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

Parole Board changes by Secretary of State subject to a significant legal challenge

Secretary of State’s plans to interfere in the professional practice of Probation staff was dealt a significant – and possibly fatal – blow.

As members may be aware, yesterday at the High Court the Secretary of State’s plans to interfere in the professional practice of Probation staff in relation to the evidence we provide the Parole Board was dealt a significant – and possibly fatal – blow. As part of a wider application it was argued that the attempt to limit what evidence staff can provide in Oral Hearings was unlawful. The Judge hearing the application commented that HMPPS guidance on this issue represented “a blatant interference” in the process and that they were “persuaded that in respect of that guidance there is a real prospect that the court will order that it be quashed”.

Napo notes with considerable concern that reference is made in the judgement that during the hearing itself, HMPPS were farcically attempting to rewrite the guidance they have issued to staff to avoid an adverse outcome; it is apparent the employer continues to repeat the same mistakes by excluding the trade unions from this redrafting process when we have agreed to take part in a joint working party, set up following our high level representations last week.

The concern we have is that the current position from today, and increasingly so as news of this judgement becomes more widely known across the criminal justice system, is that individual Probation staff are being left in a horribly exposed position as a result of the grossly incompetent manner in which these changes have been devised, implemented and communicated by HMPPS and MoJ. We have made very clear in the frank communications we have had with HMPPS immediately on news of this judgement breaking, that our members must see a significantly greater quality of leadership from those in the HMPPS responsible for implementing this mess. In our view what’s required is an immediate, clear and decisive direction from HMPPS centrally that is open and honest with all staff, while addressing the issues with the guidance that have been so clearly reinforced by this judgement. At this stage it’s clear to us that the guidance in whole should be suspended until these legal issues are resolved, with Probation staff returning to be able to respond freely and fully in making recommendations to the Parole Board and answering relevant questions addressed to them in Oral Hearings.

Napo have been very clear and consistent in discussions with HMPPS that this was an entirely foreseeable outcome of the changes they have imposed. We will continue to represent the views of members in fighting for our professional integrity and attempting to resolve the position that members have been put in by the HMPPS and ultimately the Secretary of State for Justice. Members who feel vulnerable about their personal situation in any upcoming Parole Board hearings should seek support from their line manager in the first instance as we understand that urgent advice is to be distributed by HMPPS. We have also demanded sight of this but still await a reply.

Please find a link to a communication from the Barristers Chambers, which includes a link to the judgement itself. Members will note that the communication includes reference, and a link, to the letter that Napo and the other trade unions recently sent to the Secretary of State to raise our concerns over the wider changes imposed by them.

No5 Barristers Chambers – High Court protects right of parole Board to obtain evidence unhindered by Secretary of State | No5 Barristers’ Chambers

As you would expect, Napo will be consulting with our own Legal representatives to seek a view in light of the judgement. More news will follow as soon as it is available about the next steps that MoJ and HMPPS intend to take, so it would be appreciated if members could refrain from contacting Napo HQ directly at this time.

We want to hear your views. Use the comment section below. This will be regularly reviewed by National Officer Ben Cockburn who is leading for Napo on this issue.


One Response

  1. I don’t see what the point is of taking time to evaluate risk in numerous areas , but not being thought professional enough to give a recommendation. And it is just a recommendation, the Parole are at liberty to make their own mind up after to taking into account everything in the dossier.It seems to me that it s part of some political ideology on the part of the Tory party rather than anything to do with risk , which completely contradicts their policy of a small state and not being interventionist. In my opinion it’s a power play , that has not been researched and evaluated as it should be.

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