I echo John’s comments about the value of judges being involved in the supervision of offenders after sentence. Although he is referring to the Crown Court jurisdiction, those of us who practised in the Community Justice Courts saw firsthand how offenders on community sentences responded to regular judicial review of their progress. This principle is being adopted in the new Problem-Solving Courts now in the course of being piloted.

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While the criticism of Ministers is both realistic and fair, risk assessment is not a tick-box exercise, nor can it be achieved by algorithms or slavish adherence to tools like OASys. Stephen Wooler's comment is both timely and authoritative, based on his own long experience of the internal workings of the criminal justice system.

Since the Probation Service has been hollowed out by the impact of "Transforming Rehabilitation", meaning that experienced and qualified Probation Officers have left the service in despair, their places have been incompletely taken up by the less-qualified and inexperienced Probation Service Officers, and remaining staff are left demoralised and overwhelmed by unreasonable work-loads, has not the time arrived for a more widespread use of the sentencing judiciary, to exercise not only the supervision of those whom they have sentenced in partnership with the Probation Service, but to apply the skill and experience which enables judicial officers at all levels to enjoy the confidence of the community?

The fact that judicial members of the Parole Board so rarely err in their assessment of risk provides cogent reasons for extending the supervisory role which the judicial officer is in a position to offer, extending from the earliest moments of sentence planning to the ultimate point when release is under consideration.

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What is so worrying is that these two tragic cases were just waiting to happen - and it will be some time before the public can feel more confident.

The 2021 reversal of the Grayling reforms was accompanied by a warning from HM Chief Inspector of Probation that any cash investment would have to be sustained to correct the mistakes of the past.

He said “There are no magic bullets here: structural change needs to be backed by sustained investment for there to be true improvement. Real transformation is a long-term commitment, and unification is just the beginning of that journey.”

Two years is not a long time to turn around a service of such size and importance even with the benefit of real investment. But so far, any evidence of sustained investment has passed me by. Others may be more observant. Perhaps some questions for the likes of Joshua to be asking the Ministry of Justice. The real mischief is the short-term approach taken within centralised services where so often political masters do not have the ability to think beyond the next soundbite.

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Joshua, characteristically, has it right: in hindsight, Ken Clarke who as a VERY experienced and , on the whole, savvy former criminal advocate was responsible for a reckless miscalculation in offering up his entire department for disabling cuts in its funding.

That once said, he had displeased a Cameroonian government by having made out vigorously, convincingly AND publicly the case for revisiting the principles underpinning rehabilitation and a refocusing on that rather than on prison, prison and ever more prison.

Unmanageable case loads for the Probation Service, unarguably, have played a very significant role.

BUT: Grayling and his ideological fixation upon privatising and outsourcing must, surely, never be in any way let off the hook: he wrought just that kind of GBH on a once proud and effective service that the tragically adverse effects had been wearily and confidently predicted by those steeped in knowledge of how diversions from crime and re-offending can work AND HAD WORKED prior to “Failing”’s rush of blood to the head. The whole mission and purpose of a vital arm of any worthwhile criminal justice system have been dealt a potentially fatal blow.

In passing, whilst I do acknowledge that David Gauke when Justice Secretary had - no doubt rightly- cancelled the contracts with the outsourced companies early, we surely are entitled to know just HOW MUCH in terms of cost thrown away over such cancellations WE had incurred as, so to speak, innocent bystanders.

It is actually baffling that our criminal justice service still, JUST and after a fashion, working. Unless and until the professionalism and dedication of all participants in all branches of the system should be recognised and acted upon by governments of whichever party political persuasion -and, yes, that does mean adequate funding- nothing could change. Correction: things can only get worse.

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