Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Tossers Pulling It

Excuses for tossing off

Blackguard, coward, git, guttersnipe, hooligan, ignoramus, liar, rat, swine, stoolpigeon, and traitor, they're all out. Right out.

But what about tosser?

And more particularly, what about tossers pulling it?

I can assure you that's not the kind of prospect the Dowager Duchess of Beuccleuch likes to contemplate. And neither, I dare say, does Sir Suma Chakrabarti KCB, Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Justice.

Yet this afternoon in the Public Accounts Committee, the previously impeccably mannered David Curry suddenly put it to Sir Suma that he actively encourages a bunch of tossers to pull it.

There was a gasp, and we waited for the Pursuivant Master of Garters to march him off.

But amazingly, nothing happened. We never did understand the definition of unparliamentary language, but clearly, on a Wednesday with an r in the month, tossers are perfectly in order.

PAC were grilling Sir Suma and his two wingmen about the hopeless shambles of Community Orders. And Curry was getting exasperated about how easily the Probation Service accepts the pathetic excuses served up by the tosser "clients" when they pull out of their probation commitments.

As BOM readers will recall, this whole project is Labour's 2003 wheeze to cut the need for prison places by leaving dangerous thugs free on the streets under the supervision of Mr Barrowclough's naive probation officer brother. We blogged the NAO report here, and the key conclusions were:

  • The scheme was rushed in on the basis of zero evidence that it would work

  • Because the monitoring and recording systems are - to use the correct parliamentary language - shite, there is no way of knowing how many (if any) of the thugs actually serve their sentences properly

  • Tossers can pull it as often as they like, using any old excuse for not turning up to meet Mr Barrowclough (see table above)

So it's pretty much a waste of time and money, an impression amply confirmed by the mandarins' performance this afternoon.

Sir Sumo is new, and his job was just to sound confident and smooth. And smooth he most certainly was, assuring the PAC that all the NAO recommendations had been taken on board and actioned with the utmost expedition. Sir Humphrey must have been hugging himself with delight.

But Sumo's two wingmen were less silk, more polyester. They both had more than a touch of the Barrowcloughs and I found myself thinking thank God they're not in charge of anything important... then I realised one is head of all our prisons, and the other is in charge of the Probation Service.

Particularly alarming was the fact that Probation Officer Barrowclough kept telling us that most of his 200,000 charges are "people you'd cross the road to avoid". To which the obvious response is "then WTF are they out on probation and not locked up?"

He also talked about something called the crimogenic needs of his charges. Frankly, I have no idea what crimogenic needs might be (a quick Google opens a deep and dispiriting abyss of sociological twaddle) but I'm screaming sod their needs, crimogenic or otherwise, all I care about is keeping law-abiding citizens safe.

All the evidence tells us that if someone has done something that warrants a criminal conviction, he is highly likely to reoffend. The stats say released prisoners have a 65% average reconviction rate (within two years), and ex-community service criminals have a 50% reconviction rate:

What's more, all those figures relate to reconviction - undetected reoffending rates will be much higher. And at the level of the individual criminal, once someone has three previous "sentencing occasions", the chances of further convictions is greater than 50%.

We stick to our previous view: three strikes and you're out (see here).

PS And talking of tossers, Gordo really is in a whole new class. He abolishes the 10p income tax rate in his own inimitable way, slyly burying its effects in a huge and impenetrable pile of bureaucratic complexity. Eventually he gets found out and challenged. And just like a playground blusterer, he folds immediately and starts snivelling. Does anyone take him seriously?

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