Probation – Solicitors Joint Press Release

Probation Staff & Solicitors – Joint Protests

Napo, the Trade Union for Probation and Family Court staff, are still in a formal dispute over the government plans to privatise 70% of the probation service which they say will have a significant impact on public safety and public protection and on the 31.3.14 and 1.4.14 took strike action over these plans.

Ian Lawrence, General Secretary said “the government plans to outsource 70% of the probation service is untried and untested. It is a dangerous social experiment that we believe will lead to a reduction in rehabilitation and fragment risk management placing the public at risk”.

Napo and unison’s campaign to fight these proposals has seen support from a number of other agencies such as the Howard League for Penal Reform, Penal Reform Trusts, academics and professionals across the justice sector. The Justice Alliance, representing solicitors and law firms across the country also withdrew their labour on 31st & 1st April. They are campaigning against the government’s cuts to legal aid.

Matt Foot Justice Alliance said “… Solicitors and probation have taken joint action not to work the courts. They are united against a Minister of Justice who is listening to no-one, not even government funded reports. He is obsessed with private companies and is being dangerous and foolish with justice. All but the rich will suffer – which is why we are united and determined to stop him.”

Ian Lawrence said “this government’s attack on the justice system has already led to families being disadvantaged from cuts to civil legal aid. Now we are seeing criminal legal aid being massively reduced and the dismantling of one of the best performing public services in the country. All 35 Probation Trusts are performing to a good or very good standard. These reforms are ideologically driven and being pushed by a political timetable. If the Secretary of State really believes in these reforms then we ask him to pause and to run pilots that can be independently evaluated to evidence they work. However, he refuses to do this and is pushing them through ahead of the general election. It will cost the public in terms of both safety and taxpayers’ money”

At the Public Accounts Committee earlier this month, the Ministry of Justice disclosed that so far they had spent approximately £9 million on consultants alone but have so far refused to publish the full costs of the reforms. The Justice Select Committee has also raised significant concerns about the lack of information and impact of the reforms. In the House of Lords a number of Lords have raised their concerns about the lack of parliamentary debate in relation to the biggest reforms the Probation Service has ever seen.

South Yorkshire NAPO members will continue to protest against these changes adding, ‘It is our belief that the public will be put at risk by these reckless reforms. In an attempt to right one injustice in respect of the failure of short term prison sentences; without testing, piloting or properly costing, Chris Grayling and the Ministry of Justice are creating several more’.

Members also said: “The only way to deal with this shambles is to stand up against the bullying. Stand up against the lying tactics of a corrupt and inept minister. We’re striking in solidarity with others across the justice and wider public sector. We’re striking to defend public services and the welfare state. The model they are using to split services is flawed every way you look at it. It’s dangerous, putting big business before public safety in ways that will place our communities at risk”.

With this in mind Napo/unison and local Solicitors will continue to campaign and protest against the privatisation of the Probation Service and the cuts in legal aid. We plan to hold protests at 1pm outside Magistrates Courts in Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster on Monday the 28.4.14. We will also be attending the “ May Day Justice Day “ demonstration at 12 noon in Sheffield City Centre on Saturday 3.5.14.

For further details please contact:

Sharon Price/Peter Nowell
Convenor and deputy Convenor
napo South Yorkshire Branch
0796 9692975/07792931363