Examination of Witnesses (Questions 260
TUESDAY 27 JANUARY 1997
260. Might not that have been too late, in some
(Mr Fraser) Personally, I do not think victims should
be encouraged to even think about doing it, they have probably
had enough and that is the last person they want to see. True
reform, true remorse, if it is inside the offender, will come
without that, that should not have to be provoked by being confronted
by the person that they have injured. But, even if they are, my
experience, and I am able to speak with a great deal of experience
on this particular subject, is that it does not work with persistent,
hardened offenders, they do not care. That is why they are there.
261. Just coming back very briefly to community
service, which you also think, on the whole, does not work, I
think I got you right, did I not? I can recall, for example, it
is only anecdotal, visiting such a scheme in my constituency,
where some fairly hardened criminals, who had spent a lot of time
in prison and it clearly had not worked in their case, were helping
disabled children, and it clearly was having an impact on them.
Do you not recognise there are occasions when community service
(Mr Fraser) Yes, well, again, if I go back to my seven
years experience, this kind of activity was also carried out with
these young teenage offenders, and groups of handicapped children
were sometimes brought onto the premises in certain circumstances
and the boys encouraged to interact with them and help them in
various sports activities, this kind of thing, and also to go
outside and supervise fairs and play days for them. And what one
noticed was that for some of the young offenders they clearly
did enjoy it, it was something they had not done before and they
quite enjoyed the interaction with these children, but their enjoyment
and the positive way that they interacted with these children
was one thing, but their propensity to go on reoffending when
they were released was quite another.
262. It is a very depressing scenario you paint;
so there is nothing except prison, is there, and even that does
not work because they all reoffend when they get out, do they
(Mr Fraser) I want to protest and say "It's not
my fault", but, however.
263. It is not your fault, you are giving us
the benefit of your experience, which we value, but that is what
you are saying, is it not?
(Mr Fraser) Yes. It is a depressing picture, it is
a very unwelcome picture, I agree. It is very difficult, whatever
one's audience, to keep saying that, probation and community service,
the reconviction rates are horrendous and they are simply giving
people a licence to offend, and victimising millions and millions
of innocent people, which they do. But, we come back yet again,
it does not have to be this way, it does not have to be this way.
If the Probation Service, which already exists, changed its focus
and changed its ideology and said, "Right, we're going to
help the courts separate out those who are motivated to change
and those who are not, and those who are motivated to change we
are going to recommend to them probation", whatever it is,
the situation would change. Now the difficult nettle to grasp,
and I do appreciate, we all appreciate this, is that the result
of that is that, yes, and we are not sure how many it would be,
but there would have to be more people in prison. But one cannot
ponder even that question, one should not ponder that question,
in isolation of the other question that is related to it, which
is how many victims are we prepared to put up with. There are
at least 18 million a year.
264. On this point of community service, you
appeared to agree with me 20 minutes ago and then said something
different a moment ago, when I suggested that, in relation to
community service, there is some evidence that the rate of reconviction,
within a year or so of a completed order, is lower than in relation
to a straightforward probation order; now that is the evidence.
Now just pause a minute. We are talking about reconviction rates,
and I am not speculating on whether people are committing crimes
every week when they finish their community service on a Saturday
afternoon, I am talking about reconviction rates. And there is
some evidence, is there not, and my instinct tells me, that there
is some plus factor in community service, in relation not just
to reconviction rates but general well-being, etc., compared with
a straightforward reporting probation order? If I can be simple,
is that a straightforward proposition which you will accept?
(Mr Fraser) Yes; and I would grasp at the positive
bit in that by saying this, that it may well be that for motivated,
well-intended offenders, who want to reform, that, for them, for
many of them, it may well be easier for them to put their motivation
into practice by doing something practical, they may actually
find that easier than going to a probation officer and talking
to him every week. So, yes, I would think that there may be some
mileage in that, if they are motivated. But the way you started
the question was to draw attention to the fact that there was
some difference between the reconviction rates, and, you are right,
they are slightly less, but we are talking of just a chink of
daylight here, nothing, and, as far as the general problem is
concerned, it is of no consequence, they are victimising people
at the same rate.
265. There are a couple of points. The first
is on the issue of who we are actually talking about, and I think
we have been slightly distracted by the very persistent, hardened
offenders. I was very interested in Professor Pease's comment
that by changing sentencing policy we could achieve a reduction
in crime, and I suspect that the vast majority of the persistent,
hardened offenders are already in the institutions, the sort of
people you were talking about working with. Would you accept that
those persistent, hardened offenders are mostly already going
to prison, or do you think a huge number of them are on inappropriate
(Mr Fraser) The latter.
266. You think a huge number of those persistent,
hardened ones are?
(Mr Fraser) Yes.
267. So you do not think you are subject to
the same ignorance that the British Crime Survey revealed about
the general public, you think people are not being sentenced to
imprisonment when they actually are?
(Mr Fraser) No. We have a lot of contacts in the Probation
Service in different areas of the country, and the picture they
provide makes it very, very clear that large numbers of offenders
who are not motivated to change, somehow or other, are being placed
268. That is a different question. What I am
saying though is are people who have been convicted, young people,
for example, who have been convicted of a whole string of serious
burglaries, do you think they are actually under probation supervision
at the moment?
(Mr Fraser) Many of them.
269. So you think people, serious, repeat offenders,
of the sort you meet in the young offenders institution, their
equivalent are out
(Mr Fraser) Are outside in the community, there is
no doubt about it.
270. And the second one, briefly, was on the
issue of motivation. The evidence given to us by the Probation
Service is clearly that they see a lot of their work as being
about creating the motivation to change, in other words, they
do not expect people to come to them necessarily motivated, the
person with a drug habit, who has got no educational achievement,
who is unemployed and unemployable, is not coming to them motivated
but their work is about creating it. Do you accept that?
(Mr Fraser) This is their counter-argument. And, well,
our answer to that is, they have had plenty of opportunity to
put that into practice, because the people we are talking about
have been given several loops round the alternative sentencing
strategy, they will have been on probation, on community service,
they will have been on various programmes where the thing that
you are talking about, where the Probation Service will have had
plenty of opportunity to instigate, if that is going to happen,
a spark of motivation in them, they have had plenty of opportunity
to do that. We are talking about the people who have had four,
five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, yet more chances of programmes
where this kind of thing is carried out, and it has not happened.
Chairman: I am just a little bit worried that
we are turning around the same territory again, and I think we
have covered that point, and there are a lot of other areas that
we want to cover. Mr Winnick: perceptions of the Probation Service,
insofar as they have not already been dealt with.
271. Yes. Can I just get clear, how long did
you serve in the Probation Service, Mr Coad?
(Mr Coad) Nearly 30 years, wanting a few months.
272. Yes; and Mr Fraser?
(Mr Fraser) Twenty-six, yes.
273. Would it be right to say that having been
in the Probation Service for some time you became increasingly
disillusioned; I think we can take it for granted, from your papers?
(Mr Fraser) We were never, ever, disillusioned with
the probation ethic, we were never disillusioned with the probation
ethic of offering somebody a second or third or fourth chance,
because it is human to err, and all that. What we became disillusioned
with was when the policies were turned on their head, and instead
of, as was the case, without any shadow of a doubt, helping magistrates
and judges isolate people who were motivated to reform and recommending
them for probation the policies were turned on their head, and
the Probation Service deliberately went out of its way to target
for community supervision those offenders who were most at risk
of further offending, and they still do that.
274. Did you ever consider resigning?
(Mr Fraser) No.
(Mr Coad) Resigning; perhaps not resigning because
I am too full of self-interest. I wanted to get out with a pension
and money and enhancement, so I voluntarily left. I let it be
known that if I was allowed enhancement I would not be difficult
to persuade. But we had reached a crisis, David and Fraser and
I, when in 1984 or 1985 we wrote a paper called Licence to Offend,
which was published in the Justice of the Peace, followed about
a year later by Licence to Offend Continued, and last year Licence
to Offend Vindicated. That opened the debate within the Probation
Service of the efficacy of their current policies and whether
or not they should be looked at again. For our sins we were formally
banned by the Avon Probation Service, not only to not distribute
our paper but we were not to talk about our views to any of our
colleagues, with the threat of disciplinary procedure being taken
against us. You will have read the contribution from the anonymous
probation officer, which we believe is a true revelation of what
it is like in the Probation Service today; that officer dare not
open his mouth in public, he tries to do his best within the Service
that he is serving. Can I give you an example of the sort of madness
that is in the Probation Service today; from that officer, says
he, desperately trying not to even identify his sex, we had some
information that his area was going to engage on a cognitive therapy
approach to the rehabilitation of offenders. I will remind you
that last week you heard of cognitive therapy and it was spoken
of in very positive terms. We sent that officer the research on
cognitive therapy. The place it was practised first in this country
was Mid-Glamorgan Probation Service, and throughout the whole
of the country there were little whispers of, you know, "There
is something wonderful happening in Mid-Glamorgan" referring
to cognitive therapy. We have the first 12 months of research
showing reconviction rates were 44 per cent; in the second year
it had panned out a little bit and the reconviction rates were
65 per cent. Again placing this against the 4.9 per cent detection
rate, you can imagine that the actual reoffending rate was high.
We sent this research to this particular probation officer, a
senior probation officer, who discussed it with his Assistant
Chief Probation Officer, because the area is going into top gear
about introducing this form of programmethe Assistant Chief
Probation Officer said, "Ah, yes, well, that may be true,
but, you know, it's really an up-to-date way of dealing with reoffending."
The fact that it was a total catastrophe was totally irrelevant,
it was a matter of fashion.
275. Mr Coad, I sometimes ask lengthy questions,
so I am told, from time to time, but if I keep my questions relatively
short and if you can keep your answers short perhaps we will make
progress. I must put it to you, Mr Coad, that despite being disillusioned
with the Probation Service you continued for many years, out of
what you frankly and honestly described as your own self-interest;
that is so, is it not?
(Mr Coad) Yes.
276. Would it not be right to say you have a
grudge against the Probation Service?
(Mr Coad) No, because I hold the concept of probation
in the very highest esteem. I want the Probation Service to be
effective. I have got no grudge against the Probation Service.
I have a few, would you believe it, friends still left in the
Probation Service, including Chief Probation Officers, who, you
may be interested to know, the week before last, in discussing
this paper about Punishment in the Community, said, "You
know, one of your problems, Peter, is that you're too rational"
and I was glad to have that said of me.
277. Your perception of the Probation Service,
however, is that it is dominated by an organisation, the National
Association of Probation Officers, NAPO, who are Marxist-led,
Marxist-indoctrinated, and, would it be right to say, trying to
subvert the rule of law?
(Mr Coad) I think some of them would, some of them;
but, you see, the majority of probation officers are not really
aware of the subtle infiltration of this type of ideology, they
just go along with what is being said to them in a vociferous
278. But you are saying, in effect, that these
are naive people, clearly, in your view, but behind it all is
a Marxist-led NAPO who clearly have ulterior motives and who string
along these naive people who do not realise they are being strung
along: is that a fair summary?
(Mr Coad) I do think it is a crude interpretation.
279. No, but it is more or less that, but a
little more sophisticated perhaps?
(Mr Coad) Yes, in some respects, that is what they
did. Sensible people were not actually allowed at NAPO conferences
to speak; if they got up and said something contrary to the ideology
they were literally shrieked and howled down; they were not allowed