Probation service sell-off faces legal challenge from unions

Exclusive: Napo is hoping to block the MoJ’s plans, partly because the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling did not pilot the reforms

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The Independent Online

Government efforts to part-privatise the probation service may end up in the courts, unless the Ministry of Justice reveals a raft of confidential information, including the results of safety tests into the new structure. 

The FTSE 100 giant Capita, rail-to-social housing group Amey, and French caterer Sodexo are among those companies waiting to see if they have won the right to run 70 per cent of the service, in deals worth at least £5bn over 10 years.

The MoJ is expected to name preferred bidders to run 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), which will oversee all but the most dangerous offenders, by the end of this month.

However, the service has suffered a series of acute problems since June, when it was reorganised from 35 Probation Trusts into 21 CRCs and a National Probation Service, which remains government-run and monitors the most risky offenders.

IT systems have failed, case files have been lost and there have been numerous warnings of threats to public safety.

 

In letter a threatening the MoJ with a judicial review, the Napo probation union’s lawyer, Slater & Gordon, has gathered examples of how the public and officers have come into danger as, allegedly, the result of the confusion caused by the reforms.

These include members of two rival gangs being invited into a probation building at the same time, and a murderer being invited to join a programme to rehabilitate a group of domestic violence offenders.

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Napo is hoping to block the MoJ’s plans, partly because the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling did not pilot the reforms. Mr Grayling believes that private sector management will make the service more efficient, but Slater & Gordon has given him until 4pm on Friday to disclose information to prove his argument.

The lawyers intend to force an injunction for breach of duty of care and a judicial review if the MoJ doesn’t respond. If it does, Slater & Gordon has asked for a 21-day pause in the bid process while lawyers look over the documents.

A spokeswoman for the MoJ said: “We have received correspondence from Napo and will respond in due course. It would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”

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