Letters: Formula is an offence to officers

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The Independent Online
From Mr Harry Fletcher

Sir: John Copas (letter, 27 July) misses the point. The mathematical formula to be used to predict the chance of re-offending was greeted with mirth, then anger, by probation officers, not because they do not understand statistics, but because it had nothing to do with their everyday practice.

The Probation Circular contains no explanation as to why square roots and maths can predict re-offending behaviour. In any event, the criteria used to draw up the formula does not address employment, training, relationships and the quality of rehabilitative work with offenders.

More seriously, if the formula was adopted as described, then sentencing would be based on the offence before the court and the risk of further re-offending. In other words, some offenders risk being jailed for offences they have not yet thought of, yet alone committed. This is totally unacceptable, as it would in effect be a form of preventive detention.

We do not question Professor Copas's professional credentials, but in practice this is another example of the Home Office attempting to de-skill probation work with offenders.

Yours sincerely,

Harry Fletcher

Assistant General Secretary

National Association of Probation Officers

London, SW11

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