Serious crime committed by offenders on parole increased by 50 per cent following the Government’s reforms to the probation service. The official data for England and Wales refers to Further Serious Offence reviews (SFOs). An SFO is conducted when an offender under probation supervision is charged with a serious further offence. In the year prior to the Government’s reforms, 409 SFOs were held, this rose to 627 in 2017-18.
The former Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling introduced the “Transforming Rehabilitation” project in 2014. The project aimed to reduce reoffending, get better value for money for the taxpayer and “create a criminal justice system that punishes offenders… protects the public and supports victims.” The probation service was partially privatised and split in two. A new state body, the National Probation Service (NPS), was set up to supervise high-risk offenders. Low and medium-risk offenders were to be supervised by 21 private Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs).
The reforms were roundly criticised last year by the Justice Select Committee. It said that that reforms had created a “two-tier” system and that the split “failed to recognise that the risk of harm an individual poses can change over time.” The Committee said that staff morale was at “an all time low” and the support for prisoners leaving jail “wholly inadequate”.
Coroners have taken the unusual decision to reopen inquests into three people killed by offenders under supervision. The Guardian newspaper reported that the inquests will resume so that lessons can be learned and because, the state may have failed in its duty to safeguard the right to life.
In July 2018, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) announced that existing CRC contracts would end two years early, in 2020. Ten new contracts would be introduced, as part of changes that will cost the Government £170m.