Panorama - Napo's Position

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Many people will have watched last night’s Panorama programme and be left feeling angry, anxious, saddened and undervalued.
The footage shown was only a tiny reflection of what would have been recorded by the undercover reporter during their time at Fleming House, and so necessarily has been subject to significant editing. That said, we can’t avoid what appears in the footage to be some individuals doing and saying things that were difficult to watch, no doubt most of all for them and their immediate colleagues.
But an issue seems to be that the undercover reporter, and the production company involved in making the programme, didn’t seem to at all understand some important issues related to the nature and purpose of Approved Premises and the wider work of Probation. Also, the failings of others – such as the ‘tagging’ company involved and the Police – were attributed to us and examples of normal working practice were misunderstood and misrepresented. If Napo had been approached before the programme had been broadcast we’d have been able to help them make a better-informed programme. Instead, we got the ‘expert opinion’ of someone who, before they retired almost a decade and a half ago, spent the vast majority of their career in the Prison Service, and has no front-line Probation experience.
The pity of it is that there were so many themes that were raised by the programme that we’d completely agree with, and which we’ve been raising for years at every opportunity with Ministers, HMPPS, the media and campaigning groups. Examples of this include; the devastating impact on us and our families and friends from the impact on our mental and physical health of working in Probation; the ongoing harm caused by ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’; the impact of years of public sector cuts and the inadequate funding of Probation compared to other parts of HMPPS and the wider criminal justice system; the true nature of the work that we do and how vital it is in our communities. Unfortunately, because of the confused and misinformed approach of the programme, these could be lost and the opportunity to properly publicise these wasted, made even worse by the fact that it was by luck scheduled for broadcast on the first full day of a general election campaign.
In the coming days we will see what further response HMPPS have to this programme. Even at the earliest stage of our contact with them this week Napo have raised the issue of what appears to be an abject failure in their staff vetting processes to enable this undercover reporter to spend, by their own account, 6 weeks as an HMPPS employee. Similarly, we have questions for HMPPS over the use of covert surveillance, data protection breaches – including the naming of some residents and use of unpixellated images – and the potential for fraud that appear to have occurred in the making of this programme. Napo believe that the BBC, and the production company involved, have more serious questions to answer. Their idiotic and reckless decision to broadcast information that could help some people better avoid detection for the preparation or commission of sexual offences is completely baffling. While Panorama asked ‘Can Probation Keep Us Safe?’ there is no question that in doing this they have endangered members of the public.
As discussed, Napo has been in contact with the employer in anticipation of the programme to seek assurances from senior leaders on support offered to staff going forward as well as a full review to find out how this situation could have happened.
Please do check on your colleagues and if you have concerns speak to Napo either locally or via your National Link Officer and Official. If you or your fellow members have been impacted by this because you work at Fleming House or undertake sessional work there please contact your local Branch on or contact the Chair directly on Napo will provide further updates in due course.