Victims of violent and sexual crimes in London being let down by probation services

Victims of violent and sexual crimes are being let down by “wholly unsatisfactory” probation services in London, according to a watchdog report.

Inspectors found that in at least a fifth of cases they examined, victims of serious offences were not offered access to a statutory scheme to keep them updated about the perpetrator.

The findings were detailed in an assessment of the London division of the publicly-run National Probation Service (NPS), which supervises around 17,000 offenders across the capital.

Chief Inspector of Probation Dame Glenys Stacey (pictured) said: “We have found work with victims to be good or outstanding in other NPS divisions, so we are disappointed to see this is not the case in London.

“Some victims are not being offered a service at all, while others are receiving a service that is simply not good enough.”

The division offers a “poor service” to victims overall, the report concluded.

In at least one in five cases reviewed by inspectors, those who could be eligible for the Victim Contact Scheme (VCS) were not given the opportunity to access it, inspectors found.

The VCS is designed to ensure that victims of violent and sexual crimes are given regular updates about an offender, can make representations about an offender’s release arrangements and receive information about licence conditions.

All applicable cases should be identified at court, or in conjunction with the police witness care unit, and contacted to invite them to participate.

“This is not happening in enough cases in London,” the report said.

It noted that performance improvement plans were in place, but added: “At the time of our inspection, the delivery of services to victims was wholly unsatisfactory.”

The inspectorate gave the London division of the NPS an overall rating of “requires improvement” – the second-lowest of four ratings.

In one in five inspected cases, the probation officer and supervised individual did not have regular enough contact to manage and minimise the risk of harm safely, according to the report.

It also warned that the division has “significant” staff shortages.

At the time of the inspection, there were more than 150 unfilled vacancies.

Dame Glenys said: “High levels of attrition mean some offices lack experienced staff and this knowledge gap could potentially have an impact on the quality of services.”

While improvement is still needed, inspectors acknowledged the division has strengths and has made progress since it was last inspected in 2017.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “NPS London is leading the way in multi-agency working and tackling serious crime, and is innovating on issues relating to drugs and stalking.

“While the National Probation Service’s work with victims has been consistently rated good or outstanding across the country, improvement is clearly needed in London and we will focus on getting victims the contact and support they need.

“We have acted quickly to address these issues by creating a new dedicated Victims’ Forum to improve the quality of victim support, introducing new victim-specific training and recruiting across London – with 211 new staff joining over the past year.”

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