ROBERT BUCKLAND: Probation system WILL work better for victims
27th June 2021

ROBERT BUCKLAND: Probation system WILL work better for victims

I share the frustrations of many Daily Mail readers that Colin Pitchfork could soon be out of prison. His were the gravest of crimes which left two families in unimaginable grief.

Three decades on, Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth’s loved ones still live with the pain, and they have been front and centre in my thoughts in recent weeks.

If convicted today, he would almost certainly have received a whole life order, behind bars without any hope of release. That will become the default for any premeditated child murder under our new Sentencing Bill.

But such a power was not available then, and so it fell to the independent Parole Board to decide, not if the original punishment was right, but if he is now safe to release.

My role as Lord Chancellor here is limited. The Government cannot overrule the Board’s decisions, but I can ask them to reconsider if it looks like the way they reached a decision was wrong or if it’s out of step with the evidence.

I share the frustrations of many Daily Mail readers that Colin Pitchfork could soon be out of prison. His were the gravest of crimes which left two families in unimaginable grief, writes Robert Buckland 


Victims: Furious relatives of the two schoolgirls murdered by a notorious paedophile have condemned a decision to let him go free. Left: Lynda Mann, right: Dawn Ashworth

After careful consideration, I will be doing that with the Pitchfork decision today. And while I can’t control the outcome of that review, we can control the level of supervision he would be given by the Probation Service if released.

He would face strict controls on his movements, have to wear a GPS tag and undergo regular polygraph testing to make sure he is being honest.

If there’s any sense he poses an increased risk they wouldn’t hesitate to put him back in prison.

Probation staff do amazing, difficult work every day keeping the public safe, but it’s rarely spoken about.

My role as Lord Chancellor here is limited. The Government cannot overrule the Board’s decisions, but I can ask them to reconsider if it looks like the way they reached a decision was wrong or if it’s out of step with the evidence. Pictured: Justice Secretary Robert Buckland

They are unsung crimefighters with eyes trained on offenders released from prison to prevent reoffending.

We’ve invested an extra £310million in probation since I took office so they can do that even better.

We’re recruiting record numbers of probation officers, with over 1,000 trainees employed last year and plans to bring in 1,500 this year.

That will mean staff can spend more time supervising offenders and working with the police to share intelligence.

They will carry out more visits to offenders’ homes to protect children and partners from domestic and sexual abuse.

Three-quarters of the decisions the Board makes are to keep prisoners inside for the public’s protection.

But, occasionally, decisions like the Pitchfork one rock public confidence.

We are conducting a review of the system so it works better for victims and to restore people’s faith in its ability to keep them safe.

It will report back later this year and, in the meantime, you can rest assured that the Probation Service will now be protecting the public even better than before.

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