Winston Roddick seeks probation service shake-up assurances

Prison The final changes to the probation service are expected to be set out later this year

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Assurances are being sought that the public will not be put at risk by a shake-up of the probation service.

North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Winston Roddick QC made his comments as the UK government wants to move supervising low risk offenders into the private sector.

Under the plans security firms and voluntary groups could manage probation on a "payment by results" basis.

Mr Roddick said the job skills needed could not be bought off the shelf.

The former senior legal adviser to the Welsh assembly explained that judges consider probation reports before sentencing a convicted criminal on the likelihood that they could reoffend and the risk they pose to the public.

As a barrister and former court recorder he said he vouched for the quality of the current probation service and the experience of its staff.

Start Quote

Winston Roddick QC

...can those who have the care of the offender on probation reassure the public that the risk of reoffending and harm to the public be minimised and well managed?”

End Quote Winston Roddick QC North Wales police and crime commisioner

The National Association of Probation Officers (Napo) has also voiced its concerns, saying up to 750 jobs could be put at risk in Wales.

Mr Roddick told BBC Radio Wales: "If you are supervising somebody who is a bit problem and the threat of reoffending is higher than low then you do really need someone of experience.

"I'm hoping that the Ministry of Justice will answer these concerns namely, can those who have the care of the offender on probation reassure the public that the risk of reoffending and harm to the public be minimised and well managed?"

Most released prisoners and people serving community sentences are currently managed by the public sector probation service - provided by 35 probation trusts across England and Wales.

'Madness'

But under the Ministry of Justice's proposals - which are subject to a six-week consultation period - responsibility for monitoring some 200,000 medium and low risk offenders will be transferred from 35 local trusts to the private sector.

Private companies and charitable bodies successfully bidding for probation contracts will be paid according to the results they achieve in cutting re-offending.

However, the public probation service will continue to supervise some 50,000 high-risk offenders, including all serious violent and sexual offenders.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said: "What we do at the moment is send people out of prison with £46 in their pocket, and no support at all.

"No wonder we have such high levels of reoffending. It is madness to carry on with the same old system and hope for a different result."

Under the proposals, a nationwide Justice Data Lab will also be established to help rehabilitation organisations access data on reoffending.

And the government will offer £500,000 to voluntary and community sector groups to help them as they prepare to bid for probation contracts.

In 2011, a record number of offenders sentenced for serious crimes were found to have committed previous offences, according to government figures.

The final changes to the probation service are expected to be set out later this year and implemented by the spring of 2015.

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