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‘Probation service should stay independent of States’

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JERSEY’S Probation Service must be kept independent of government, according to the organisation’s chief who said proposals to include the service in a super-Justice and Home Affairs Department were ‘distracting’.

Head of Probation Mike Cutland

Chief Probation Officer Mike Cutland, who this week marked his 30th year at the service, said, ‘If it’s not broken why fix it?’ in relation to plans to move the service from under the remit of the Island’s judiciary to the States.

His views are not shared by the current Home Affairs Minister, or the previous one, Senator Kristina Moore, who said ‘it would be much better’ to have an integrated offender management unit, together with the Prison Service, overseen by the States.

Under the proposals, all ‘blue light’ services as well as Customs, the Jersey Field Squadron, Emergency Planning and Coastguard would fall under the Public Protection and Law Enforcement wing of Justice and Home Affairs under the management of director-general Julian Blazeby. The Prison Service and Probation would also be under control of the department as part of its Criminal Justice and Offender Management wing.

Mr Cutland said he and his department were ‘in no way’ against working with the States but said maintaining autonomy was crucial. Currently, the Probation Service is funded by taxpayers’ money but falls under the remit of the judiciary, which is headed by the Bailiff, Sir William Bailhache.

Mr Cutland said: ‘Under plans we would be reporting to the Director-General of Criminal Justice and the worry would be that the courts would feel sidelined and it may affect the relationship there. We are not adverse to change but the way things are at the moment is working and if it’s not broken why fix it?

‘My worry is that the courts may not have the same confidence in us if we were government-controlled. We are not anti working with the States but we don’t have to be part of government to work closely with them.’

He added: ‘Another reason why I cannot support incorporation into government is that there has been no discussion about what would happen to the Jersey Family Court Advisory Service which is part of the Probation Service. This needs to be independent from government as a key role is critiquing the work of the Children’s Service in family court work.

‘The criminal work and the JFCA’s work benefit from being co-located with regard to operational work and some cost savings around managers, admin and premises.’

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Home Affairs Minister Len Norman said ‘good, positive talks’ had been held about incorporating the Prison and Probation services under an offender management wing of Justice and Home Affairs.

And Senator Moore, answering a written question from Deputy Jackie Hilton in 2016, praised both the Prison and Probation services but said despite their good work there was potential to have a ‘more integrated’ system with ‘strengthened democratic accountability’.

Last month the Constable of St Lawrence, Deidre Mezbourian, the former Assistant Home Affairs Minister, and St John Deputy Trevor Pointon successfully lodged amendments to the Justice and Home Affairs merger proposal.

Deputy Pointon put forward that departmental restructuring should be agreed by the Assembly, while Mrs Mezbourian called for the States police, Customs, Fire and Rescue Service and Ambulance Service to have dedicated ‘independent’ chief officers.

The Constable’s and Deputy’s proposals did not relate to the Criminal Justice and Offender Management area of Justice and Home Affairs.

Jack Maguire

By Jack Maguire
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