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Criminals 'molly-coddled' by probation staff, says MP
9:00am Monday 21st May 2012 in Aire Valley
Probation chiefs have been accused of “molly-coddling” criminals on community service after complaints they spent as much time drinking tea, eating lunch and travelling as they did clearing up.
An investigation was launched by West Yorkshire Probation Trust following complaints that the team of criminals spent just four hours of the day picking litter and clearing Ferniehurst Dell, Baildon, after being handed community punishment sentences by the courts.
Shipley MP Philip Davies complained to the Ministry of Justice after hearing about the “completely unacceptable” situation.
In a reply, Crispin Blunt MP, parliamentary under-secretary of state for justice, said: “The West Yorkshire Probation Trust has conducted an internal investigation into the situation reported to you at Ferniehurst Dell. The trust acknowledges that, on this occasion, the required standards that the work should be rigorous for offenders and of benefit to the community were not met.”
Ian Lyons, chairman of Ferniehurst Dell Improve-ment Partnership and Bradford Councillor Debbie Davies organised for the community payback team to visit Ferniehurst Dell on March 23. Mr Lyons said the team did not turn up until about 10.30am and then had a drinks break while probation officers explained what they would be doing on site.
They carried out less than two hours of work before being taken by bus to another work site two miles away for lunch. The team returned nearly two hours later and worked from about 2pm until 4pm, said Mr Lyons.
“It was just farcical. They were supposed to be there working to pay back the community when the actual fact was that they spent most of their time either travelling or on a break. When they were working, they were working really hard, but people expect them to be working for the full day.”
Coun Davies (Con, Baildon) said: “We provided toilets for them and it was a nice day, so they could have eaten their lunch outside instead of being taken away, which wasted even more time. They were being molly-coddled.”
The trust has introduced new rules to ensure a minimum working day at all its sites. The Government has also brought in new rules that the working day for community payback will be at least seven hours.
Andrew Chandler, head of offender services at West Yorkshire Probation Trust said: “This is an isolated incident that we investigated as soon as our staff reported the issue. We then took immediate action to make sure our high standards of work would not be compromised again.”