Fresh humiliation for Chris Grayling as Government scraps his probation reforms

Posted On: 
16th May 2019

Probation services are to be brought back under public control after the Government scrapped controversial reforms introduced by Chris Grayling.

Chris Grayling introduced the probation reforms in 2013.
Credit: 
PA Images

In a major government U-turn, Justice Secretary David Gauke announced that the National Probation Service will once again take responsibility for managing all offenders.

While filling the same Cabinet post, Mr Grayling announced plans to part-privatise the service by setting up 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies to manage low or medium risk offenders.

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But the changes were a flop, with the companies racking up multi-million pound losses and a rise in the number of offences carried out by those they dealt with.

Earlier this month, a damning report by the Public Accounts Committee said the "breakneck" introduction of the reforms left services underfunded and lacking the confidence of the courts.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice's attempts to fix the problems by cancelling contracts 14 months early has landed taxpayers with a bill for £467m.

Confirming the renationalisation of all offender management, Mr Gauke revealed that up to £280m will be made available for the voluntary and private sectors to deliver "innovative rehabilitation services".

He said: "Delivering a stronger probation system, which commands the confidence of the courts and better protects the public, is a pillar of our reforms to focus on rehabilitation and cut reoffending.

"I want a smarter justice system that reduces repeat crime by providing robust community alternatives to ineffective short prison sentences - supporting offenders to turn away from crime for good.

"The model we are announcing today will harness the skills of private and voluntary providers and draw on the expertise of the NPS to boost rehabilitation, improve standards and ultimately increase public safety."

Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon said: "After putting public safety at risk and squandering hundreds of millions of pounds on trying to shore up failing private probation companies, the Tories have been forced to face reality and accept their probation model is irredeemably broken.

"The Tories didn't want to make this U-turn and had been desperately trying to re-tender probation contracts to the private sector. It is right those plans have been dropped and that offender management is to be brought back in-house.

"We will press the Government to ensure that probation is fully returned to being the award-winning public service it was before this disastrous Tory privatisation."

The climbdown is the latest in a line of government bungles that can be traced back to Mr Grayling's door.

His restrictions on books being sent to prisoners was eventually overturned by his successor as Justice Secretary, Michael Gove.

Mr Grayling, who is now Transport Secretary, was also left red-faced when his department awarded a contract for ferry services in the event of a no-deal Brexit to a company with no boats.

The Department for Transport also had to pay out £33m to Eurotunnel after the company claimed it had handed out no-deal ferry contracts in a "distortionary and anti-competitive way".