Probation cuts could spell risks to public safety, Northamptonshire campaigners claim

Probation officers protesting outside Northampton Magistrates' Court
Probation officers protesting outside Northampton Magistrates' Court

Cuts to probation services could put offenders and the public at greater risk, protesters have said.

During a march from the Northamptonshire Probation Trust head office in Bridge Street to the Magistrate’s and Crown courts in Northampton today, probation officers said proposed Government cuts to probation services will damage the relationship between officers and offenders and jeopardise the rehabilitation progress.

Members of the National Association of Probation Officers (Napo) and the Justice Alliance were particularly concerned with the privatisation of probation services.

One Northampton probation officer, Karen Steele, said: “Working in the private sector will mean I am no longer qualified to do aspects of my job which I am already trained for, such as working with high-risk offenders.

“I feel very demoralised, like skills that I have worked hard to develop over the years have been ripped out of my hands.

“A lot of offenders are vulnerable and it takes time to build a rapport with their officers and make progress. Interference with rehabilitation on this scale will have a very negative effect and increase the risk for criminals and victims of crime.”

Privatisation has already led to case transfers of up to 50 per cent from probation officers, many of whom have spent years been building a rapport and support with defendants.

Campaigners have also suggested that such cuts could lead to prison sentences being given more readily by judges as probation services would be used only for those given severe sentences.

Probation officer and chair of Napo Northampton, Lesley Donoghue, said: “There are all sorts of unforseen consequences to these cuts that will cost the taxpayer more in the long run. Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has yet to even state how much all these proposed cuts are supposed to save.”

All UK Probation Trusts will dissolve on June 1, dividing officers into public workers and private Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) employees until shares are sold later in the year.