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General Secretary's Blog - THE TROUBLE IS...
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They just don't get it. For having returned from listening to yet another 'same old, same old' keynote speech from Police and Justice Minister Damien Green (which had a remarkable similarity to those of his predecessors), I could not help feeling that we have an Administration that thinks they know the price of everything but in reality have no idea of well, the value of much at all really.

Fair cop to Damien who, as I pointed out to him in the open debate that followed, at least had the good grace to mention the Probation Service once in his address but also had a bit of a dig at the many 'vested interests' who oppose the 'Transforming Justice' and his own 'More for Less' project reforms. These essentially expect the battered and bruised Criminal Justice System to markedly reduce the time between the offence and the sentence overnight.

So, another 'new' Criminal Justice Board is to be formed; along with more joined up sentencing, extensive use of video conferencing by the police and other agencies, and all the other things that yes, we have all heard before.

But oddly enough no mention by the Minister of the deleterious impact of further Court closures, the decimation of support and interpretation services, staff not getting the time they need to produce high quality reports, and an over reliance on Oral reports for the Speedy Justice Courts that are regularly demanded of our practitioners. Add to this mix the 'Early Guilty Plea' scheme, on which many Napo members tell me the Jury is out in terms of its effectiveness, and the propensity of private companies to sometimes deliver the defendant or those due for sentencing, to the right place at the right time or even the right day for that matter. Not exactly progress is it?

Agreement reached on the Rehabilitation Agenda

Don't get too excited. I am talking about the one piece of common ground between Napo, and our sister Unions and the Prisons and Rehabilitation Minister Jeremy Wright, whom we saw again last week.

It was a constructive meeting which featured some pretty robust exchanges where we wasted no time in telling Jeremy how his proposals, (to which Napo is submitting an excellent response alongside many others) have whipped up a firestorm of opposition from unions, parliamentarians, professional associations, community groups and individual members of the public.

That we all recognise the need to assist the under-12 month custodial community is beyond doubt; but there is a huge ideological gap between the Government and ourselves as to how this will best be achieved. Napo argued strongly that early public investment in this group would pay massive medium to long term dividends if the Probation Service was allowed to design the requisite intervention schemes and have the up front resources which would ensure that the majority of the under-12 month custodial community did not appear on our books further down the line.

We also said that this 'reverse PBR' process surely represents better value to the taxpayer than Chris Graylings ill-considered social experiment, where the rehabilitation of this critical grouping is to be placed in the hands of untrained, untried and more often than not, already proven to be unworthy, private companies.

Ministerial meetings are just a small component of Napo's vibrant fight back against the Transforming Rehabilitation plans, so do look out for more news about these and the huge amount of activity being undertaken by Napo Branches and the Chivalry Road team in the Napo Campaign Blog over the next two days.

Ian Lawrence

Edited: 21/02/2013 at 11:07 AM by IanLawrence

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