Inspection of adult offending work: Devon and Cornwall working well to protect the public

Devon and Cornwall Probation Trust worked effectively with other agencies to protect the public and prevent reoffending, said Liz Calderbank, Chief Inspector of Probation, publishing the report of a recent inspection of Devon and Cornwall Probation Trust.

However, work to assess and review the risk of harm posed by some offenders needed to improve.
This inspection is the third of six where inspectors are focusing on the quality of work with violent offenders, which forms a significant proportion of the work of any Probation Trust. The purpose of the inspection is to assess whether the sentence of the court is delivered effectively, and whether work with the individual offender protects the public, reduces the likelihood of reoffending and provides a high quality service to courts and victims. Inspectors also examine the extent to which workers engage positively with individuals, ensuring that they comply with their sentence and are able to respond constructively to the work designed to change their behaviour.
Inspectors were pleased to find that:
  • court reports were of good quality and provided sufficient information;
  • interventions were generally delivered according to the requirements of the sentence and in line with sentence plan objectives;
  • in nearly all cases the offender manager took appropriate action in relation to non-compliance;
  • in most instances constructive interventions encouraged and challenged individuals to take responsibility for their actions and focused on changes they needed to make to their behaviour;
  • the Trust applied information and research findings proactively and used them to improve services;
  • the Trust made a strong and leading contribution at a strategic level to multi-agency work to protect the public;
  • overall, the risk of harm to victims was well managed and the safety of children and young people promoted; and
  • victim contact work was done well.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • the quality of initial sentence plans was not always sufficient – some were not sufficiently informed by the assessments about an individual’s likelihood of reoffending or risk of harm;
  • alcohol misuse was usually recognised in the initial assessment, but interventions to address the problem should have been provided in more cases;
  • an initial risk of serious harm screening was missing or not completed sufficiently well in a number of cases, sometimes because assessments were not suitably analytical or did not take account of all available information; and
  • too many risk management plans were either not completed or were completed to an insufficient quality.
Inspectors made recommendations to assist Devon and Cornwall  in its continuing improvement, including: on assessing risk of harm and reviewing it as appropriate, managing risk of harm, taking full account of the safety of actual and potential victims and providing effective management oversight in cases classified as posing a high risk of serious harm to others.
Liz Calderbank said: 

‘The Trust worked with a range of partners in delivering offending-related work, and was an active and effective contributor to multi-agency public protection work across its area. Since the last inspection, senior managers had been working hard to address the recommendations; in-house research and quality assurance were providing them with useful information to help focus resources appropriately and improve performance. This inspection provides evidence of the effectiveness of that approach, although there remains a need for further improvements in risk of harm assessments and planning.’

Notes to editors:

1. View the report (PDF, 1 MB).

2. This inspection of adult offending work in Devon and Cornwall was undertaken as part of HMI Probation’s Inspection of Adult Offending Work programme that started in April 2013 and will cover all geographical areas in England and Wales.
3. These inspections focus on issues not subject to other forms of external scrutiny:  work to reduce the likelihood of reoffending, the management and minimisation of risk of harm to the public, delivery of the court sentence effectively and providing a service to courts and victims.
4. For further information or to request an interview, please contact Jane Parsons in HMI Probation press office on 020 7035 2123 or 07880 787452.