Probation officers could be putting the public at risk by working from home, watchdog warns
- Probation officers could be putting public at risk working from home remotely
- Comes after series of cases in which blunders by officers led to horrific crimes
Probation officers are potentially putting the public at risk by continuing to work from home, a watchdog has warned.
Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell pin-pointed remote working as a key factor in poor performance and warned it had led to face-to-face rushed assessments of criminals.
Publishing his annual report, Mr Russell said the Probation Service’s policy requiring staff to come into work only three days a week was contributing to ‘very disappointing’ performance.
The study found management oversight of probation officers’ work was ‘insufficient’ in 72 per cent of cases, meaning ‘mistakes are being missed’.
The risk posed to the public by offenders was only assessed accurately in a third of cases, with the service showing ‘consistently poor’ performance, it said.
Sexual predator Jordan McSweeney was left free to kill aspiring lawyer Zara Aleena in June last year after being wrongly assessed as a ‘medium risk’
Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell pin-pointed remote working as a key factor in poor performance
The report comes after a series of cases in which blunders by probation officers led to horrific crimes.
Sexual predator Jordan McSweeney was left free to kill aspiring lawyer Zara Aleena in June last year after being wrongly assessed as a ‘medium risk’ case rather than ‘high risk’.
Blunders left predator free to murder
A sexual predator described as a ‘ticking timebomb’ was left free to kill a law graduate due to a catalogue of blunders by probation staff.
Jordan McSweeney murdered Zara Aleena, 35, while she was walking home from a night out with friends.
The 29-year-old had been released on licence from prison nine days before committing the murder in Ilford, east London, in June last year.
A review found McSweeney should have been recalled to prison six days before the attack and could have been back in his cell by the time of the murder if probation staff had followed procedures. Officials had wrongly classified McSweeney as a ‘medium-risk’ rather than ‘high- risk’ case.
A report found that probation officers’ lack of professional curiosity was a ‘critical omission’.
Three murders or serious sex crimes are committed every week by offenders on probation. Nearly 700 convictions for murder have been handed to known criminals who were already on probation since 2010 – one a week.
A further 950 convictions for serious sex offences have been secured against known offenders over the same period.
In another case, ‘psychopathic’ Damien Bendall was also wrongly classed as ‘medium risk’ before murdering three children and his pregnant partner in Killamarsh, Derbyshire 2021. A review found failings ‘at every stage’.
Mr Russell’s report, published today, said inspections of 31 local probation areas across England and Wales rated only one as ‘good’ with 15 ‘inadequate’ and 15 as ‘requires improvement’.
Mr Russell said of the Probation Service’s work from home policy: ‘They’ve moved to a model where the expectation is three days a week in the office when you’re expected to do face-to-face appointments.
‘That does restrict the opportunities particularly for new staff to interact with more experienced colleagues and to learn from them.And that’s following on from having to do all of their training online.
‘That combination is probably a big driver for why we’re seeing some of these scores.
‘The time you can spend on face-to-face appointments has become quite restricted… some being not much more than ‘check-ins’.
‘I personally would like to see staff going into the office more days, and I think they would benefit from doing that.
‘It might be an interesting piece of work for the Probation Service itself to do – to see if there’s a correlation between staff time in the office, and the quality of work that gets done.’
Some probation teams had seen existing staff resign because they ‘did not want to return to face-to-face working’, his report said, while the service was also suffering ‘chronic staff shortages’ and high sickness rates.
Public protection was the service’s ‘weakest area of performance before the pandemic’ and has become ‘even worse’ since 2021, it added.
The chief inspector called for an independent review of whether the ‘struggling’ service should return to local control to boost standards.
A Probation Service spokesman said: ‘We have made major progress in addressing the concerns raised in this report with the most recent data showing improved performance in key areas.’
Source: Read Full Article