Campaigner slams probation reforms

Mrs Penny Clough who has been awarded an MBE in the Queen's New Year Honours list with her husband John.'Photo Ben Parsons

Mrs Penny Clough who has been awarded an MBE in the Queen's New Year Honours list with her husband John.'Photo Ben Parsons

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“THE Government is playing with people’s lives.”

That is the view of the mother of murdered Blackpool nurse Jane Clough on plans to privatise some aspects of the probation service.

Jane was killed by former partner Jonathan Vass after he was released on bail, despite facing nine charges of raping her and four charges of

assault.

Her mother, Penny, has spoken out after The Gazette reported yesterday up to 200 trained probation staff in Blackpool and Fleetwood were fearing for their jobs as a result of the proposals.

Mrs Clough, 53, who was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours, said: “It’s profit before safety and it’s not acceptable.

“The Government is playing with people’s lives here.

“I’ve got a sister who works in the probation service and people employed in the service are extremely worried about this. They would prefer to cope with the demand that’s on them rather than have people who are not qualified involved.”

Under the new plans probation service staff will still deal with supposed high risk offenders. However, those deemed to be low risk offenders will be passed on to the private sector.

Penny and husband John, from Barrowford, near Nelson, successfully campaigned – through The Gazette-backed Justice for Jane appeal – for a change in the law to allow the Crown Prosecution Service to appeal judges’ bail decisions.

Mrs Clough added: “We’ve got to look at the safety of the public and this is just a short-sighted way of trying to save money. It’ll cost more money in the long run because I can’t see voluntary organisations having the skills to manage offenders appropriately.

“Offenders are being released inappropriately as it is and you can see the problem just getting worse.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: “These proposals build on a consultation which set out plans to open up services to the private and voluntary sector to drive innovation through the criminal justice system and increase the use of payment by results.”