New probation services 'losing offenders'

Prison officer seen through bars Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption London was the worst area HM Inspectorate of Probation had inspected this year

A new probation system has lost some offenders while others have not been seen for months, a report has found.

The HM Inspectorate of Probation report said the new system is putting the public at "undue risk".

Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRC) took over monitoring medium and low-risk offenders in 2014.

MTCnovo, the firm running the London CRC which inspectors called the "worst area", said it has made "significant progress" since the inspection.

The Chief Inspector of Probation Dame Glenys Stacey said probation services in London had deteriorated in the last two years.

'More at risk'

MTCnovo is the largest of the 21 companies set up when probation services were split between the National Probation Service and CRCs.

It supervises 28,750 offenders across north London.

The report blamed a combination of unmanageable caseloads, inexperienced officers, poor oversight and a lack of senior management focus and control.

The assessment of risk of harm posed to others, and subsequent planning, was not carried out well enough in more than half of the cases inspected, it said.

Analysis: Danny Shaw BBC home affairs correspondent:

This is the most scathing assessment yet of the impact of the government's probation reforms, which were driven through at speed by Chris Grayling when he was Justice Secretary.

Although there were flaws with offender supervision in London under the previous system, the changes appear to have made matters worse.

At the heart of the problems is a lack of staff. Vacancies are running at 20%, there are high levels of sickness and too many inexperienced probation officers. Some are overseeing as many as 900 cases - no wonder some offenders slip through the net.

However, Liz Truss, the new Justice Secretary, has recognised the problems and is reviewing the entire probation system - as well as the contracts signed off by her predecessor but one.

In one case a man with a long history of offending was recalled to prison following an allegation of domestic abuse, before being re-released subject to post-sentence supervision.

"There was no assessment in place of the risk of future domestic abuse and no flag on the database identifying him as a domestic abuse perpetrator," the report said, adding: "It was not clear where he was currently living and whether or not he was living with a partner."

Dame Glenys said: "Services are now well below what people rightly expect, and the city is more at risk as a result."

The government was carrying out a comprehensive review of the probation system, Justice Minister Sam Gyimah said.

Helga Swidenbank, director of probation at MTCnovo, said the company had already introduced a plan which addressed the recommendations made in the report.

She added only 40 cases were inspected, just 0.13%, of London CRC's caseload.

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