At the time comments were invited for the select committee on the impact of TR and with an eye on E3, I responded with unfettered gaze on the changing landscape of what used to be known as the National Probation Service. Not a term applicable to all the work carried out by members. Establishing how this came about and its impact will take more copy than provided for here.
Attempts to provide an insight into the role of a court officer post TR would not be helped by trying to outline a typical day in the life of etc. Most of my time, like many others, involves sitting in front of a computer screen. Opticians must be doing rather well as a result.
Outside of this there is always the unexpected from the variety of cases I come across. The job provides me with the chance to engage with disparate people. The problem is, once having won the confidence and trust of those to be sentenced; I often find the woefully inadequate short format report restricts my capacity to share with the court a lot of what I have established. The rest, within the limited time available, I am expected to provide through increasing workarounds.
Often the need for speedy assessments limits the quality, and therefore the value of these, including the self-gratifying Oasys tool. I am aware this makes more work for those down the line who have to complete initial sentence plans. I greatly sympathise when the impact of meeting the restrictions around “same day reports” means increased workloads for all concerned.
The court officer’s dilemma is: will the assessment be good enough? Have I missed anything? And God forbid when meeting the challenge of contacting agencies for background checks adds to the pressure, did I call the risk right? Then of course, mustn’t allow the case to fall on the wrong side of the divide.
Presenting oral reports at court, while not for everyone, helps to improve the “Probation Profile” where in my experience we still enjoy some reputational kudos. The fault lines on this arise from the pressures faced by CRCs. Staff there are striving to make up for the failure of a dysfunctional organisational structure the courts are becoming increasingly aware of.
Coming back to where I started, the current court set up does not necessarily provide for an effective use of time as we still remain being held hostage as the Cinderella of the justice world. Efficiency is impacted on by a grossly inadequate IT system and being excellent, well that’s where my colleagues and I excel. We are recognised, but more often when the wheel falls off.