for staff about this and further briefings are likely to follow. Rate cards and guidance, together with process maps on how TTG will operate have apparently been sent to NPS staff. Napo have requested copies of this documentation together with anything else in writing about the future plans for probation in prisons. Finally it is reported that, under the auspices of E3, work is being undertaken to improve parole and recall processes.

5. ViSOR vetting (NPS staff) - This was raised as a topic of concern at the last PCF meeting. Napo took the view that it was unhelpful for all front line staff to be classified as requiring ViSOR vetting - not all posts do require the use of ViSOR a and small minority of staff will either not wish to submit to this vetting or will fail it. Thus to retain a number of posts not requiring such vetting - e.g. those which are Court based, enables a degree of flexibility in accommodating such individuals. This proposition appears to have found favour with the NPS.

6. Vetting (general) - This was previously reported upon briefly in BR 70/15. It was discussed again at the PCF on 3rd September. Within the NOMS Security Group, we are told that a Vetting Steering Group has been established and it is this group that will apparently review the relevant Probation Instructions. To date, Napo has not been approached by this group for comment, although we have written to Digby Griffith (Director of National Operational Services - with overall responsibility for the Security Group) to express our concerns - notably about lack of transparency, lack of a clear appeals procedure and what is still a generally prison-centric emphasis.

7. Potential disaggregation of CRCs – It was our understanding of the CRC contracts that each CRC entity must be capable of ready re-construction in a disaggregated state either at the end of the contract or in the event that any one of them was terminated early. It becomes increasingly difficult to fathom how this might be possible in light of many of the current proposed operational developments. In the North and East, Sodexo is proposing to centralise all its HR/back-office functions for all of its CRCs in Salford, at its own pre-existing hub. In the Midlands, RRP is planning just one case administration hub in Derby to cover all work in both Staffs/West Midlands and Notts., Derbyshire, Leicestershire & Rutland. In the South, MTC/Novo is planning to outsource all its case administration to Hewlett-Packard who will move the work North to Newcastle - this then covering all case administration for both London and Thames Valley as we understand it. No doubt other similar "rationalisations" are planned elsewhere. A good question that we have continually raised and on which we seek the views of MoJ contract managers is exactly how this could all be readily unpicked at a later date without placing service delivery at great risk- not to mention the livelihoods of staff.

8. Equality & Diversity - A recent discussion took place with Colin Allars and Eila Davis (NOMS Head of Women & Equalities) on the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) for the NPS. This discussion focused on the needs of disabled staff and sought to explore practical ways of implementing the NPS Equality & Diversity Plan. Apparently the Equal Treatment for Employees policy is due for a fundamental review for use both within prisons and Probation. Sadly this is not due until early next year and until then the situation remains as reported in BR 70-15. A 'How to' (make reasonable adjustments) guide is due to be issued shortly, as is an Equality Analysis Instruction. Napo has not been involved in the development of either of these. Indeed we have not seen them, so it is difficult to comment further. It is interesting to speculate on how the PSED might be more effectively achieved in CRCs and perhaps an approach to this through consultation with the owners of the various CRCs might prove productive.

9. Estates - The following was reported at the PCF: "The programme is now in delivery. The series of exits and moves agreed with the NPS and the CRCs has been grouped (CRC ICT Transition) into projects, and Regional Delivery Teams are in place to co-ordinate implementation of those projects. To date, around 20 projects are at various stages of the space planning, design and move phases and around 50 projects involving an exit, move or reconfiguration are due to be completed before the end of 2015, along with a further 100 where new occupancy arrangements will be agreed for the NPS, CRC or both.

Where a move impacts on NPS staff, current terms and conditions will apply pending harmonisation of relevant policies." We are questioning what this actually means and will be using the NNC and PCF mechanisms to pursue this. No schedules of these projects have yet been supplied to us nationally. It appears to mean that quite a lot of office changes are in the pipeline. Hopefully affected staff (locally) will be aware and because there is as yet no harmonised NPS mobility policy, pre-existing (Trust) policies will apply in the NPS - and also in CRCs unless there has been any harmonisation agreements within CRCs.

10. ARMS - The training for and roll-out of this system is now well under way for NPS staff. At the consultative stage (for the Probation Instruction), Napo made strong representations about the impact on workload, particularly around retrospective use on existing caseload. We were insistent that its use should involve a workload weighting. Reassurances were given but it appears now that in reality ARMS is, as we feared, being introduced with little or no account being taken of the workload implications. Our concerns here will be tabled at the next PCF in October.

11. CRC ICT Transition - Technical enablers - A presentation was given at the PCF on 6th September. This was previously reported upon in BR 70-15 (Item 5). Lots of technical language was used describing a Strategic Partner Gateway and a Data Exchange Bridging Solution. The latter is being tested with Sodexo CRCs this month with a view to enabling the bridging required for information exchange (NPS/CRC) to occur. Our view is that 'wing and a prayer' come to mind.

12. Employee Care & Workload Prioritisation - This is a bedrock agreement established many years ago as a basis for workload measurement and management. The principles contained within it still hold good although it is in need of revision to reflect the changing world of Probation. Napo has been pressing for many months for this revision to be undertaken and it was raised again at the PCF on 6th September. It is with the NPS to action.

A challenging bargaining agenda. Napo will be issuing updates on the above issues as soon as there is something substantive to report. These, and many other issues demonstrate how the union is trying to engage with a massively increased post-share sale bargaining agenda which reflects the significant pressures being placed on our members.

Yours sincerely

Mike McClelland      
Ian Lawrence
National Official       General Secretary

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

A Call to Arms 2

Following on from the first post on this subject, I notice there has been an interesting exchange on the FOI website which sheds a bit more light on things:-

It seems like the Active Risk Management System (ARMS) for dynamic assessment of sex offenders is finally coming into use from mid-2015

Evaluation of the pilot project can be found at 


The precursor of ARMS called Stable and Acute was piloted in Scotland and its evaluation provides some useful information

while some rather vague information can be found at

This lists the acute dynamic risk factors (eg alcohol use, disengagement) and stable dynamic risk (eg attitudes to sex) which were assessed using this tool. 

It would seem from this that ARMS would be used by Probation (NOMS) - that is for people on license just out of prison - not for the majority of MAPPA offenders managed by the police in the long term. (this may change in future but unlikely with austerity, given the greater pressures of public/child protection services (police, local authorities). Given this pressure on public protection using ARMS has got to be better than the just using RM2000 which only looks at static (past) factors - better targeting of resources etc.

Given that OASys (offender assessment system used by prisons and probation is cursed as cumbersome to use and the pilot evaluation also criticised ARMS for this - surely technology could play a role here - this might be a problem. Which is why it is worrying that this FoI request was denied.

Dear Xxxxx - thank you for your annotation comments. I made a similar request to Warwickshire Police, as they had some involvement with ARMS, but they also refused to provide any information.

My final comment, which has not been responded to read: However, I'm disappointed you are unwilling to disclose the information requested.

The above document was informative, and both RM 2000 and SARN risk assessments mentioned are widely available.
It would seem ARMS is a combination of both?

Please confirm whether registered sex offenders are legally mandated to engage with ARMS? (and if relevant, which statutory instrument makes this a legal obligation?)

Do registered sex offenders benefit from the protection of ECHR? Specifically Article 8 - Right to respect for private and family life.

It is worrying to read, one of the protective factors (5) now omitted from the risk assessment was, citizenship/giving something back. I understand probation and police seemingly attempt to prevent RSO's from engaging in community activity. If not mandated by restrictions of their licence, community order, SOPO etc. Then formal disclosure to third parties effectively prevent the RSO from the opportunity to rejoin society, the imposed isolation can have a negative impact on wellbeing.

There are eight risk factors and four protective factors, which suggests an RSO has little or no chance of demonstrating rehabilitation and redemption, when retribution seems to be the focus.

My brother, before he killed himself, felt hounded by the intrusive nature of quarterly home visits. The collateral damage of viewing indecent images of children led to him losing his girlfriend, home, job, friends and ultimately his life.

If the CJS is genuinely trying to ensure sex offender desist, and I understand it is a matter of control not cure. Surely an open honest approach, seeking to ensure a person's need are met legitimately, rather than psychological games are required?

Xxxxx, to try and answer your questions as best we can from information available...

I have not been able to find out what the protective factors are in ARMS - I suspect that the last two ('being busy' and 'giving something back') may have been merged as they are similar, but this is just a guess. ARMS (Active Risk Management System) is not a combination of RM2000 and SARN - it does not have the actuarial basis of RM2000 [that is basing risk on the outcomes of a similar group of offenders]; it might be thought of more as 'SARN lite'.

I have not found any Ministry of Justice or Home Office statement announcing the introduction of ARMS - the only reference was the working with offenders web site (which I linked to in my previous annotation). This in itself seems odd - you would have thought the Home Office would like to promote anything which looks like it is doing something about sexual offenders. I suspect that the upheaval in Probation Services (as part of 'Transforming Rehabilitation') and cuts to services may mean that ARMS is only being rolled out gradually or for a limited group of offenders - but again this is just a guess.

I think the question of offenders being 'legally mandated to engage' with ARMS is irrelevant - if they don't engage they will probably be regarded as a higher risk - as they would score highly on the ARMS risk factors of 'negative orientation to rules' and 'hostile orientation to others'. 

Everybody has the protection of ECHR (and the Human Rights Act) through virtue of being human! Although what this means in practice in relation to police monitor of sex offenders is unclear.

Certainly the prohibition on activities contained in SOPOs (now SHPO - Sexual Harm Prevention Orders) and licence conditions can limit the possibilities for engagement in the community and hence rehabilitation. It is a difficult balance - one that each offender seemingly has to navigate on his own. I am very sorry to hear of your brother's death and I agree that meeting a persons needs for autonomy, intimacy etc legitimately is the best way to prevent re-offending and further victims.

Dear Xxxxx 
I shall read through your comments again, and respond separately. The pilot evaluation listed the following:

There were 13 risk and protective factors within the ARMS framework: 

1. Opportunity to offend
2. Offence related sexual interests
3. Sexual pre-occupation
4. Emotional congruence (against children only)
5. Hostile orientation to others
6. Poor self management
7. Negative orientation to rules
8. Anti-social influences. 

1. Pro-social network
2. A commitment to desist
3. An intimate relationship
4. Employment / being busy
5. Citizenship / giving something back (omitted)

At my brothers inquest, the police repeatedly stated they would/could not take any responsibility for my brothers mental wellbeing. It was even inferred that I was manipulated by him, and weak minded to believe all my brother told me.

Thank you again for your helpful comments.
Kind regards - Xxxx

Monday, 28 September 2015

Paying Over the Odds

Readers of this blog are certainly no stranger to stories of profligacy, inefficiency and incompetence at the Ministry of Justice, so there's no great surprises in this from The Channel and recently flagged up by Russell Webster:-

MoJ sprays cash everywhere after punting MILLIONS of Oracle licences to Steria

The Ministry of Justice has failed to make any cash savings from moving its 2.3 million Oracle software licences to the Cabinet Office's shared service centre, The Register can reveal.

The licence breakdown of 53 separate Oracle products includes 961,000 “internet expense” licences, 250,000 for three separate for human resources licences, and 100,000 payroll licences, according to a Freedom of Information response.

The FOI request was directed to the MoJ's headquarters, which has around 3,000 staff. But even if those licences included every single member of staff employed by the MoJ and its agencies, that would still total 33 licences per head across its 70,000 staff. That suggests the department could be paying for more licences than it needs. The MoJ refused to disclose how much in total it was splashing on Oracle – citing "commercial confidentiality."

However, it is not the only department to have an apparent glut of licences. The department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs also has 2,000,000 Oracle licences. As a smaller department, that works out at 200 per head.

The MoJ transferred its people, services and IT to the Cabinet Office-run shared services centre in November last year, following its own botched attempt to build an ERP shared services centre for £56m. However, an FOI response sent to The Register revealed there had been no licensing cost savings yet to be associated with the move.

The licences themselves are held in perpetuity so never actually expire themselves, said the MoJ. However, it said its Technology Oracle Support and Maintenance Shared Services Oracle Support contracts will expire in April 2016. The MoJ said it hopes to save £100m over the lifetime of the shared services centre contract. But it is unclear if the centre has, so far, made any significant savings for the government. 

Earlier this month The Register revealed that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills had a change of heart about moving to the Steria centre, embarrassingly citing the costs and risks of the project as "no longer viable".

One government insider remarked that Oracle is known to be "extreme in its defence of existing licensing agreements and in stopping any flexibility."

The article triggered a number of comments, including:-

Weird as it might be for a comparison, the comments about "commercial confidentiality" kind of remind me of a Watchdog episode involving people getting gas delivered because their town wasn't on the grid. All of them had been told they were being a discount, but that to get that discount they had to keep it confidential, and when the Watchdog guy went about asking everyone it turned out that all of them were paying more than they had to and some were paying about twice what the cheapest ones were. They just hadn't realised it because all of them were told they had to keep quiet about what they were being charged

It's larger scale, sure, but I can't help but wonder whether MoJ has been told they're getting a fantastic price for what it is and actually are being charged significantly more than other departments, they just don't know because all the departments have been told not to discuss it

Precisely - government departments should have to publish details of every deal they do so we know who is getting backhanders from who. If the vendor doesn't like their prices being published then so be it - find someone who is not too embarrassed to share their price in public. It's *OUR* money they are spending, and we (should) have a right to see where it is going.

The background to this particular bit of MoJ profligacy is this from the Channel:-

UK.gov issues internal 'ditch Oracle NOW' edict to end pricey addiction

Exclusive. Whitehall bean counters have ordered government departments to find fresh ways to end their reliance on Oracle. The Cabinet Office is understood to have formally contacted central agencies within the last month and asked them to look for ways to “get rid of Oracle".

No10 is believed to be concerned about the amount civil servants are spending on the database giant’s applications and software. A Cabinet office spokesperson told The Register: "As part of our continuing digital transformation and efficiency programmes, we regularly review technical requirements within a department to see how they may have changed."

The chief problem is the sheer number of Oracle licenses in the UK government, not just their price, although the public sector spent £290m on Oracle in 2013, according to TechMarketView. Individual IT chiefs will have their own relationship with Oracle and pay for licenses rather than re-use licenses of those within their own department.

In January The Reg reported that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), which has around 10,000 staff, was forking out for two million Oracle licenses at £155 per employee, for an annual cost of £1.3m per year. (That worked out at 200 licences per civil servant in the department.) That’s contrary to the Cabinet Office’s own guidelines of £93 on licenses, with a view to reducing that down further to £52.

Meanwhile, the mighty Home Office has tried to slash its Oracle budget by moving an ERP contract to a shared-services platform run by Steria. A Register source told us: “Nobody has a holistic view or how Oracle is used across the whole government or looking at economies of scale.”

The source described the the central communication as an “edict” that has been interpreted as an order to move away from Oracle. The trigger for the anti-Oracle edict was the end of extended support for Microsoft’s Windows XP back in 2014. The Cabinet Office negotiated a government-wide custom support agreement with Microsoft to continue building security fixes for government users.

No10 haggled Microsoft down to a price of £5.584m for tens of thousands of PCs. Microsoft’s official price was $200 per desktop for the first year, $400 for the second and $800 for year three. At the time, the Cabinet Office told The Reg this would lead to “projected savings in excess” of £20m. When it comes to Oracle, exacerbating the cost and complexity is the fact that there are so many different versions of its software that it continues to support.

It’s not clear how far this latest push to sever links will go, given the fact that past attempts to cut the dependency on Oracle and the amount of taxpayer money lavished on the giant have been foiled. When the Home Office attempted its Steria switch the bulk of its mega contract, $330m, was to remain in place until 2017.


An Oracle Unlimited License Agreement (ULA) is an arrangement in which an enterprise pays a single up-front fee to get as many licenses as they want for a specified set of Oracle products over a fixed time frame.

The most common ULA term is three years. At the end of that period, the enterprise must provide Oracle with documentation detailing the deployment of all Oracle products used. Oracle processes this information to determine the number of regular licenses to grant. For enterprises that grow during the prescribed time frame, the ULA can offer considerable cost savings compared with purchasing individual licenses up front. However, if the organization downsizes during the ULA term, it may end up overpaying for the licenses that it actually purchases in the end.

The issue of whether or not an Oracle ULA actually provides any overall benefit has given rise to controversy. The advantages of the ULA are cost savings, convenience, and simplicity. The agreements work best for companies that expect growth through normal business operations rather than through mergers and acquisitions. Oracle shops can get an array of Oracle products bundled together under one agreement and one bill, rather than a mishmash of complex licensing agreements for each product.

The drawbacks are "putting all eggs in one basket" and the need to negotiate intelligently and aggressively for favorable terms. Depending on the language in the contract, the ULA might not apply in certain situations that a careless enterprise fails to foresee, in which case the ULA does not in fact turn out to be truly unlimited in the long term.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

More on Grayling's Legacy

Following on from yesterday's powerful view from a defence solicitor, here's respected legal commentator Joshua Rozenberg writing recently in the Law Society Gazette:- 

Repairing Grayling’s damage

As the Conservatives gathered for their party conference a year ago, I commented in the Gazette on the widely held view that Chris Grayling was ‘simply the wrong person for the job’ of lord chancellor and justice secretary. That view seems to have been heeded by David Cameron.

Unlike the chancellor of the exchequer, the home secretary, the foreign secretary, the defence secretary and several other cabinet ministers, Grayling lost his high-profile department after the general election in May. Since succeeding him, Michael Gove has set about dismantling many of Grayling’s more indefensible policies.

As you might expect, the former education secretary began in July by lifting the remaining petty restrictions on prisoners reading books. Inmates can now have them sent in by family and friends and can keep more than 12 books in their cells at a time.

Also in July, the justice secretary scrapped plans to spend an estimated £85m building a huge prison in Leicestershire for 320 young offenders. Although £5.6m had already been spent on Grayling’s ‘secure college’, the Ministry of Justice said it would be a ‘mistake to press ahead with such a development when resources are so tight’.

This month, Gove announced a much-needed review of education in adult prisons. Little wonder then that the justice secretary is confident enough to speak at a meeting in November arranged by the Howard League for Penal Reform. Grayling, by contrast, tried to undermine the UK’s oldest penal reform charity last year by accusing its chief executive of supporting the Labour party.

When dismantling Grayling’s legacy, Gove ensures that discredited policies are attributed to the ‘coalition government’ or the ‘previous parliament’. That was the phrase he used to distance himself from another project that Grayling had enthusiastically promoted during his two-and-a-half years as lord chancellor. Just Solutions international (JSi) described itself as the commercial arm of the National Offender Management Service (itself an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice).

Its brochure said it specialised in providing ‘offender management products and services to overseas governments’ — such as designing new prisons. The legal blogger David Allen Green, who worked as a central government procurement lawyer from 2005 to 2007 and who has made much of the running on this story, derided JSi as ‘an exercise in amateurism and obfuscation’, which allowed MoJ officials to go round the world ‘selling their supposed expertise to foreign despotic governments’ rather than running the prison and probation services of England and Wales.

Earlier this month, Gove said he had decided that JSi should ‘cease to operate’. However, one last deal would be honoured: a project to conduct a ‘training needs analysis’ for prison service staff in Saudi Arabia. Ministers had decided that ‘withdrawing at this late stage would be detrimental to the government’s wider interests’ – quite apart from the financial penalties involved. As far as Gove was concerned, though, there would be no more commercial work for foreign governments.

On legal aid, the justice secretary still has a long way to go. But at least he got the parties talking. Answering MPs’ questions this month, he thanked ‘the leadership of the criminal solicitors’ profession and the criminal bar’. Playing down the ‘action’ they had ‘felt it necessary to take’ during the summer, he praised their ‘constructive dialogue’ with his officials.

The one policy on which Gove has not yet relented is Grayling’s criminal courts charge, under which adults convicted of offences committed after 12 April 2015 must be ordered to pay either £150 or £180 if they plead guilty at the magistrates’ court but £520 or £1,000 if they are convicted after a trial, the higher charge applying to offences that are triable ‘either-way’. In the Crown court, you pay £900 for a guilty plea or £1,200 after a trial. The charge, which disincentivises putting the prosecution to proof, is in addition to fines, compensation orders and costs.

Gove promised MPs that the charge would be reviewed. But I am told that this was no concession: he was referring to the review he is required by statute to carry out after three years. He also claimed that the ‘payment of the charge in due course should be linked to the offender’s means’.

That was an apparent reference to the court’s power to cancel a charge if a convicted person has taken all reasonable steps to pay or if collection is impracticable. But you cannot even apply for a charge to be cancelled until two years after your most recent conviction. And who pays for the paperwork?

Gove may not be too worried by reports that more than 50 magistrates have resigned over the charge. But what should concern him is that this is another ineffective Grayling legacy that is wrong in principle and costly in practice.


Here's an article in the Independent outlining the lengths some sentencers are going to in avoiding the dreaded new tax:-

Magistrates let guilty petty criminals off without punishment to protect them from 'tax on justice'

Magistrates across England and Wales are letting guilty petty criminals off with no punishment in order to protect them from controversial new court fees, The Independent has learnt. They are increasingly resorting to a little-known sentencing option called an absolute discharge which registers guilt but hands out no punishment – effectively letting the criminal off.

Since it was introduced earlier this year, the Criminal Courts Charge has prompted a judicial revolt with around 50 magistrates resigning and several judges lambasting it from the bench. In recent weeks, The Independent has reported on growing opposition within the criminal justice system to the new levy, which some say amounts to a “tax on justice”.

The charge is payable by anyone found guilty of a crime in addition to any fines or costs. It is not means-tested or adjusted according to the seriousness of the crime. In the magistrates’ court it is fixed at £150 if someone pleads guilty, but it can rise to £1,000 if they are found guilty.

New figures suggest that more than £5m has already been billed to people under the new court charge in its first three months – and that less than £300,000 of it has been collected. Magistrates have no discretion over how much someone has to pay in court charges if they are punished for their crime. But if they grant an absolute discharge then no punishment is given and poorer defendants are protected from paying over the odds for minor offences.

Normally even minor crimes are subject to a conditional discharge, meaning that a punishment could be meted out if they reoffend within a A Berkshire magistrate gave a 51-year-old man on disability benefits an absolute discharge earlier this month after he was caught with around £5 worth of cannabis at home.

The defending solicitor, Mike Davis, had argued: “If you give him a conditional discharge he will still have to pay the £150 criminal courts charge – that’s an awful lot for a tiny amount of cannabis. If you were to give him an absolute discharge he wouldn’t have to pay it.” The presiding magistrate, Robert Lynch, agreed to the recommendation. “That’s only the second time in 10 years I’ve done that,” Mr Lynch said. A judicial source abreast of the picture across England and Wales said: “We’re seeing this a lot. Effectively this is magistrates being creative with their sentencing in order to avoid the charge. It’s always for low level harmless stuff. It’s happening around the country. We expect this to increase as the cycle of trials subject to the charge continues to kick in.”

Mr Davis, the defending solicitor in the Berkshire case, said he and solicitors across the county had started arguing for absolute discharges with increased success since the Criminal Courts Charge was introduced in April. “Generally it’s because it’s low level crime that would normally merit a conditional discharge but the defendant’s circumstances are such that they can’t pay [the court fees]. Previously I hadn’t asked for an absolute discharge in 20 years because it would have had to be a pretty exceptional case. But since the charges came in I’ve used the argument about five times to avoid disproportionate cost - and it’s worked twice.”

The new levy was introduced in April by the former Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, to make criminals pay for the upkeep of the courts. Campaigners hope his successor, Michael Gove, will consider scrapping the measure as evidence grows that it unfairly penalises those whose crimes are very minor and motivated by poverty.

The defending solicitor, Mike Davis, had argued: “If you give him a conditional discharge he will still have to pay the £150 criminal courts charge – that’s an awful lot for a tiny amount of cannabis. If you were to give him an absolute discharge he wouldn’t have to pay it.” The presiding magistrate, Robert Lynch, agreed to the recommendation. “That’s only the second time in 10 years I’ve done that,” Mr Lynch said. A judicial source abreast of the picture across England and Wales said: “We’re seeing this a lot. Effectively this is magistrates being creative with their sentencing in order to avoid the charge. It’s always for low level harmless stuff. It’s happening around the country. We expect this to increase as the cycle of trials subject to the charge continues to kick in.”

Mr Davis, the defending solicitor in the Berkshire case, said he and solicitors across the county had started arguing for absolute discharges with increased success since the Criminal Courts Charge was introduced in April. “Generally it’s because it’s low level crime that would normally merit a conditional discharge but the defendant’s circumstances are such that they can’t pay [the court fees]. Previously I hadn’t asked for an absolute discharge in 20 years because it would have had to be a pretty exceptional case. But since the charges came in I’ve used the argument about five times to avoid disproportionate cost - and it’s worked twice.”

The new levy was introduced in April by the former Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, to make criminals pay for the upkeep of the courts. Campaigners hope his successor, Michael Gove, will consider scrapping the measure as evidence grows that it unfairly penalises those whose crimes are very minor and motivated by poverty.

The Magistrates Association is calling for an urgent review of the policy, saying the poorest defendants are being encouraged to plead guilty to crimes they did not commit out of fear they will face crippling costs if they later lose their case.

The Government is also accused of burying the latest figures on the scale of courts charges handed out - and how few have actually been collected. When it published a list of all fees imposed and collected by courts it failed to separate out the Criminal Courts Charge. Instead it was lumped in with obscure court fees in the ‘other’ category.

Ms Crook of the Howard League said she was disappointed to see no individual figures on the charge. In the first quarter of this year just £744,000 was collated in the ‘other’ category. The only new addition to this category in April was the Criminal Courts Charge, causing the total charged in the next quarter to jump to £6.4m. Yet the amount of collected within one month was just £326,000.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “It is right that convicted adult offenders who use our criminal courts should pay towards the cost of running them. The legislation and guidelines to magistrates and judges make it crystal clear that the charge is separate to the sentence and should not be considered as a mitigating factor. “It was not possible to provide separate figures on the charge which met the data quality standards required in time for this publication. More detailed figures will be published in due course.”

Legal definition: Absolute discharge

Although the “absolute discharge” has always been an option for magistrates it was previously only used in very rare exceptional circumstances. It means that the court acknowledges a person is guilty but decides to give out no punishment at all.

It is useful in avoiding the Criminal Courts Charge as although the defendant still gets a criminal record, they are not subject to any fees, or other penalties. Previously magistrates preferred to give a “conditional discharge” to those convicted of petty wrongdoing, which means they will face punishment if they re-offend within a set period.

Judicial anger at the Criminal Courts Charge

A Leicester judge became the latest judicial figure to speak out against the Criminal Courts Charge this week, saying he does not think it has “any merit”. Recorder Timothy Raggatt QC made the comments in Leicester Crown Court when jailing an unemployed man for 10 weeks for possessing a knife.

Having been told defendant Moz Johnson did “not have any money,” Mr Raggatt said he did not want to impose the mandatory £900 criminal courts charge. “I will make the order only because it’s down to statute and not because I think it has any merit,” he said. “Those who impose these things may have the responsibility of collecting it and whether or not they can achieve anything is a moot point. I wonder how much that will cost the country in terms of administration?”

He is not the first judge to speak out about the charge. Judge Christopher Harvey Clark, QC, lambasted it while sentencing in Truro Crown Court last month. He said: “The charge has no bearing on your ability to pay. It is totally inappropriate for people of no means to have to pay this charge. It happens to be Government policy but as an independent judge I regard it as extremely unfair and, although I have to impose it, I do so with immense reluctance.”