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Another Response about the constitution of probation

20, December 2016

Responding to a blog comment here: –

“think it’s incorrect to say the probation service was ever a constitutional part of the judiciary, nor is the CPS. Modern probation and its management by the Home Office stems from legislation in the 1930s. Probation has always been under parliamentary, never judicial control. Only the judiciary is independent but it cannot overrule parliament by striking down legislation, unlike, for example, the US Supreme Court. In the UK parliament is sovereign.  ”

When I was employed by Merseyside Probation Service in 1975 – I was interviewed for a job within Liverpool City PSD by the Deputy Chief Probation Officer who had formerly been the Chief Pbn Officer of Liverpool Probation Service before amalgamation on 1st April 1974.

In fact the different PSD’s in Merseyside continued to run more or less independently. In Liverpool where there were about 100 officers – each team was allocated two members of the Probation Committee who each made their own arrangements to monitor the teams work. Effectively it meant a visit once a quarter from one or other who saw the SPO and usually had 30 minutes or so with us all once or twice throughout the year.

It was particularly used to discuss early discharges – so after such an agreement when it was put before the Court, it went through as a formality – without any discussion.

I realise managerialism began from the 1930s and the independence may have been rather a technicality because the Home Office controlled the finances but the staff appointments were certainly done under powers delegated from Magistrates. CPO’s had to also be approved by the Home Secretary.

It was a typical British accommodation – but it seemed to mostly work as far as I can tell – probation grew in stature and professionalism at least until the 1980s and was for practical purposes as far as case management was concerned entirely independent of the Executive Branch of Government apart from determining release or recall of parolees, life licencees, Borstal, Detention Centre & Young Prisoner licencees.

In hindsight it was professionally independent of Government until Leon Brittan stepped in, in 1984 – on 1st May, when the Home Office issued a “statement on national objectives and priorities for the probation service”


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