Thursday, January 31, 2008


This report in The Times will come as no surprise to many magistrates. It is an open secret that the administration of community sentences is, at best, patchy. I have a lot of sympathy for Probation staff; they have been buggered about for a decade or more, with their philosophy going through a 180-degree turn from 'advise, assist, befriend' to becoming a part of the punitive system. Kept perennially short of resources, reorganised time after time, it is a miracle that the organisation functions at all. The chaos is exemplified by the fact that I have a National Offender Management Service giveaway pen that has lasted longer than NOMS itself did.
One of the things that arouses my suspicions about the operation of community punishments is the fact that despite many requests I have been unable to arrange a visit to a project for fifteen years. Other magistrates tell the same tale.
A workable system of punishment in the community is essential to the adminstration of justice (I can visualise certain police officers wincing when they read this). The Probation Service needs our support. They also need the Government's support, and the best way to give that will be to fund them properly and then leave them alone to get on with the job.

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