The role of the Probation Service - Justice Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers 1-158)

Daniel Mitchell, Brett Hawksley, Angela, Daniel Coriat and Tina Braithwaite

12 October 2010

Q1 Chair: Good morning, and welcome Mr Hawksley, Mr Coriat, Ms Prince, Mr Mitchell and Ms Braithwaite. We are really grateful to you for coming along to help us with our work on the probation service, which we see as having a very important place in future strategy to deal with crime. You have all, in different ways, had some experience of it so we are anxious to learn from you what you actually think of it. Feel absolutely free to respond and to indicate if you want to come in because somebody may say something you do not even agree with and you want to give your own particular point of view or they may miss something out which you think is important. Different members of the Committee will put questions to you on different subjects, but I would just like to start by seeing if anyone would like to tell me, when they first walked into their first appointment with a probation manager, what they thought it was all supposed to be about and what it was like. Any offers?

Brett Hawksley: I will go first.

Q2 Chair: Yes, so what do you think?

Brett Hawksley: Obviously, at first, for me, it was really daunting. You hear lots of things about probation but for me myself, when I first went into probation, I was told about my licence, about what it was all about, what I would have to do, what would happen if I didn't do it, and, for me, I thought that it was quite an information overload. I thought there was too much information for me to take on board and it took quite a while for me to understand totally exactly what I had to do. So that was my experience.

Q3 Chair: What did you think it was for? Did you see it as part of the punishment or did you see it as something else?

Daniel Mitchell: As far as I understood, I was given a probation order for six months so I could stay within the community. I would be assigned a key worker, keep to appointments, and, instead of going to prison, it was a way of being able to stay within the community, work with my key worker on some of the issues that had brought me to prison in the first place and go through with my probation officer how-

Q4 Chair: So had you served a prison sentence?

Daniel Mitchell: No, I hadn't so this was the very next step. So, if you like, I was lucky to have been given a probation order, if you like—that is how I looked at it—before actually going into prison.

Q5 Chair: Do you think you have been treated lightly or that this was a last chance saloon?

Daniel Mitchell: I thought that if I was going to prison then I just didn't see that as rehabilitation at all. I would just have seen that as me going to prison and that would be it, whereas I thought, "Actually, I'm being given a chance to do a probation order." No, I don't see it as lucky, but as just more of a chance to deal with the problems that I was going through rather than going into prison and not dealing with them.

Q6 Anna Soubry: Had you been on remand? Were you on remand before you got your order?

Daniel Mitchell: No.

Angela Prince: Mine was totally different because I actually had been to prison. I got six years, but I did three years in prison so I was on probation and still am on probation for another six months. So it was different for me. I wasn't scared to go because my licence was just not to leave the country, but I had to work with a probation officer. Basically, I think that everything I basically did for myself really. What they could do for me, I could do that for myself.

Q7 Chair: So if you had not had the probation order, if you had not had that, would you have changed your behaviour?

Angela Prince: Yes, I would have done it myself because I think, as an individual, it is for you to make that change. If you don't want to make that change, that probation officer can't make you make that change, whatever they say. It's up to you if you want to make that change. If you don't want to change, if you want to keep reoffending, that is what you are going to do.

Q8 Chair: But aren't we, as the public and the public we represent, entitled to know through the probation service that somebody is checking whether you are making a change in your behaviour?

Angela Prince: Well, from my experience, I don't really think they bother. Half the time, it was just like they are just doing a job and they are getting paid for it and that is how I saw it.

Q9 Claire Perry: May I ask on that point, Ms Prince, was your appointment or were your appointments about a process—you kind of ticked off boxes—or was somebody actually working with you to address the specific issues that you were dealing with?

Angela Prince: This is something we talked about yesterday. It's like, I didn't see any papers they were ticking and basically that's all it was about. Personally, I would have said it all myself. There was nothing that made me think that they're helping me.

Q10 Claire Perry: Would anyone else have a comment on that?

Daniel Mitchell: Yes, I would. I've had a couple of probation orders and I've had ones from one end of the spectrum to the other. I've had one where I've actually built up a rapport with somebody and they've actually looked into my needs and actually built, you know, the probation order around the needs of myself to help me get better and that has actually got me to the stage where I'm at now. But I've also been given appointments where I've gone in, "Hi, I've signed in." "The key worker is ready to see you." You go on into the room. "Hi, what have you been up to this week?", "Oh, nothing much", "Okay, thanks, sign this bit of paper, get your bus money back, and off you go." Done. It is easier for the probation officer to do it that way and it depends on the person on the order, what they are willing to gain out of the probation. If that's easier for them then they are going to be happy to do that as well.

Q11 Mrs Grant: Can I just ask both. Prior to being ordered to do probation, did you have any explanation of what it would entail, what the expectation was on you and what it was all about, or were you standing there, you were ordered to do probation and that was it, and at least it wasn't prison?

Angela Prince: All mine used to say was that I had to turn up once a week to probation once I was released. Then, if you'd been good, then I would turn up once a month, but my licence was just not to leave the country and I feel that all that they wanted to see was me every week.

Q12 Mrs Grant: Did you know what probation was, though?

Daniel Mitchell: You generally hear from your solicitor what you are going to be facing when you go into court. So they will say, "Okay, well, the possibility is that you might have a sentence or you might get probation so this will entail…" then you'll be told what the probation is.

Q13 Mr Llwyd: I think there is a theme developing here. Brett said that in his first interview, it was an information overload, implying that it was rather rushed. Daniel said it is ticking the boxes. Could it be that the whole process is being rushed and you are not spending enough time with the appropriate officer?

Daniel Coriat: For me, yes, there was an essence of a hurried sort of procedure. They did tick all the boxes for me but, at the same time, there was an effort on the part of the probation officer to form a relationship with me. So there was that side of it too, yes.

Q14 Mrs James: Did you get the impression that they had many clients to see?

Daniel Coriat: Yes.

Q15 Mrs James: And that on some occasions, it was a relief if they could deal with somebody quickly and then they had more time to deal maybe with a person with more severe problems?

Daniel Coriat: Yeah, I felt that they were rushing to pass me on to someone else or they were obviously concerned about their next appointment. There was that essence to it, yeah.

Q16 Yasmin Qureshi: Ms Prince, I was going to ask you, and obviously Mr Mitchell and Mr Hawksley, if you can briefly tell us, how would you have liked the probation service to deal with you and what do you think they could have done that could have helped you?

Daniel Mitchell: I think if you are asking me what I think an ideal probation service would be-

Yasmin Qureshi: Yes, why not.

Daniel Mitchell: They definitely need to look more into—the people who get put on the orders have multiple needs. So there could be a number of reasons which brought that person to be on the order, whether it's drug offences or mental health. My experience is that the probation officer isn't equipped to deal with all these different needs. So in a more ideal world then they would be able to or at least be able to signpost you and have more information and, like the gentleman said there, maybe a bit more time to spend with us and find out what is actually going on. So that's my view on what would be a bit more ideal.

Angela Prince: When you first get to go to probation, I think that one thing I don't think they do is they don't read your file. So, when you come to them, I know what's wrong with me. So they should automatically know, well, what is it I need, because you get a file and you read about that person. I don't think they read my file because I used to be under mental health and everything and they didn't know anything about that—nothing at all.

Q17 Yasmin Qureshi: Were you on licence?

Angela Prince: Yeah, for three years. I'm still there. I've got six months left at probation.

Q18 Anna Soubry: I just wanted to establish where everybody is coming from in this respect. Mr Mitchell hadn't been on remand, but you have had two what I call DTTOs.

Daniel Mitchell: They were at that time, yeah. One was a DTTO and one was a six-month probation.

Q19 Anna Soubry: Right, but you have been on two separate orders; is that right?

Daniel Mitchell: I have, yes, in different areas as well.

Q20 Anna Soubry: Yes, and from Angela's point of view, you had served a custodial sentence and then were you released on licence?

Angela Prince: Yes.

Q21 Anna Soubry: So yours was part of your supervision as a requirement of your licence?

Angela Prince: Yes.

Q22 Anna Soubry: Which arguably is different from when you stand up in court. You have had your pre-sentence report so you have got an inclination of what is coming. You have been released from prison; so it is a follow-through service.

Angela Prince: Yes, but they still do pre-sentencing reports and sentence planning and things like that for when I come out, which is sent to my probation officer. Nine times out of 10 they come and visit you in prison before you are released, but even though they visit you in prison, when you get back to see them in the office, it is a whole new different experience. I just felt like, "Everything I said to you while I was in prison, you can't remember."

Q23 Anna Soubry: I just wanted to establish this because you are one of those people who should have been seen properly and extensively in prison. Are you saying you weren't or was it the fact that you didn't have the same person and you didn't have the continuity of service?

Angela Prince: No, I'm lucky because I've still got the same young lady I've always had, but—don't get me wrong, she is a very nice lady—she more became like a friend, like she'd say, "Do you want to come over for a cup of tea?" or, "Shall we go out this weekend?" instead of, like, "As my probation officer, I want you to help me." So, the way I decided to do things was I just went and did things myself and came back and reported what I did that week.

Q24 Anna Soubry: And just with Brett, you've been on orders, but have you been on remand?

Brett Hawksley: Yes, I've been on sentence and released. I think different to Angela. I think that it's important to have a good rapport with the probation officer and I think that your probation should start not when you get released on your licence, but I think it should start from the moment you get this prison sentence. I think there should be contact from then until you are released and then on your licence.

Q25 Anna Soubry: And how long was your sentence, just so we have an idea?

Brett Hawksley: Four years.

Q26 Anna Soubry: So you got four. You served two years and then two years on licence.

Brett Hawksley: That's right, yeah.

Q27 Anna Soubry: And Daniel?

Daniel Coriat: Yeah, I did a two-year community order which I carried out in an approved premises because I was homeless. The condition was that I remained drug-free and there were curfews attached to the order, but I had to carry the whole order out in an approved premises, the bail hostel, because I was homeless. That was one reason, but I think that they wanted to punish me in that way as well.

  Chair: We have moved actually to the point where I want to bring Mr Evans in.

Q28 Chris Evans: This is a question for all four of you. How good is your relationship with your present probation officer at the moment?

Brett Hawksley: Mine is excellent.

Q29 Chris Evans: It is excellent. Why is that, though?

Brett Hawksley: Excellent for the reason being very flexible because there are times when other things have come up that would benefit you in rehabilitation, but some probation officers would be like, "You can't do that because it is going to clash with the appointment." So my probation officer is flexible and there is a good relationship. There is no personality clash. So, I'm not, you know, dreading to go and see my probation officer. So, in that respect, because it is a good relationship, I will ask for things that I want, whereas if there wasn't a good relationship there I'd be wanting to ask somebody else, sort of thing, and that's not available anyway.

Q30 Chris Evans: Can I call you Angela?

Angela Prince: Yes.

Q31 Chris Evans: Angela, you said that you felt that your probation officer was more like a friend. Why was that such a bad thing? I'm just a bit confused what are you actually looking for? I've had stuff with people saying, "I felt my probation officer was too judgmental in many cases." Now, I would have thought that the flip side of that was that they need to be a friend and there needs to be some sort of relationship really. You made that sound like it was a bad thing in some ways.

Angela Prince: I'm not saying it's a bad thing, but I just look at it as, "You're there to help me." It is like, "I'm a mentor. I'm a voluntary worker. I'm there for you. I'm not there to really be your friend, but I'm there to support you", and that is what I wanted to feel from her. She's a very nice person, as I said, but I wanted to feel that from her. As Brett said, she is very flexible. I'm a mother of four children and I live so far from my probation office. Sometimes it is difficult for me because I have got to pull my little girl with me and then my little girl will say, "Mummy, what's this place?", and I don't really want to explain to her what this place is and things like that. If I phone her and say, "Can I make it tomorrow?" or something, she's very flexible like that because I've got kids. I just find that I don't feel like—how can I explain it?

Daniel Mitchell: I think where the confusion is is that there needs to be a level of authority.

Angela Prince: Yeah, that's it.

Daniel Mitchell: Because if you're actually looking for that rehabilitation, if that person is going to be that lax and he can just walk in there, it's like the order just tends to slip away. If you have a certain level of authority—and obviously that is going to be different for each person—then you might need that to finish your order.

Q32 Chris Evans: Is it important to respect the person who is your probation officer?

Angela Prince: Yes, it is.

Daniel Mitchell: Definitely.

Angela Prince: And for them to respect you as well.

Q33 Mrs Grant: Angela, can I just ask you, is she very young? Is it a personality issue or is she just a kid that is sort of out of university?

Angela Prince: Yes, she's young. She's half my age.

Mrs Grant: That is probably a lot to do with it.

Angela Prince: She is half my age, yeah.

Q34 Mrs Grant: So about 22 or 23, or 19 or 15?

Angela Prince: She is 24 and I am 45.

Anna Soubry: You see, that is the wrong matching up, isn't it?

Chair: Order, order, Mr. Evans has a question.

Q35 Chris Evans: Daniel, I have been through the form. It says in the biography that we have here that you have been through four different probation officers. What has been the problem there if you don't mind me asking?

Daniel Coriat: Yeah, well, what happened was that I carried out the first part of my community order in Manchester because that is where I was sentenced and then I wanted to come back to London because I have lived in London so they transferred me to London. I saw a probation officer and I did form a relationship with him. For me, it was the first time that I did probation, so it was important that I formed a good relationship with him but, in many ways, I saw him as a bit of a role model because I needed that. I mean, I was pretty desperate. I had been homeless for so long and had lots of trouble with the police so it was a relief for me to have someone to kind of support me. So I looked up to him in that way. You know, there were ups and downs and eventually I was passed over to another probation officer and then two others after that so, yeah, there was no consistency in it and I found that was a bit negative towards me because I was putting a lot of effort into rehabilitating myself. I was trying to find my feet again and to have so many different probation officers who didn't really understand my issues at the time was confusing.

Q36 Chris Evans: If the chemistry is not there, how easy is it for you to change your probation officer?

Daniel Coriat: I think it is difficult. Personally, I didn't have the courage to ask. If I wanted a new probation officer I wouldn't ask, but I think it is quite a difficult procedure to change a probation officer. I don't know.

Q37 Chris Evans: Do you think that is an issue—that it should be easier—if it is just not working, to go and put your hand up and say that it is not working?

Daniel Coriat: Yes. I think people should have a right to say if they want a different probation officer.

Brett Hawksley: Can I just say something? I think it is different for different probation officers, because one probation in Leicester will let you change officer but the other one won't. Just touching on the same thing, I can't believe how different every probation is in England. I thought that they would all have the same guidelines in every single probation, but they ain't—they are all run differently.

Q38 Chair: So you have spotted significant differences in the different probation services you have been under.

Brett Hawksley: Yeah.

Q39 Chair: What sort of things?

Brett Hawksley: They are all doing completely different things. Like, in Leicester, we are doing a lot of changes within the probation that are done by the service users. There was a lot of peer-mentoring. You know, we have done it so the probation office that we are at, the service users have got it so we can change that officer if there is a personality clash. It is not because you don't like the person; it is just a personality clash. We have changed our probation waiting area so that it is user-friendly for kids. There is a TV in there with information. Other probation offices won't do that. Other probation offices won't have flexibility on your appointments and there are numerous other things as well. Every probation office is just absolutely different and I thought it was all the same.

Q40 Chris Evans: Can I just end with asking each of you what is the best experience of probation and what has been the worst?

Daniel Coriat: For me, my best experience was going out for a coffee with my first probation officer and the worst experience would be the lack of consistency—the changing of probation officer.

Angela Prince: My first good experience is the probation officer who I have got now because she is flexible. I think the worst experience is the toilets. You have got to share it. If you have got kids, the kids use the same toilet, the men use the same toilet and we are using the same toilet. The facilities are not there.

Q41 Chair: Is that in a city office?

Angela Prince: Yes.

Q42 Anna Soubry: Are you two both under the same probation service?

Angela Prince: Different offices.

Q43 Anna Soubry: But it is as simple as that?

Angela Prince: Yes.

Anna Soubry: Okay.

Daniel Mitchell: My best would be that I was actually managing to get myself into some voluntary work and the probation office recognised this. So they moved me from a weekly appointment to a fortnightly. My worst is the court room being adjourned and me having five minutes to tell my whole life story to a probation officer in a room beside the court, for that to go in front of the judge and then to sentence me on the five minutes I had been given with the probation officer. So that is my worst experience.

Brett Hawksley: For me, my best experience would be the peer mentor group that was set up. That was because that was a chance for me to give something back and help others in the same situation as myself. Probably the worst experience was when I got what was called a MAPPOM. I don't know if any of you have heard of that. It is like a prolific offender sort of thing. The reason why that was the worst experience for me was because, upon release, I was told that I would have to go five times a week—Monday to Friday. I asked if I could start a nine-to-five job and I was told that I could not work for six months until I was deemed safe within the community, and that was a real kick in the teeth.

Q44 Chair: Was this not an attempt to demonstrate public safety in the decision that was taken rather than doing the same thing by sending you to prison, which would have been the other way of doing it?

Brett Hawksley: But I had had my punishment inside. I had done my rehabilitation. I had done my sentence planning. I had done the courses that was asked of me. I was ready for society. I had been a role model inmate and then I was released into something, you know, that was even more punishment.

Q45 Mrs James: Can you explain MAPPOM? Is that what we call in Wales POP—the Prolific Offending Programme?

Brett Hawksley: Yes, that's right.

Q46 Mrs James: Do you want to explain what that is because maybe some of us on the Committee—I know what it is—may not know?

Brett Hawksley: People who are prolific offenders, people who constantly are in prison, get released, reoffend, go back in within short spaces of time. People go on what is called a MAPPOM or-

Mrs James: POP.

Brett Hawksley: POP, basically that is what it means.

Q47 Anna Soubry: It is a prescriptive term, isn't it, and you can't appeal it either.

Brett Hawksley: No, you can't.

Q48 Anna Soubry: You are told. I am just looking at your age. Presumably, your previous convictions started when you were quite young.

Brett Hawksley: Fourteen, yeah.

Q49 Anna Soubry: So you have got a lot of previous convictions. I don't think it is probably fair that you should say it, but I suspect that a lot of them are quite minor. It looks like you have got a lot of them and there is no discretion in that. That is right, isn't it?

Brett Hawksley: Yes, that is right.

Mrs James: You have got daily visits.

Anna Soubry: That's why it is wrong.

Q50 Mrs James: And you have daily telephone calls.

Brett Hawksley: Yeah, it was really strict.

Q51 Mrs James: And you have to be there when the police call.

Brett Hawksley: It was too much. It was really difficult. For me, it felt like they were setting me up to fail because I just looked at what I had to do and I thought, "I can't do this", you know.

Q52 Chair:Is there not a role for that kind of intensive measure in some cases? You are simply saying that it was not appropriate to your circumstances.

Brett Hawksley: Everybody I know that has been on that has not completed it. I myself thought that it was too harsh and it was just too much for me and because I could not work and I wanted to work, and I was really struggling financially, I thought the best place for me was back inside so I did something to make sure that I went back.

Q53 Chair: You actually did that.

Brett Hawksley: Yes.

Q54 Chair: So you actually did something because you wanted to get back.

Brett Hawksley: I did something to make sure that I went back, yes.

Q55 Claire Perry: I wanted to pick up on what I think is an extremely important point that you made, Mr. Hawksley, about work and the inability to work. I would love to know whether witnesses are encouraged to work during the period when they are under probation care and what has been that experience. You were basically told that you could not get a job and you were not allowed to apply for a job until you had completed your six-month POP programme. Has that been the experience of the other witnesses today? Are you working? Are you encouraged to find work during this probation process?

Angela Prince: No.

Daniel Mitchell: No.

Q56 Chair: You were not working or you were not encouraged to work?

Daniel Mitchell: Neither. I was not working and I was not—that did not come into it.

Q57 Claire Perry: The rehabilitation did not include an attempt to get you into work.

Daniel Mitchell: No, I think there would be more things that needed to be addressed before work.

Q58 Claire Perry: Did you feel that you were ready to work? Could you have worked?

Angela Prince: I think you could work if you wanted to, but I think it is a decision that you make for yourself. I think that because I have a criminal record now, I decided to do the mentoring and a lot of voluntary work to get my education back up. The only thing is that, I think, if you have been good, then while you have been on probation, because the licence is different—I have got six months left—I would have liked them to go back to court to say, "This person did this, that, this. Can you put that six months on hold?", or something so that now I can go out and look for a full-time job, because I do not want to be explaining to my boss, "Oh, I'm sorry, but I've got six months' probation left. I have got to pop out just to sign the paper and come back." I don't want to do that. So I have put that on hold and will keep doing the voluntary work until after six months.

Daniel Coriat: I wasn't encouraged to work at all. If I had said to them that I would like to work, they would have found that rather ambiguous. That is how I see it. I was encouraged to engage with the local services like mental health, the drug team and people like that.

Q59 Yasmin Qureshi: Can I just briefly ask about the procedure? Once you have been found guilty or you have entered a guilty plea and the matter is adjourned for a probation report or a community service report to be prepared, sometimes, as you know, the courts have what is called a stand-down report, which is done on the day, or the fast delivery ones. I just wanted to ask firstly whether any of you had been subject to what is called a stand-down report, which is done on the day?

Daniel Mitchell: I have, yes.

Q60 Yasmin Qureshi: Did you find that as something that was the right thing to do or do you think that—

Daniel Mitchell: I think you can tell by the way you are asking it is an unmanageable thing to do on the day, to go in and, like I say, I was given five minutes. That was my worst experience—to have the sentence passed on what I spoke to the probation officer about on the day.

Q61 Mr Buckland: Daniel, that is a very important point that you make. Were the options explained to you because it was a fast delivery report that they were doing for you, which means that the judge had already excluded custody as an option, hadn't he? Had that been explained to you before you were interviewed because that is what it means? Basically, when it is done quickly, the benefit in terms of your point of view is that the court has already said, "We are not going to send you to prison, but we need to look at another option in terms of the community order or otherwise." That is what it means. Was that explained to you?

Daniel Mitchell: No.

Anna Soubry: That is why you got it.

Daniel Mitchell: Yeah.

Q62 Mrs James: I wanted to turn to offending behaviour programmes, because we have taken evidence previously which said that it is very, very difficult to get on the appropriate courses and appropriate programmes. I am also coming across prisoners in my constituency who identify a programme when they are in prison and then cannot get on it and don't have that continuity then when they leave prison. Would you like to tell me a little bit about your experiences of offending behaviour programmes?

Angela Prince: Mine was done in prison and I found it very helpful—most of the programmes I went on anyway. I think the only downfall of it is that, when you have such a long sentence and you have done those programmes early in your sentence, when you leave prison now, probably half of that has already gone out of your head. They should be while you are on probation. I think they should make like a little retouch programme which you can actually do in probation so that you can remember half the stuff that was taught to you. That is the only thing. Now I have come out of prison, that is all left at the prison doors. I have not re-done anything.

Q63 Mrs James: Right, so there has been no continuity.

Angela Prince: None whatsoever.

Brett Hawksley: I totally agree, because the courses that I was put on at the beginning of my four-year sentence were done right at the beginning of the sentence and, like what Angela was saying, by the time you get released, most of those key skill keys that you were taught you kind of forget so I think that courses should be done upon release and not while in custody. There should be some kind of rehabilitation in custody but not these courses. They should be done on release, I think, apart from obviously for offences of anger—a course for violence. Obviously you should do the anger management in there, you know.

Q64 Chair: Are you saying that anger management courses should also not be until release?

Brett Hawksley: No, I was just explaining that obviously if your crime is through violence then you should do anger management in there, but, you know, I think the majority of the courses should be done on release or towards the end of the sentence.

Q65 Mrs James: And what about the difficulties of getting on things like treatment for drug and alcohol programmes—those particular ones?

Brett Hawksley: I have never experienced a problem with getting on a course.

Q66 Mrs James: Okay, anybody else?

Daniel Mitchell: I was given what was called a DTTO at the time. I breached the order. I wasn't able to manage it. Six or seven months later, I was speaking to probation again about maybe giving me another chance to go for rehabilitation, but I was told that because I had had my one chance, if you like, then that was it and I was not eligible, if you like, to go away to do another order.

Q67 Mrs James: So that in effect then delayed your progress in a way.

Daniel Mitchell: Definitely, yes, whereas I would see other people and they perhaps may be given another chance to go ahead and do something else, you know?

Mrs James: Daniel?

Daniel Coriat: My experience is that, when I have engaged with drug teams, it has taken three or four months before they have actually started working with me properly so there is this period—a kind of block of three or four months—when you start and then it takes them four months before they actually start working with you properly. I found that quite difficult to adjust to at the time.

Q68 Mrs James: So it is questions of continuity that you are raising all the time.

Daniel Coriat: Yes.

Q69 Mrs James: This is just a quick one because I know that other people want to ask questions. CRB checks—I assume you have all been CRB-checked. How quickly did they come through?

Brett Hawksley: Sorry, what is a CRB check?

Q70 Mrs James: Criminal Records Bureau. You know, if you are going to do voluntary work, as Angela has done, you would have then been CRB-checked from the Criminal Records Bureau.

Angela Prince: It depends though you can get short ones for CRB and then you can get a full one. They know because you are mentoring. Obviously, they knew what I did, but it was a short one because it was only like this mentoring.

Q71 Mrs James: So there were no recognisable delays.

Daniel Mitchell: No, they are up to a year. CRB checks can take for ever.

Q72 Mrs James: So really you could have lost your opportunity in that time, couldn't you?

Daniel Mitchell: Yes.

Mrs James: That is what I am finding.

Q73 Claire Perry: May I ask about the experiences? It sounds like, between the panel, you have done quite a lot of rehabilitation courses. What happens if you fall off a course? Is there any sanction? Who tries to get you back on those courses or is it relatively easy to fall off the rehab courses? As I think you mentioned, Mr Mitchell, nothing happens until six months later.

Daniel Mitchell: I think we spoke about flexibility. It will be down to how you are with your officer, how you have done and how you are doing while you are on probation. It is out of your hands. So it is down to them whether they feel that you able to have another chance. "All right, so you didn't do too well that time, but you seem to have made some progress so maybe we can try again", or you could be in a position, "No, you've had your chance. So custody is your next option."

Brett Hawksley: I think it is different for what sentence you are on. If you are on a sentence that is not parole, if you don't complete your course then you will be asked to do it upon release through probation, but if you are on a parole sentence and if you fall out halfway through then you will have the CARATs worker and you will have a personal officer assigned to you and between them they will get you back on to the course, probably the next one or the one after, but you would have to do it before you are released actually on parole.

Q74 Mrs Grant: But can I just ask you this. You were saying that with your MAP or POP, these two different descriptions, it was too hard and it was so hard that you did something else to make sure that you went back into prison. Why was it too hard?

Brett Hawksley: Because they wanted me to go there Monday to Friday. I couldn't work. I had the police officers coming round to me.

Q75 Claire Perry: How many times Monday to Friday? Was it once a day or twice a day?

Brett Hawksley: Once a day. On one day, it was twice a day. Amongst seeing them every single day, there were courses that I had to do. I had to see the police officers as well. There was, like, sometimes three or four people in that day that I had to see and having the police coming round to my own property, which in my area it is not good for the police to be knocking on your door, you know. You get a kind of bad name, sort of thing. It was just too difficult for me to do and because where I came from, which was in prison, I feel that prison is too easy.

Q76 Chair: Sorry, you feel? I just missed it then.

Claire Perry: It is too easy.

Brett Hawksley: Too easy, yes.

Q77 Claire Perry: So you felt that this was harder than prison.

Brett Hawksley: I thought I was better off in prison because I had an easy time there. So I thought I would be better there because then, if I went back to prison, I could finish the rest of my sentence, come out and I would have no supervision.

Q78 Chair: It is a very interesting point that you make because in one of our previous reports we have said that members of the public just tend to assume that prison is the really tough thing from your standpoint and that anything outside prison, non-custodial, that is easy, that is just being let off, but what you have just said is the opposite of that.

Brett Hawksley: It depends on the individual. It is different for different people. Some people have a really hard time—well, the majority of people do have a hard time—but myself, I found it really easy, definitely.

Q79 Mr Buckland: It really goes back to Sir Alan's first fundamental point. We tend to sub-divide sentences and we look at prison as a punishment and then probation as we used to call it, community orders as we now call it, as some alternative to a punishment. Would you accept that punishment is actually an important element of a community order?

Daniel Mitchell: It definitely is. I would just like to say that I found myself in society having to deal with multiple needs and I have been and got myself arrested on purpose to go back to prison, whether it is easier or whether it is harder. I had to make that decision because I did not know, whether I was on an order, what services to turn to. So I actually went out and got myself arrested because it did not matter whether it was a little amount, you know, the smallest amount. At least I know when I go into prison I am going to get some kind of help, whether from the CARATs worker, officer, you know.

Q80 Mr Buckland: Mr Mitchell, what you are saying really is that what you wanted on a community order was some element of challenge from your probation officer, not to confront you all the time—

Daniel Mitchell: No, I understand.

Q81 Mr Buckland: But to say, "Look, you have got a problem. This is what you need to do to try to challenge your problem and deal with it. Let us face up to it. Let us not all be fluffy and have a cup of tea. Let us actually talk brass tacks here." That is part of the punishment, isn't it, getting you to own up to the causes or the background to all of this and you then moving on and dealing with it.

Daniel Mitchell: Yes. Involved with that as well would be the people who are there to help you out. If you have a mental health issue then they can signpost you there. That is what worked for me the last time. They had these different areas set up so when they needed to signpost me they knew where to signpost me. These guys were ready to pick me up, ready to work with me, "Okay, you have got an accommodation issue"; "Okay, you have got a mental health issue." It is not just that you go out and offend. They look at all of these and then the ball starts rolling. That is why, you know, things are a lot better for me now because those different areas were taken into consideration.

Q82 Anna Soubry: Was that a different probation service? Was that a different area?

Daniel Mitchell: Than?

Anna Soubry: Than where you had been before?

Daniel Mitchell: Yes.

Q83 Anna Soubry: Because why hadn't you had it before?

Daniel Mitchell: Yes, it was a different area.

Anna Soubry: I think that is what I meant.

Daniel Mitchell: Yes, it was a different area, yes.

Q84 Anna Soubry: So it was a different area with better services than the previous area which you dealt with; is that fair?

Daniel Mitchell: Yes.

Q85 Yasmin Qureshi: I just want to ask Mr Mitchell and Mr Hawksley this. I think you have both had the DTTO orders—the drug treatment orders.

Brett Hawksley: I have not had a DTTO.

Q86 Yasmin Qureshi: Sorry, I have misread the information I have got. Mr Mitchell, you had two of them. How useful were they in actually getting rid of your drug addiction problem?

Daniel Mitchell: They didn't work. They didn't do anything for me.

Q87 Yasmin Qureshi: They didn't do anything.

Daniel Mitchell: No. I was sent away to a detox centre and I was back within my local area within a week. It was not suitable for myself for how I needed to rehabilitate myself. The DTTO did not work. So then when I was brought back to court, because obviously it was a breach, I was given a community order where I would go to a day group and attend that. That worked better for me, but the first one failed because one size does not fit all, you know. There are different things.

Q88 Mr Llwyd: Could I go back to what Mr. Hawksley said earlier on about the failure to complete the Prolific Offender Programme. When you were on that five-day programme, what were you living on in terms of income?

Brett Hawksley: Jobseeker's Allowance.

Q89 Mr Llwyd: Did it entail travelling there and back?

Brett Hawksley: Yeah.

Q90 Mr Llwyd: What sort of financial pressure were you under at that time?

Brett Hawksley: Huge financial pressure. I was, you know, barely struggling to get by. That is the main reason why I wanted to work. I had set myself up to work. I had gained a qualification while I was in prison to come out and work and then I was told that I couldn't.

Q91 Mr Llwyd: So, in other words, you were asked to do a five-day programme, sometimes twice a day, and you were spending all your money on just trying to comply with it and virtually nothing left.

Brett Hawksley: Yeah, basically, yes.

Q92 Mr Llwyd: There must have been a temptation to reoffend.

Brett Hawksley: There was a temptation, yes.

Chair: It proved to be, didn't it?

Brett Hawksley: Yes.

Q93 Mrs James: I just want to go back—because the public are listening to this now because it is being televised—this easy option. I have worked in the prison service and I know it is not an easy option. I wanted to ask you what did you mean by "easy option"? Did you feel safer in prison? Did you feel that there was less pressure on you? Did you feel that you would not be forced into doing things their way and not your way? I am just interested because I think that "easy" is a very difficult word for the public to understand.

Brett Hawksley: "Easy" in respect of I was institutionalised basically so it was an easy option for me to go back, in the sense that I was going somewhere that I was comfortable with, I was familiar with, I would know a lot of people, I was getting fed, there wouldn't be no money issues. So I thought that was a better option for me. I didn't do something extreme to get a huge sentence. I did something minor that would make me get recalled where I would have to do the rest of my sentence and I did that. I think I had to do something like an extra nine months or something, but I was prepared to do that.

Q94 Mrs James: Because you felt the pressure, that that was what was best for you at that time?

Brett Hawksley: Yes, I would rather do the extra nine months than do that order.

Q95 Anna Soubry: But you had not really been properly prepared for being released, had you?

Brett Hawksley: I was told probably two months before release about what I was going to be up against basically. So I knew what I was going to do and I told them before I got released, "I don't think I can do this", you know?

Daniel Mitchell: I think a big percentage of people who do get released aren't ready to be released or don't have anything set up for them when they are. So when the courts find them back in front of them within the month and they ask themselves why, I think it is quite obvious.

Q96 Claire Perry: I am just so struck by the glaring truth that surely if rehabilitation starts in prison and it is joined up with what happens on your release—

Daniel Mitchell: It does not, no.

Q97 Claire Perry: Exactly, and if it did, if you were basically, as you said, getting qualifications, working on the drug problems, dealing with things within prison, you are far, I would have thought, better prepared for your release and the rehabilitation has started. Trying to join that up so that people are looking after you all the way through prison and on release is really something that we have to get to grips with as a Government.

Daniel Mitchell: Yes.

Angela Prince: I was just going to say that I think it starts when you are in prison because in prison they have favouritisms as well. Prison officers have favourites of prisoners and they sometimes choose who they want to help. I think that, when I was released, they opened the gates: one plastic bag. I had just finished three years: £93 in my hand and that was it. I had to find my own accommodation and everything because they couldn't find me anywhere. I did this two weeks before my release myself. As Mr Buckland was saying, probation is too cosy. I am a headstrong person and for my age, I should have somebody my age so that they can talk to me as an adult; do you know what I mean? I don't need a young person talking to me because I am a grown-up. I'm a mother with children. I need somebody who is my age to say, "Well, Angela, we are going to do this", or, "We are going to do that." Put your foot down for me. I don't want a coffee. I want to sort my life out.

Q98 Mr Buckland: Which brings me neatly on, I think, to one of the fundamental points we are looking at today, Ms Prince, and I am grateful to you for your robust answer. In other walks of life, the involvement of service users is now seen as key, for example, in mental health. It is good to have Tina Braithwaite here, who has great knowledge of this subject, and perhaps we can get on to this in a little while. But when it comes to the criminal justice system, there has been a reluctance to cross that frontier, to start involving what we call service users, in other words offenders, in shaping the services. I just wanted to ask you primarily, but everybody really on the panel, would you see a particular use, in effect, in some of the responsibility for shaping the programme being given to you, as the offender, as part of your rehabilitation—in other words, not just allowing you to sit back and be told what to do? It is to say, "Now, come on, Angela, what do you want and how are we going to do this together?"

Angela Prince: That is what I am basically trying to say. If you are like me, I am telling you what I want. I am already telling you. I have already decided. With three years in prison in your cell, you have got time to think. You know what you want. So when I see you I am going to try and explain to you, "This is what I would like." Even though, sometimes it takes so long for them to get back to you in what you asked them to do. It would be quicker if I was outside doing it myself than wait for you to do that or wait for the probation to do that for me. "I have done it already so it is all right." "Oh, that's really nice. Oh, you've done everything." "Yes."

Q99 Mrs Grant: Is what you want and what you need the same thing truthfully? That is the issue.

Daniel Mitchell: We are all part of a national service users' forum, okay. In any organisation—and we will talk about probation—having the service users' perspective is key. It has got to be. We are seeing it from this side of the fence. Whether it is a meeting, a board meeting, how the place is run, surely seeing it from our point of view on the decisions that are made, it has got to have some weight. On any decisions that are made, to know what we are going through and what is happening, to hear it from the service user's perspective also has a place.

Q100 Mrs Grant: But is that what you need to fix your problem?

Daniel Mitchell: It has been the biggest part of my rehabilitation.

Angela Prince: Sometimes the need could be something like, "I need to have this to get that. It is not that I really want that, but I need that. I want to have that. I don't really need that, but I just have to have it because I am trying to get back into the community or rehabilitate myself", do you know what I mean? I want to have this now.

Q101 Mrs Grant: Because it is really about ultimately getting your life back on track.

Angela Prince: Back in order, yes.

Q102 Mrs Grant: That is the thing that matters. That would help everybody. It might not be necessarily what you need so there is a potential conflict of interest there that we have to be mindful of.

Angela Prince: Yeah, that's it.

Q103 Mr Buckland: I agree with what Helen Grant said. In other words, it comes to this. It is not just, "I want and therefore I will take." Sometimes a probation officer may say, "Well, I'm sorry, we don't think that is right for you"—

Angela Prince: Well, they haven't said that.

Mr Buckland: Which brings me to what you were saying earlier. You would actually welcome, if you like, that clash, that challenge, which sometimes you need. Let us take Mr Mitchell, for example. I am not saying you did this, but you may have said, "Well, I want to meet you less frequently" and the probation officer says, "Well, actually, no, we think we should meet more frequently", but then explaining why rather than just saying it; explaining why to you so that you gain a greater understanding.

Daniel Mitchell: And you can come to an agreement on what would work better for yourself then.

Q104 Mr Buckland: Yes. That is important and I am not decrying that, but it is part of the process of punishment as well, isn't it? Would you agree with me that that is an important element of this? Rehabilitation of course, but the fact that you are subject to a particular regime is part of the punishment as well, isn't it?

Daniel Mitchell: Part of that punishment is the rehabilitation as well.

Q105 Mr Buckland: Absolutely. Perhaps we should look at it in a different way. Perhaps we should look at it in terms of making our society a better and safer place—protecting the public. The aim of it should be that when you finish your particular community service, the risk of you reoffending is low, or lower than it was when you went in. Would you think that that was a realistic objective and a proper objective for any community order that you were on?

Daniel Mitchell: That is what an order is about, so when you finish it, you are an abiding citizen and you can start giving back to society.

Mr Buckland: Exactly.

Daniel Mitchell: And then what you spoke about with the CRB checks, you can be waiting a year before you can actually start giving back to society.


Q106 Mr Buckland: Exactly, because, Mr Mitchell, it is not just about you, is it? It is about the rest of us. You are a member of society and what you do, or all of us do, has an impact on somebody else.

Daniel Mitchell: Of course, yes.

Q107 Mr Buckland: So if somebody goes out and starts stealing, the impact on all of us is huge, isn't it? So the punishment element is an important thing because it is you understanding that there is a bigger society here which deserves better.

Daniel Mitchell: So as well as there being the person on the order who is having a say-so in what is happening, then you could have the victim's side of things as well on how that order operates.

Mr Buckland: That's very interesting.

Q108 Chair: Does anybody have any experiences of restorative justice and meeting victims? Have any of you been through that?

Daniel Coriat: I volunteered for the Witness Service about five, six, seven years ago, so it was a part of my rehabilitation because I had just done a short prison sentence and I was at college. I was volunteering for Westminster Magistrates and I was meeting victims.

Q109 Chair: Victims not of your crimes.

Daniel Coriat: No, of other crimes and informing them about court procedure etc, so, for me, that was a big part of my rehabilitation.

Q110 Chair: And did it really help you to look at life differently?

Daniel Coriat: Yes, it did, yes.

Q111 Mr Buckland: In the Criminal Justice Act 2003, one of the requirements that was laid out by statute was something called a mental health treatment requirement. My experience of it is that it is hardly ever used. I was wondering whether you have any view as to why that is and what could be done to bring that, which could be a very useful requirement, more into general use when dealing with offenders?

Tina Braithwaite: I think what often happens is that there is no recognition of people's mental health issues, when they are arrested and right through to going to court and into prison. I think there needs to be a lot more in-house awareness among all the people that associates are likely to meet so that, right from the start, the police actually have much more mental health awareness so that they can actually pick up on that there may be an issue and that they then know what to do with it, who to refer to, how to get support for people and how to get them diverted really. Then a proper assessment and reports should be done so that mental health orders and treatment orders can be considered.

I think for our Revolving Doors group of people, they have often got common mental health problems rather than serious mental health problems, so they are below the threshold of attracting any secondary services. Quite often their mental health issues go completely undetected so they don't get any help at all right the way through. They certainly do not get any mental health treatment orders.

Q112 Mr Buckland: And that can lead to a failure of other requirements of the community order, can't it?

Tina Braithwaite: That is right, yes.

Q113 Mrs Grant: This is a question for Angela, if I may. Does the probation service cater well for women? That is the $6 million question.

Angela Prince: I think it just depends on who you have as your probation officer. For the whole probation, I couldn't answer that question. I can only answer the question from what I have. The building itself could be a bit more different because there are no facilities there. In probation offices, there are facilities there for kids, but in ours there is nothing, so kids are just sitting there running around. It is unhygienic as well, you know.

Q114 Mrs Grant: So there is no crèche or anything.

Angela Prince: The seats are dirty.

Q115 Mrs Grant: No toys?

Angela Prince: No toys, nothing. People who have got alcohol problems come in there and they are drunk themselves and falling over. Some of them just come to sit down on the chair. People come in begging, you know, all those sorts of things. There are no facilities to change a child if you have got a small child, nothing like that. There are no facilities for women themselves.

Q116 Mrs Grant: And have you always had a female probation officer?

Angela Prince: Yeah, I have always had a female one all the time, yes.

Q117 Mrs Grant: Would you prefer a male probation officer?

Angela Prince: Probably, yeah.

Q118 Mrs Grant: Why?

Angela Prince: Because of the sort of person I am. To me, no disrespect to women, but sometimes they are a bit soft, do you know what I mean? I like somebody who is forceful.

Q119 Mrs Grant: Yes, not any of us!

Angela Prince: I like somebody who can say, like Mr Buckland is saying, when somebody says—

Q120 Mrs Grant: You like Mr. Buckland, do you?

Angela Prince: Yes, because what he says is correct. If you are going to ask me, "Would you like to do this?" and I went, "No", I want you to say, "You are going to do that. That is what I want you to do." Women won't say, or my probation officer never said to me, "Well, Angela, you are going to have to do that", you know. If I say, "No, I'm all right, I don't need to do that", she will say, "All right then" and that is it.

Q121 Mrs Grant: I think you probably just need a strong woman, don't you? And there are plenty of us.

Angela Prince: Yes, all right then. There won't be a next time so you are all right.

Q122 Mrs Grant: Good, that is what I wanted to here. Are there any specific BME issues, would you say, to do with the whole process that we should be aware of?

Angela Prince: What is BME?

Q123 Mrs Grant: Ethnic minority issue.

Angela Prince: No, not really. I have never noticed any racism or anything like that at all.

Tina Braithwaite: You have in prison, haven't you?

Angela Prince: Oh, in prison.

Q124 Mrs Grant: What has happened in prison?

Angela Prince: People used to talk to me about racism in prisons, but now I have really experienced it for myself from other officers. The words we used to use were "Off the hook, sir." He would say, "Yes" and then he would call me a black this or a black that, you know, and then I would end up insulting him and then that is it—finish. He doesn't report me and I don't report him and that is how it was all the time.

Q125 Mrs Grant: So there is a significant racism in prison.

Angela Prince: Yes, definitely, definitely, yes. As Brett was saying, even if I didn't have any children I would commit crime and go back to prison because it was really easy. I think they need to make the prison more harder to deter people from wanting to go to prison because I have seen many younger people who have gone to prison leave, and I say, "Give me a hug" as they are going and they say, "Oh, no, I'm back by the weekend," and I'm thinking, "What do you mean?" "Oh, I'll just go and nick something and I'll be back" and they definitely did come back, you know, things like that. So, if I have got my Sky TV in my cell and I've bought my carpet and I've brought my quilt and everything then why would I have to be outside?

Q126 Mrs Grant: I know it is slightly off my question, but can I just ask, does everybody here actually think prison is a soft option?

Daniel Mitchell: Can I just clarify that I think that is a better option if I am homeless, if I have got no benefits. I will go to prison and I have got seven months.

Q127 Mrs Grant: Is it the same for everybody here?

Chair: It would not be a soft option for me, but it would in the circumstances you were in.

Anna Soubry: It depends on where you are coming from.

Mrs James: I have really got problems with dealing with words like "soft option" and "easy". Deprivation and de-liberty is your punishment.

Daniel Mitchell: It's easy in comparison to what I am going through while living in society.

Q128 Mrs James: I am not advocating this at all but I was in this position in the prison service. You would take visitors around and then they would say, "Is that it?" and you would say, "Yes, you have seen everywhere" and they would say, "Yes, but where do you punish them?" I think people think that there are racks on the wall and we throw bread at you every so often, and that is not what it is about. So I think sometimes when you use words like "soft" and "easy", the public think, "We've got to make it tougher for you." How do you think we can make it tougher for you?

Angela Prince: To me—I am not going to use that word "soft touch" any more because it is a habit—it needs to be stronger. It needs to deter young people or whatever age from going to prison. If I can go to prison and buy my own digi box and my own games consoles—

Mrs James: From Argos.

Angela Prince: I have that at home. If I can go to town on a Saturday morning and if I come back by six because I have been good, I do that every Saturday. Do you know what I mean? I am not saying make it harsh where you are just going to have boiled rice and things like that, but make it more punishable.

Mrs James: Unappetising.

Q129 Anna Soubry: You have children, so when you were in custody, your punishment presumably—and I know you will tell me if I am wrong—was the fact that you couldn't give your children a hug before they go to sleep.

Angela Prince: Yes, the only punishment I had—and I always tell people that—was being away from my children. That is why I said if I didn't have any children, I don't see me with the life that I have got. My life was always selling drugs. That's what I did. Me not having any children, I would have probably continued selling those drugs, do you know what I mean, whatever happened.

Q130 Mrs Grant: Do you think if prison was more unpleasant, really unpleasant, if it was really unpleasant, it would be more of a deterrent?

Angela Prince: Yes, it would be, but don't get me wrong. It is unpleasant for everybody as an individual.

Q131 Mrs Grant: But more.

Angela Prince: More, yes, but if you are a strong person like myself, I am not scared of being bullied or things like that—that never happened to me. If someone younger was coming in now then they would be scared because there are people there who can see you are vulnerable so they are going to get bullied.

Q132 Chair: A number of witnesses want to say something about this— Daniel and then Brett Hawksley.

Brett Hawksley: Can I just say that from my experience, the majority of people I have seen in prison have found it hard. It is only a few people who find it, you know, quite an easygoing sort of thing. But I have seen the hard end of a prison sentence and the easy end of a prison sentence. The first time I went in prison, they did not have TVs, and you was locked up 23 hours a day and it is not like that now. You are constantly out your cell and when you are in your cell you have got something to watch, something to listen to. So I feel that giving them extra things has made prison a lot easier to do.

Q133 Yasmin Qureshi: I know people are suggesting that prisons are a soft option or the conditions in prisons are quite relaxed and sort of genteel and people don't feel as if they are being punished, but is that because of certain types of prison, which are called open prisons, where you have a lot more facilities? Most prisons that we have are not those types of modern open prison. Most of them, like in London, for example, where I have been a number of times, are pretty unpleasant-looking places.

Brett Hawskley: The old Victorian style of jails.

Yasmin Qureshi: Exactly, and people in there don't look happy to be in prison. They may commit crimes and come back and forth, but that is because they have got other problems in their lives, so would it be right to say that, yes, maybe there are some prisons that have all the modern-state facilities? We have got to get this into perspective that most prisons are not like those.

Brett Hawksley: There are prisons that are easier than others. Obviously, if you go into a Category A, it is more security. You have got less movement in there and you have got less facilities in most of the Cat A. I would say that the more low risk you are, the lower the category it is. You know, you go from B to C. You know, some Cs are semi-open prison and then obviously you get a D, which is an open prison, so it depends on what category you are in.

Q134 Mr Llwyd: I think I will follow Ms Prince's lead on this and I will ask this question by banging on the table and shouting, if that's going to help. That passes for humour in Wales. There was an excellent piece of work in 2009 called the Bradley review which recommended closer understanding between probation services and the national health service in terms of provision of drugs, alcohol treatment, mental health issues and so on. Do you feel that your individual needs are recognised by probation services and, in so doing, are the probation services able to help you to stop you reoffending?

Angela Prince: No.

Daniel Mitchell: I don't think so.

Q135 Mr Llwyd: Why do you say that, Mr Mitchell?

Daniel Mitchell: Because I don't think the services are set up in the community at the moment for them to be able to signpost people to help them with those different needs. I think it is just starting to, but I don't think it has always been there in the community for probation for you to work alongside for you to rehabilitate yourself, whether it is mental health or something else. I think drugs and things like that, those kinds of orders, have been used more. It was brought up earlier about the mental health side. Those sorts of things, you know, they are not there in the community.

Q136 Mr Llwyd: So the back-up that is referred to in the 2009 report, you think is not there—the provision of mental health services readily to hand, drug treatment and so on.

Daniel Mitchell: No, they are not there. When you are in prison, you know, excuse the pun, you have a captive audience there so there you can go to the meetings, but once you go to be released, there's no continuation. There just aren't the funds, you know, for the services to be there, or the numbers of people that are needed to access these services are, so it's overthrown.

Q137 Mr Llwyd: Are you saying that mental health provision in prison is adequate?

Daniel Mitchell: Not from what I have seen, no, and I think there's a lot of people in prison who need to be elsewhere dealing with their mental health needs, definitely not prison.

Brett Hawksley: From what I've seen in prison, people with mental health issues have been put on vulnerability wings and that's as far as the help they get. That's it, from what I've seen.

Angela Prince: I think that when it comes to mental health, there are so many different forms of mental health—you get low and then you get high mental health. When I went to prison—I have always suffered from clinical depression where I have always been on medication—the medication that I was taking, they refused to give me, because the words were that they had got no budgeting. There wasn't enough money for me to have that medication so they said, "I tell you what, we are going to put you on this." So I was on all different forms of antidepressants when I was in prison—different strengths and different things. They said, "Take that. See if that works. After three months come back to me." Well, I know what I have always been on. I know what works for me, but because of the finance, they couldn't help me with that.

Q138 Chair: That is puzzling because I thought that would come from the NHS budget.

Angela Prince: I didn't get it.

Daniel Mitchell: I think different prisons have different rules for what medications they can use.

Angela Prince: Yes, and even when you move from prison to prison, even though you take medication with you, they still change it again, you know, and that is what really got me sometimes until, when I actually came out of prison, my medication was sorted out proper.

Q139 Mrs Riordan: Are you saying that you went three months without seeing anybody? You said that you were given a drug for three months.

Angela Prince: Yes, they give you a medication to take, and sometimes I would say, "You know, this ain't working for me. I'm so tearful and I don't feel right taking this medication." They would still say, "Continue to take it and we will see what happens afterwards" and then you could go back.

Q140 Mrs Riordan: Could you go back in between?

Angela Prince: No, when you go back to see them, they are already telling you off: "Why are you here again?" or, "Go back to work" or something like that. When I came out of prison, that is when I got the medication back.

Daniel Mitchell: This is what you start to come up against when you are in prison, when people start calling it an easy option. When you actually start to look at how you live your life while you are in that environment that is when things start to become not easy.

Brett Hawksley: The reason why there is such a long period of time for them asking you to come back is because they say that it takes a certain amount of time for antidepressants to work, so that is why they say, "Come back in three months' time" sort of thing.

Q141 Mr Llwyd: On the issue of drug treatment and testing orders, we know they are often criticised because people find them difficult to complete. Mr Mitchell has already told us that today. Mr Hawksley, do you have any experience of such orders and how did they work for you?

Brett Hawksley: I have never had a drug order, but I've been in drug treatment. The first experience I had was absolutely terrible because I had a drug problem and I sought help—this was quite a few years ago—and I was told that there was a six-month waiting list for help. I told them, "Look, if I don't get this help urgently, I'm going to commit crimes to fund my drug habit basically." I was told there was no help, "You've got to join the waiting list." So, after a certain period of time, I was doing a prison sentence basically. The last experience that I've had within drug treatment, when I needed the help, it was instantly there and it was a good service.

Q142 Mr Llwyd: When did that happen?

Brett Hawksley: The last one?

Mr Llwyd: Yes.

Brett Hawksley: Three years ago.

Q143 Mr Llwyd: And it was instant assistance?

Brett Hawksley: Instant, yes.

Q144 Mr Llwyd: Why the change?

Brett Hawksley: I'm not sure, to be honest with you.

Q145 Mr Llwyd: Same area?

Brett Hawksley: Yes, same area.

Q146 Mr Buckland: Was it a high intensity DRR? Did you have to go back to court every month to see the judge?

Brett Hawksley: It wasn't a court order or anything like that. It was just something that I did off my own back.

Daniel Mitchell: I just want to say that I think it has been a bit of a postcode lottery as to where you are actually going to complete your order. I've spent some time down in the South-West and especially down there, where it came to waiting lists, they would be definitely a lot longer than what it would be as if you were in, say, where I have completed another order, say, somewhere like Milton Keynes. So, it does make a difference, I think, where you are going to be doing your order.

Q147 Mr Llwyd: Mr Coriat, according to the notes we have, at some point you had a drug problem. Were you subject to any such orders at any stage?

Daniel Coriat: I did not have a drug treatment order, but one of the conditions of my order was to be drug-free so, yes, I was encouraged to engage with the drug services although there was no strictness around it. I had lapsed and relapsed during my probation and I was truthful about that too and there was no, like, breach or anything from that, but I was encouraged to engage, yes.

Q148 Chair: Mr Coriat, you were in a probation hostel, I think, weren't you?

Daniel Coriat: I was living in a bail hostel, yes.

Q149 Chair: What was your experience of that and was it positive or negative?

Daniel Coriat: It was a tough environment for me because I had been homeless, sleeping rough, and then I went into prison and then I went to the bail hostel. Obviously, one of the big issues was housing, and it seemed as though my probation order was meant for me to be carried out in the hostel as a punitive thing, as another part of the punishment, but it was a very tough environment. You had cameras everywhere. The people who usually are at bail hostels have sometimes some very long sentences so there is a kind of institutionalised feeling to it. Yes, it is not easy.

Q150 Chair: Would you rather have carried out the requirements, but not in a hostel?

Daniel Coriat: Yes, I would rather have done it in temporary housing.

Q151 Chair: Perhaps that is not the right question. My question is would it have been more or less successful if you had not been in a hostel?

Daniel Coriat: I think the hostel gave me a certain amount of discipline, and I was able to carry out the probation order more effectively maybe because I was at the hostel. I think if I wasn't in that hostel then the probation order would have been quite a soft option—an easy option—because I would only have to go up to the office once a week maybe for 10 or 20 minutes and that was it.

Q152 Mr Llwyd: Were you assisted towards the end of the two-year period, to get accommodation and so on?

Daniel Coriat: Yes, I was, yes, a little bit. I had a floating housing support worker who found me temporary accommodation in a Hestia house. Now I am a service user and involved in various projects with Hestia, which is part of my rehabilitation as well.

Chair: And a last queestion from Anna Soubry?

Q153 Anna Soubry: I just wanted to know whether other people had found that accommodation? Did it play a part in how you coped with your various orders? Was it a problem for you, in other words, or was it not an issue?

Angela Prince: It was a problem for me because while being in prison, people used to come and try and help me get a house, but I don't think they did a good job with me at all, because when I went on one of my home leaves, I actually went around knocking on hostel doors and told them my story and if they could accommodate because I have got three weeks left on my release.

It was good, because with two weeks left on my release, one hostel, a women's hostel in Leicester, phoned the prison and said that they would accept me. You know, that was good. It was a mother-and-baby hostel, but I went there on my own and ended up staying there for two years. I did not want my kids to stay there—my two girls; the boys are big and they have got their own properties—I could not let them live there because it was unhygienic, there were mice and things like that. It was, like, even being there for two year was really difficult. Even though I was free, I still felt like I was in prison. I only got a house this year, January.

I have just got a house for me and my kids. We have actually got back together this year, January, but it is not nice at all. I don't know why I had to wait that long. It depends what crime you have done as well. Because mine was drugs, the council finds it really hard to get someone who has committed a crime like that another property.

Q154 Anna Soubry: And did you have to drive getting a home for you and your children?

Angela Prince: I did it.

Q155 Anna Soubry: Did you do that or did you do that through the probation?

Angela Prince: You have a service. You have a service, a worker who works with you, but they never worked with me. They did not do enough. They did not do a lot. They were out doing their nails and things like that. I could have done a better job. I was helping most of the girls in that house. I was telling them where to go or what they should do, things like that. It was horrible.

Daniel Mitchell: Accommodation is key. Everyone needs a place to do their stuff from.

Angela Prince: It helps you, yes.

Daniel Coriat: For me, that is what caused the rift between me and my probation officer. It was the housing issue that caused a big rift between us.

Q156 Anna Soubry: And Mr. Hawksley, what about you?

Brett Hawksley: I have never had any problems.

Q157 Anna Soubry: You have never had any problems?

Brett Hawksley: No.

Q158 Chair: I would like to thank you very much indeed for giving us such a frank and clear exposition of your own experience and the views that you formed on the basis of your experience. It was very helpful to us. Can I thank Tina Braithwaite and Revolving Doors. The fact is that Tina was very quiet throughout the proceedings.

Tina Braithwaite: It was very hard for me. I'm not used to being quiet.

Chair: It is as we intended because it was to give you the opportunity.

Daniel Mitchell: I would like to ask a question—it did come up—to anyone who would like to answer on what is the role of the service user and what they think that plays within probation, which is what we are talking about today. It is what role the service user brings to probation.

Chair: I think we have learned that from you, rather than the other way round. We will certainly want to refer to it because, in due course, we will publish a report on what we have learnt in the course of this inquiry. I confidently expect that we might be having something to say about the role of the service user.


Mrs James: Could we, on behalf of all the Committee, wish you well in the future.

Daniel Mitchell: Thank you very much.

Mrs James: You have done very well.

Chair: Yes, indeed. My final words are good wishes for the role that you are going to play in society in the future and thank you for your help this morning. Can I just ask Members to remain behind for a short private session? I will just call order so that our witnesses can leave. Thank you very much.

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Prepared 27 July 2011