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'Murder rates will go up' if Probation Service is dismantled claims Hackney officer

PUBLISHED: 11:48 05 November 2013 | UPDATED: 17:30 05 November 2013

Staff from the Probation Service - inlcuding Hackney - are undertaking a national 24 hour strike from 12pm today in protest of justice secretary Chris Grayling's plans to privatise it. Picture: Sean Dempsey

Staff from the Probation Service - inlcuding Hackney - are undertaking a national 24 hour strike from 12pm today in protest of justice secretary Chris Grayling's plans to privatise it. Picture: Sean Dempsey

PA Wire/Press Association Images

Murder rates in Hackney will go up if the government presses ahead with plans to privatise the probation service, it has been claimed.

Speaking ahead of the national strike today by the majority of employees of the service, Hackney probation officer David Masterson and vice-chair of the National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO) said that proposed plans would endanger lives.

He is one of 80 to 100 employees from the London Probation Trust in Hackney who plan to strike for 24 hours in protest at the Secretary of State for Justice Chris Grayling’s plans to privatise 70 per cent of the 106-year-old government body next April.

Staff at offices in Englefield Road in De Beauvoir, Rectory Road in Stoke Newington and the Hackney gangs unit will all join the picket line.

Probation Trusts, which make up the Probation Service, work with offenders released from prison on licence and those on community service. They also work with victims of sexual and violent offences where the culprit has been sentenced for more than 12 months.

Mr Masterson said: “We keep criminals off the streets. We turn people’s lives around. We reduce reoffending. The government’s own statistics say that Hackney probation has reduced reoffending by 7.52 per cent.

“In my opinion, crime will go up and public safety will be at grave risk. Murder rates will go up. All the great work with the community in Hackney will be unravelled. The chairman of the Derbyshire probation trust has said that this will lead to preventable deaths.

“The main reasons we are going on strike is because the government have conducted a risk register of what will go wrong if these proposals go ahead. NAPO have asked to see this but have not been given access and we have put through an FOI.

“If this goes ahead, the service will be transferred to 21 private companies with 21 different IT systems. People will inevitably fall through the cracks.”

Serco, which is being investigated for fraud for tagging dead people and G4S, which were responsible for the Olympics fiasco, are both bidding for contracts.

Staff in Hackney work with a gangs unit that was set up after the riots. Ironically, Mr Grayling wrote to staff in the borough after the riots to thanks them for working round the clock to ensure clients did not go out during the riots.

Mr Masterson added: “With all these benefit cuts and privatisation, my clients tell me there will be riots again as they only take so much.”

A probation officer, who did not wish to be named said: “We are striking from 12pm today because Chris Grayling is going to privatise the probation service and make money out of the most vulnerable people in the community.”

Justice Minister Jeremy Wright said: “This is a strike in favour of the status quo, which is high reoffending rates and no support for 50,000 short-sentenced offenders each year who are currently released without any supervision and go on to commit so much crime in our communities.

“We have well established contingency plans to deal with any potential action. We will continue to support staff and engage with unions as our important reforms move forwards.”

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