Grayling un­der fire as crimes com­mit­ted on pa­role soar

Min­is­ter’s pro­ba­tion re­forms have led to 50% rise in se­ri­ous of­fences

The Observer - - News - Jamie Doward

The num­ber of rapes, mur­ders and other se­ri­ous crimes com­mit­ted by of­fend­ers on pa­role has risen by more than 50% since re­forms to pro­ba­tion were in­tro­duced four years ago, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial data that has trig­gered calls for the gov­ern­ment to re­think its plans for an­other shake-up of the ser­vice.

Se­ri­ous fur­ther of­fence re­views – which take place when a con­victed of­fender un­der su­per­vi­sion is charged with an­other se­ri­ous of­fence (SFO) – rose from 409 in the year be­fore the 2014 re­forms to 627 in the 12 months up to last April.

The new fig­ures for Eng­land and Wales – which were shared with Plaid Cymru’s jus­tice spokes­woman, Liz Sav­ille Roberts – come as it emerges that coro­ners have taken the highly un­usual de­ci­sion to re­open in­quests into three peo­ple killed by of­fend­ers un­der su­per­vi­sion, a move that is ex­pected to ex­pose sys­temic flaws in the pro­ba­tion ser­vice.

The prob­lems are blamed on for­mer jus­tice sec­re­tary Chris Grayling’s re­form pro­gramme, which saw some pro­ba­tion work out­sourced to eight pri­vate providers, who were given re­spon­si­bil­ity for run­ning 21 com­mu­nity re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion com­pa­nies work­ing with low and medium risk of­fend­ers.

“Since the pri­vate con­tracts were let there have been staff cuts of up to 30%, of­fices have been merged and the qual­ity of su­per­vi­sion has fallen sharply,” said Harry Fletcher of the Vic­tims’ Rights Cam­paign.

Ian Lawrence, gen­eral sec­re­tary of the pro­ba­tion union, Napo, said there was a “clear cor­re­la­tion” be­tween the in­crease and the re­forms, which he blamed on in­creased work­loads, low morale and chronic staff short­ages which have left the Na­tional Pro­ba­tion Ser­vice with more than 1,000 va­can­cies. “There will be fur­ther se­ri­ous of­fences what­ever sys­tem you run but we think the frag­men­ta­tion of the ser­vice has been a se­ri­ous fac­tor in the in­crease in SFOs,” he said.

A min­istry of jus­tice spokes­woman said the re­forms “had ex­tended pro­ba­tion su­per­vi­sion to around 40,000 ex­tra of­fend­ers each year” and there­fore “anal­y­sis of the num­ber of of­fences does not pro­vide a like-for­like com­par­i­son”.

The Ob­server has learned that any lapses in the su­per­vi­sion of se­ri­ous of­fend­ers are set to be ex­am­ined in court fol­low­ing a de­ci­sion to re­open in­quests into the deaths of three peo­ple who were killed by of­fend­ers un­der su­per­vi­sion.

As a re­sult, pre­vi­ously con­fi­den­tial doc­u­ments, in­clud­ing se­ri­ous case re­views and risk as­sess­ments, will be shared with the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies.

Alex Mal­colm, five, died in 2016, af­ter be­ing at­tacked by Marvyn Iheana­cho who was in a re­la­tion­ship with his mother. Iheana­cho had been con­victed of at­tacks on pre­vi­ous part­ners and chil­dren. A con­di­tion of his su­per­vi­sion was that he was not to be left alone with a child.

Lisa Skid­more was raped and mur­dered in 2016 by Leroy Camp­bell, a reg­is­tered sex of­fender who was un­der su­per­vi­sion on pro­ba­tion. A re­view re­vealed that six weeks be­fore he killed Skid­more, Camp­bell had told his pro­ba­tion of­fi­cer he was hav­ing feel­ings that were “trou­bling him” and men­tioned rape.

Con­ner Mar­shall, 18, was beaten to death by David Brad­don in south Wales in 2015. Brad­don, who had taken a cock­tail of drugs and al­co­hol, had missed eight sep­a­rate pro­ba­tion ap­point­ments in the weeks lead­ing up to the at­tack.

The coro­ners have agreed to re­sume the in­quests so that les­sons can be learned to pre­vent fu­ture deaths and be­cause, it is ar­gued, the state may have failed in its duty to safe­guard the right to life.

Amid signs the sys­tem is strug­gling, the gov­ern­ment is end­ing the con­tracts for the eight pri­vate providers two years early and re­duc­ing the num­ber of com­mu­nity re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion com­pa­nies from 21 to 10. It is also spend­ing £22m im­prov­ing sup­port for ex-of­fend­ers.

Sav­ille Roberts ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of “wil­fully wreck­ing the hu­man­i­tar­ian prin­ci­ple of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion” and called for more pro­ba­tion ser­vices to be re­turned to gov­ern­ment con­trol. A coali­tion com­pris­ing the pro­ba­tion trade unions, the Pro­ba­tion In­sti­tute, the Howard League, the Cen­tre for Crime and Jus­tice Stud­ies, and the Cen­tre for Jus­tice In­no­va­tion have writ­ten to the jus­tice sec­re­tary, David Gauke, urg­ing him not to rush into re­tender­ing the con­tracts un­til a thor­ough re­view of the pro­ba­tion ser­vice has been con­ducted.

Alex Mal­colm, five, was killed by his mother’s part­ner who had been re­leased on pa­role.

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