The work Probation Trusts did to keep victims of crime informed and prepared for an offender’s release was generally of a high standard, said Liz Calderbank, Chief Inspector of Probation, publishing the report of an inspection of the Victim Contact Scheme. However, she added that some improvements could be made to the way in which offender managers and victim liaison officers worked together.
As well as a responsibility for supervising offenders, carried out by offender managers, staff in Probation Trusts have a statutory responsibility to contact and provide information to the victims of violent or sexual crime where the perpetrator has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 12 months or more. This is difficult and demanding work, carried out by specialist victim liaison officers, which requires good judgement, tact and sensitivity. The report, Victim Contact: an inspection of the victim contact arrangements in Probation Trusts, reflects the findings of an inspection undertaken in response to a request from the Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses who had received complaints about the work of Probation Trusts.
During the course of the inspection, inspectors interviewed 28 victims of crime and assessed 72 victim contact cases in detail. They also spoke with the victim liaison officers and offender managers involved in the particular cases.
Inspectors found that the vast majority of victims valued their contact with the victim liaison officers and felt supported by them at critical points in the offender’s sentence. Inspectors also saw good examples of joint working between victim liaison officers and offender managers. However, not all offender managers were fully aware of the impact of the offence on the victim which made them less likely to supervise the offender in a way which took account of the victim’s concerns.
Inspectors found that:
- victims said they were provided with key dates relating to the offender’s sentence and felt their safety had been treated as a priority;
- in nearly all cases, requested licence conditions were incorporated into the licence upon the offender’s release;
- information sharing for the management of the risk of harm was more likely to take place when victim liaison officers and offender managers worked in close proximity to each other;
- victims said they were unhappy about the fact that victim personal statements were now normally disclosed to the offender at the time of parole hearings and, as a consequence, were less likely to submit one;
- victim liaison officers were concerned about hospital orders and the reluctance of some hospital staff to share information about the offender; and
- in many cases, the offender manager had given insufficient consideration to the impact of the offence on the victim and how best to manage the risk of harm the offender may have posed, or continue to pose, towards them.
Liz Calderbank said:
“While we found some aspects of victim contact work could be improved, we thought that overall, the quality of direct work with victims was of a good standard, a view that was endorsed by the victims we interviewed. We did, however, identify some issues that required improvement, the majority related to the work of offender managers, and have made recommendations accordingly.
“We welcome the decision that the new public sector probation service will retain the victim liaison role for all cases to which it applies because of the critical need, highlighted in this report, for victim liaison staff to work in partnership with those responsible for the assessment and management of high risk offenders.”
Inspectors made a number of recommendations for improvement to the National Offender Management Service, probation trusts, youth offending team managers and the Youth Justice Board.
Notes to Editors:
- A copy of this report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Probation website at http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/inspectorate-reports/hmi-probation/inspection-reports-thematic from 7 November.
- Inspectors visited six Probation Trusts to assess the quality of victim contact work by interviewing victims and assessing the work of offender managers and victim liaison staff. The six Probation Trusts were: Devon & Cornwall, Hertfordshire, London, Northamptonshire, Staffordshire & West Midlands and Wales.
- Inspectors interviewed 28 victims and assessed 72 victim contact cases, as well as interviewing key managers and staff from local and national organisations involved in victim contact work.
- Victim liaison officers are responsible for delivering services to victims in accordance with the Trust’s statutory responsibilities. Offender managers are case managers who have lead responsibility for managing an offender through the period of time they are serving their sentence, whether in custody or the community. The offender manager has responsibility for i) assessing the offender’s likelihood of reoffending and the risk of harm they may present to other people, ii) planning the work that will be undertaken to change their behaviour, iii) delivering this work through individual supervision or group work or arranging for help from specialist workers, for example those dealing with substance misuse, or accommodation problems and iv) taking appropriate action to enforce the community order or licence.
- HMI Probation is an independent inspectorate, sponsored by the Ministry of Justice, and reporting directly to the Secretary of State on the effectiveness of work with adults, children and young people who have offended, aimed at reducing reoffending and protecting the public. Further information about the work of HMI Probation is at http://www.justice.gov.uk/about/hmi-probation/.
- Please contact Jane Parsons in HMI Probation Press Office on 020 3681 2775 or 07880 787452 if you would like more information.