A report leaked to the Independent has revealed that 59 people were convicted for murders committed whilst they were under probation or had recently left their care in 2022.
A further 400 serious offences were committed by such individuals between January and April of 2023.
Problems have been attributed to staff having ‘unmanageable’ high workloads, which have resulted from staff shortages with figures suggesting that, as of June, the probation service is functioning with a staff shortfall of 35%. There is also a deficit in experience as two-thirds of resignations have come from staff who have been working there for five or more years.
High workloads have led to an increase in staff stress with reports from inspectors finding that, in the last year, 55 percent of staff sick days have been due to mental health issues, which is 43 per cent rise from five years previously.
Speaking with the Independent, Ian Lawrence, head of the probation union Napo, described of hearing ‘harrowing’ accounts from new staff who felt scared of going to work and were handling double the cases they should have been. He further stated: ‘If senior politicians – who have now woken up to the fact that probation matters – want staff to help them out of the hole that they’ve dug for themselves on prison overcrowding, then they need to engage with us in a way that motivates staff to undertake this work.’
He called for increased support from the government and said it was time for ‘the government to work with us to find ways to reduce workloads and motivate experienced staff.’
Failings in the probation service have been linked with high profile murders, such as that of Zara Aleena, who was killed last year by a man with a violent background who had been incorrectly released from prison.
The murders of Terri Harris and her children and their friend also raised concerns about the functioning of probation services. They were killed by Damien Bendall, who had previous convictions for violence and was serving a 17-month suspended sentence for arson when he committed the murders. It was reported in the Guardian that the inquest found the murders resulted from ‘stark’ failures on the part of the probation services who mistakenly categorised Bendall as low risk.