Napo Magazine - The Trade Union, Professional Association and campaigning organisation for Probation and Family Court staff news.

Lies and more lies?

The ECSL scheme has attracted further attention in the media and in Parliament this week, including being the focus of exchanges between Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer at Prime Minister’s Questions. But was everything that was said true?

Members will be aware that HMPPS’s End of Custody Supervised Licence (ECSL) scheme has attracted further attention in the media and in Parliament this week, including being the focus of exchanges between Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer at Prime Minister’s Questions.

Those of us with any experience of the ECSL will have struggled to recognise the scheme as described by the Prime Minister (as detailed in the Parliamentary record – Engagements – Hansard – UK Parliament).

“There are strict eligibility criteria in place, with exclusions based on public safety. No one would be put on the scheme if they were deemed a threat to public safety.“

“Let me be crystal clear: no one would be put on the scheme if they were deemed a threat to the public.”

“Offenders are subject to the toughest of licensing conditions and, if those conditions are broken, they are back in prison for considerably longer.”

“As I said, no one should be put on the scheme if they are a threat to the public.”

The true story

To be crystal clear, these statements are inaccurate and Napo members across England and Wales can cite hundreds of examples since the ECSL scheme was launched in October 2023 to evidence this.

Whether the Prime Minister deliberately lied to Parliament depends on how well he was advised on ECSL before he stood up in the House of Commons and started speaking. It may well be the case that, rather than being an outright liar, he simply hasn’t got a clue what he’s talking about and just parroted out whatever nonsense was written down in his briefing papers.

The problem for HMPPS is that this isn’t the first time that a Government minister has made inaccurate statements about ECSL.

In what seems to be the most recent written Ministerial Statement on ECSL, dated the 11th of March 2024, – https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-statements/detail/2024-03-11/hcws332 – Alex Chalk (Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice) made these comments.

“We will also extend the existing end of custody supervised licence measure to around 35-60 days.”

“This will only be for certain low level offenders.”

Napo believe the truth is being stretched beyond breaking point on the question of whether “around…35-60 days” covers the Government’s recent extension of ECSL to 70 days. Of even greater concern is the outrageous claim the scheme is restricted only to a select group of “low level offenders”. Again, on this latter point, Napo members across England and Wales have first-hand experience that this simply isn’t true – and has never been the case – and that HMPPS senior leaders, at HQ as well as in each Probation Region and Prison Group, know this just as well as we do.

HMPPS is quick to threaten its workforce with the consequences of breaches of the Civil Service Code (The Civil Service code – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)), and all too often bend over backwards to spuriously include it in disciplinary allegations against individual members of staff. The question from Napo for HMPPS senior leaders is, in line with the Code and its expectations on ‘honesty’ and ‘integrity’, what they’ve done to make clear to these Ministers they’ve misled Parliament and the public about the ECSL scheme? Unless they act – evidenced by the Prime Minister and the Lord Chancellor going on to correct the Parliamentary record – this looks a lot like yet another case of HMPPS having one set of rules for front-line staff and another for its senior leaders.

Next steps in our campaign

Napo continues to maintain contact with figures in Parliament and the media as we’ve set out in previous mailouts about ECSL, as well as having ongoing meetings with HMPPS on the issue. Yesterday the Napo General Secretary was interviewed by Sky News who have afforded extensive coverage of the Prisons crisis see the interview below.

 

It remains vital for members to continue to keep us updated with their experiences of this ECSL – without including confidential or sensitive information on the individuals released under the scheme – as we have used these in the work Napo has undertaken in publicising our concerns. We want to again extend our thanks to members who have been in contact with us to this point, it’s very much appreciated.

Please contact your Link Officials and Officers or use the following email address if you want to share any of these experiences with us as your trade union representatives info@napo.org.uk

3 Responses

  1. Senior leadership, ministers and the PM are acting without any honesty and integrity. High and very high risk individuals are being released on ECSL. Probation officers can show evidence of this across the country. It is an absolute disgrace and multiple SFO’s waiting to happen. I’m ashamed to be associated with this right now.

  2. I received an HDC notification on 07/05/2024 on a very high risk DV offender and the plan was to release him on 14/05/2024 to an address which was unsuitable and had not be checked. I had not been asked to check this either. He was also assessed as high risk of serious harm to the public as well as children and had been sent to prison in 2022 for very serious violence against his partner.

    However on release in 2023 he then breached his licence by contacting his by now ex partner whom he was stalking and he beat her up twice. He was recalled and then went AWOL but was eventually apprehended and sentenced to another term of imprisonment for ABH in February 2024.

    I was able to prevent release on the 14th May but today received a notification that his release under ECSL on 05/06/2024 was being considered . I find this astonishing given the history and risk level of this offender

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