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Norwich protest over probation service changes

PUBLISHED: 20:44 30 May 2014 | UPDATED: 20:44 30 May 2014

Protestors campaigning against the privatisation of the probation service. Photo: Steve Adams

Protestors campaigning against the privatisation of the probation service. Photo: Steve Adams

Probation workers in Norfolk marked the last working day of the 107-year-old Probation Service with a day of action highlighting their campaign to protect the service from privatisation.

Government reforms to probation has seen 70pc of the service sold off to private companies and the voluntary sector.

Some 21 new community rehabilitation companies have been formed to deal with medium and low-risk offenders, while a new National Probation Service will be tasked with protecting the public from the most high-risk offenders.

Justice secretary Chris Grayling has said the reforms were needed to cut costs and reduce reoffending.

He said the current system means only about 25pc of probation time is spent working with offenders, while change is needed because offenders sentenced to less than 12 months got no supervision at all.

But members of UNISON, NAPO (National Association of Probation Officers) and GMB unions, joined councillors and politicians to hold a lunchtime protest outside the Norfolk and Suffolk Probation office in Norwich’s Palace Street yesterday. UNISON national officer Ben Priestley said: “None of the government’s proposed reforms has the support of probation workers, or the justice community, because they are unnecessary, costly, bureaucratic and unsafe.

“Behind the complicated reform agenda hides a sting in the tail – big cuts to probation budgets.

“Reduced budgets would mean that the private sector, which is being asked to bid to run the community rehabilitation companies, is being sold to companies under false pretences.”

Jess Asato, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Norwich North, said: “The privatisation of the probation service is nothing short of opening a can of worms.

“Due to the patchy nature of the sell-off it means that there are far more wide reaching consequences to putting an individual in a high/medium/low risk category.

“For example, cases of domestic and sexual violence will be treated as medium risk as the offender only poses a threat to the victim, not the public.

“This does nothing to address victim safety. There is no evidence that payment by results will increase the likelihood of an offender managing to rehabilitate themselves.”

What do you think of the changes? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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