Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (formerly the National Offender Management Service at the time of this meeting note) makes sure people serve the sentences and orders handed out by courts, both in prisons and in the community. They oversee the delivery of probation services in England and Wales via the National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Companies. The Director of the National Probation Service is responsible for managing probation services.

Meeting Date: 12 January 2017

Matters Discussed:

Victim’s Journey

The Victims’ Commissioner (VC) stated that many victims struggled to understand the complex journey of the offender post sentencing, for example, appeals, transfer to open conditions, release on temporary licence, parole and recall. Greater clarity was needed.

The VC and Director of the National Probation Service discussed the victim’s journey through the criminal justice system and in particular the information currently available for victims and how it is disseminated to them. The National Probation Service (NPS) is currently looking at developing a victim’s page on the existing .Gov.UK website. This would act as a consolidated source where all available information could be stored. The Director suggested that in addition, it may be possible in the future to develop a victim’s “app” which could be downloaded to smart phones so that all available information could be reached via the “app”.

The VC’s Chief Executive will meet with stakeholders, including the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) and the Parole Board, to discuss this issue and review all available information, with a view to providing greater clarity and consistency.

Victim Liaison Officer Training and Resources

The VC was aware that following a recent review of the Victim Liaison Officer (VLO) role and capacity, NPS has agreed that all VLOs should be NPS pay-grade Band 3. At present around 30 per cent of existing VLOs are NPS pay-grade Band 4. Although these staff would receive the usual protections and would be assisted in finding other roles at Band 4 level within the organisation, the VC was keen to understand how the transition to a single grade would be managed in a way that would not impact upon service delivery to victims.

The Director assured the VC that all new recruits would be fully trained. Indeed, NPS is looking at developing a structured learning and development package for VLOs, part of which will be the ability to work towards the achievement of a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ). The full scope of this learning and development offer is still to be defined, however, the Director would welcome the VC’s involvement in the development of this. The VC considered this to be a very positive development and was keen to be kept up-to-date on its progress.

A new National Probation Service (NPS) central victim’s database, the Victim Contact Management System (VCMS) was introduced in April 2016. Previously, probation areas had their own individual systems and it was not possible to centrally collect information regarding the frequency and quality of contact with victims. VCMS will enable the NPS to obtain good quality management information to support VLOs in their role.

Court Transcripts

The VC welcomed the NOMS’s positive response to her request that victims who joined the contact scheme, and whose offenders were parole eligible, would be offered a court transcript of sentencing remarks. She requested that this be extended to all victims who are currently on the scheme.

The Director undertook to explore how the NPS can develop the offer of VLOs offering to obtain a copy of the trial judge’s sentencing remarks (where available), to existing victims in the scheme; including victims who are considering writing a Victim Personal Statement for a parole review.

Mentally Disordered Offenders

The VC raised her concerns about victims whose offenders were detained under provisions of the Mental Health Act. She was concerned about the support these victims were receiving and whether VLOs were fully familiar with the Mental Health Review Tribunal.

The Director responded that as part of the development of training mentioned above, NPS will develop training on offenders held under the Mental Health Act 1983, to assist VLOs in explaining this type of detention to victims. She appreciated the VC’s concerns regarding contact with victims of mentally disordered offenders and is already working with policy colleagues on this issue.

The VC’s Chief Executive has arranged to meet with representatives from the NPS Mental Health Casework Section and the NOMS Victim Policy Team to discuss taking this forward.

Victims’ Commissioner’s Decency Pledge

The VC is also planning a “victim awareness campaign” across all criminal justice agencies, increasing the awareness of staff of the needs of victims and encouraging them to view the system through the eyes of victims. The campaign would need input from all agencies. The Director confirmed that the NPS would offer its full support to this campaign as she recognised its importance.