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Probation Service

Volume 570: debated on Tuesday 12 November 2013

We are creating a new national probation service that will work alongside 21 new community rehabilitation companies to manage offenders in the community. The national probation service will be tasked with advising the courts and protecting the public from the most dangerous offenders. It will be responsible for risk assessing all offenders who are supervised in the community.

Local service providers have expressed concerns to me about how a fragmented service will manage changes in offenders’ risk levels. Given that risk levels change in about a quarter of all cases, it will be common for offenders to transfer between providers. How will the Secretary of State ensure that the continuity of offender management does not suffer as a result?

The most important part of the way the new system will work will be the co-location of individuals in the national probation service who are responsible for risk management and the new community rehabilitation companies, to ensure that where risk does change there is a swift transition from one to the other.

In the Secretary of State’s target operating model for probation there is welcome mention of restorative justice. Can he say anything more to ensure that awareness of restorative justice across the system is so embedded that it becomes an option to be considered on all occasions, particularly to deliver much-improved victim support as well as the rehabilitative effect it has already demonstrated?

We very much recognise the importance of restorative justice. We are providing funding to police and crime commissioners to enable them to source restorative justice services locally, and give them the option of working closely with providers who will look after offenders in the future. We are keen to see that partnership work well at a local level, and for that resource to be used to good effect in mitigating the impact of crime on victims in the way restorative justice can do so well.

Last night, when the Justice Secretary was not here, the prisons Minister assured the House that

“if Serco and G4S do not come out satisfactorily from the audit processes…they will not receive any contracts”—[Official Report, 11 November 2013; Vol. 570, c. 744.]

for probation. The Minister is well regarded across the House, and I am sure he will want to be clear about that. Does he mean the conclusion of the Cabinet Office investigation or the investigation by the Serious Fraud Office? It will be of great concern to Members of the House if the Serious Fraud Office investigation is not concluded before contracts are awarded.

We must treat that issue carefully because a potentially criminal investigation is taking place at the moment. I will make an appropriate statement to the House in due course about the way forward, but in the meantime, because of the nature of the investigation, I do not think it right for us to enter into discussion about it.