Inspection of adult offending work: greater focus on alcohol misuse needed to prevent violent crime

Probation services should pay more attention to tackling violent offenders’ alcohol misuse to help to reduce reoffending, said Paul McDowell, Chief Inspector of Probation. Today HM Inspectorate of Probation published its aggregate report of six inspections undertaken as part of the programme of Inspection of Adult Offending Work.
The report, Inspection of Adult Offending Work: an aggregate report on the first six inspections – a focus on violent offending draws on data which focused on the quality of work undertaken by probation trusts with adults who have committed violent offences. The purpose of inspections is to assess whether the sentence of the court is delivered effectively, and whether work with an individual protects the public, reduces the likelihood of reoffending and provides a high quality service to courts and victims.
Inspectors were pleased to find that:
  • work to assist sentencing was good and sentencers held very positive views about the work of probation staff in courts and in report preparation;
  • work to deliver the sentence of the court was generally good, with appropriate levels of contact and enforcement action taken when the individual failed to comply;
  • in almost two-thirds of cases, at least some progress had been made in addressing the factors associated with offending behaviour;
  • at the time of the inspections, 70% of the offenders whose cases were looked at had not been cautioned for, charged with or convicted of a further offence eight or nine months into their sentence; and
  • victim contact work was undertaken well overall, and the views of almost all victims who responded to surveys were very positive about the service they had received.
However, inspectors were concerned to find that:
  • work to address offending behaviour was let down by the lack of attention to tackling alcohol misuse in all cases where it was needed;
  • the quality of work to protect the public varied significantly between the six trusts;
  • overall, all reasonable action had been taken to keep an individual’s risk of harm to others to a minimum in almost three-quarters of cases, leaving a significant number of cases where action had not been sufficient; and
  • not enough attention was paid to possible continuing risk of harm to some identifiable victims or potential victims, including children.
In order to drive improvements, inspectors made recommendations to the National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Companies, who are due to take over the work of Probation Trusts from 1 June 2014. These included identifying the possible contribution of alcohol misuse to offending in assessments, addressing the issue in sentence planning and delivering appropriate interventions, and paying greater attention to the protection of children in assessing the risk of harm an individual poses.
Paul McDowell said:
“In almost two-thirds of cases, at least some progress had been made in addressing the factors associated with offending behaviour. This was let down, however, by the lack of attention to tackling alcohol misuse in all cases where this was needed – a particularly important area of work given the known links with violent behaviour. While around 70% of the cases we looked at had problems with alcohol, this was not always given appropriate attention in the sentence plan and consequently, the necessary interventions were not delivered. Where the right work was undertaken, progress was often made, but the lack of follow through represented a missed opportunity to help many to tackle their drinking.”

Notes to editors

  1. Read the report
  2. This aggregate report draws on data from the first six inspections in HMI Probation’s Inspection of Adult Offending Work programme, which started in April 2013 and will cover all geographical areas in England and Wales. The case sample for these six inspections was drawn from cases managed by Bedfordshire, Devon and Cornwall, Hampshire, Merseyside, Northamptonshire and Northumbria probation trusts and encompassed a range of violent offences. It included domestic violence but not sexual offending.
  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. From June 2014 the work currently undertaken by Probation Trusts will be divided between the new National Probation Service and 21 new Community Rehabilitation Companies. Inspection recommendations will be taken forward by NOMS performance managers and account managers for the new companies. For more on the Ministry of Justice’s Transforming Rehabilitation strategy,
  5. For further information please contact Jane Parsons at HMI Probation press office on 020 3681 2775 or 07880 787452.