Assess the Changing Role of the Probation Service

The aim of this assignment is to assess how the role of the Probation Service has changed since the 1991 Criminal Justice Act. In order to assess how the service has changed it is important to look first at its history and development up to the 1991 Act.

The Probation Service in England and Wales has from its conception in the 1800??™s evolved and developed continually in order to provide a service which benefits both the public and service users. It has developed from its original form of young offenders being released to the care of people willing to act as their Guardians through to today??™s Service which is recognised in its own right as a form of sentencing. During this time Probation has seen the first appointments of police court missionaries, followed by the first attempt to legislate the system, with the Probation of First offenders Act in 1887. The 1907 Probation of Offenders Act, was the first act which allowed Probation Orders for all courts and offences, except murder and treason, but these orders did require the consent of the individual, and this consent remained a condition of Probation until the 1991 CJ Act. It was in 1938 that the Home Office assumed responsibility for the Probation Service and the 1948 Criminal Justice Act established procedures for organisation, finance and practice. While the service continued to grow and develop for many years, the Criminal Justice Act of 1991 was a major turning point in the development of the service. There had been a number of events which led to this Act such as the Streatfield report which recommend social enquiry in reports. The introduction of the Community Service Order in 1972, and the introduction of National Objectives and Priorities in 1984. The Green and White papers published in 1988 and 1990 which questioned the high use of custody and promoted the use of community based sentences as an alternative. And finally the 1989 report ???The Probation Service ??“ promoting Value for Money??™ which again promoted the use of community based sentences in place of prison. All of these reports, papers and Acts led to the 1991 Criminal Justice Act and the Probation Service we see today.

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As part of the CJA 1991, the need for consent from the Service User was removed and Probation became a form of sentencing in its own right. This resulted in a number of changes in the way that we work, before this point Probation staff were working with people who had agreed to the order, they were motivated to do the work and willing. After the 1991 people were given Probation orders, and they were not always willing. As a result of there was a change in practice, motivational interviewing, became standard. Probation orders were used as a way of reducing the number of offenders sentenced to custody which at the time was seen as ineffective and expensive, Home Secretary, at the time, Douglas Hurd, stated that custody was ???an expensive way of making a bad person worse??™. However the act was never given the opportunity to produce results as it was replaced two years later by a new Criminal Justice Act. IN fact the speed in which new Criminal Justice Acts have been introduced by both Labrour and Conservative governments has been critised, ???(the criminal Justice system)…has been in a state of permanent change for 15 years…in the 60 years to 1985 there were just six criminal justice acts…but since 1985, legislative changes accelerated to one every 18 months…this is absurd, almost a form of mania..??™ Leader Comment, The Guardian, 14th November 2002.

The Act was critized to begin with as encouraged Probation Orders in place of custody and these were seen by many as a ???soft option??™ and it was believed that Probation as on the side of the offender rather than the victim. Later with the growth of the ???what works??™ movement, the possibility of effective rehabilitation in the community was promoted. It was through the development of accredited programmes, stronger monitoring and enforcement and working with partnership agencies that the positives of community based sentences were seen and promoted

The 1991 Act also introduced a new curfew order .

These developments and changes, which started with the Criminal Justice Act of 1991, led to the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act of 2000, from which came the National Probation Service for England and Wales, that came into effect on the 1st of April 2001.

With the creation of the National Probation Service for England and Wales, came 42 areas whose boundaries co-insided with those of the police and CPS. All areas became accountable to the Home Secretary; Chief Probation Officers were by Home Office appointment. While areas were responsible for their own management, if they were seen to be failing then the Home Office had been given the power to step in and take over direct management of the area.

The aims of the Probation Service have been laid out by the 2001 Criminal Justice Act, these are to
* protect the public
* reduce re-offending
* provide the proper punishment of Offenders
* ensure that Offenders are aware of the effects of tie crimes on their victims and on the public
* rehabilitate Offenders.
As a result of this, the Probation Service has a unique role within the Criminal Justice system. We are the only agency with the CJ System which has contact with all agencies in the system. The Probation Service now works with Offenders from the start of their contact with the courts through to the end of their sentence, either in the community or in the custodial setting.


National standards

More professional

Accredited programmes

Dfferent wasy of working, motivating, new etho of getting people to enage, pro social modelling