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Probation officers in Cheshire have been given a pat on the back

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					A pat on the back for the probation service

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Magistrates have given a pat on the back to probation officers in Cheshire for
their work in courts and in supervising offenders.

A survey conducted by the Cheshire Probation Area shows that 98 per cent of
magistrates are satisfied with the work of probation staff.

They are particularly pleased with what is being offered by way of community
sentences and they have confidence in the service to produce results.

The praise contained in the survey comes hot on the heels of news that Cheshire
is the highest performing area across England and Wales when it comes to
dealing with offenders who fail to comply with community orders.

The national target is for enforcement of community orders is 60 per cent but,
together, the court service, the police, the Youth Offending Team and the
probation service in Cheshire are achieving 75 per cent.

The improvement in Cheshire is down to a great deal of hard work according to
Sandra Link, Assistant Chief Officer of Cheshire Probation Area.

Ms Link said they had learned a great deal from similar surveys in 2003 and
2006.

She said: “The results of the first survey made you realise that a lot of sentencers
knew very little about the probation service and they were sentencing offenders
to orders and treatments that they knew little about.

“We held briefing events for magistrates to inform them what supervision orders
did and what happened when a person came out of prison on licence.

“We gave them more information about how stringent and robust community
sentences are.

“In 2006, we saw that their satisfaction with us had grown – in terms of the
service that they got from us in court.

“As part of that survey, we asked them what they didn’t understand and we
embarked on a huge programme of training for magistrates and observational
visits for judges.
“We actually funded 900 training places for magistrates and we held three events
for the judges and all the judges attended all three events.


 “As a result of all that work, in the latest survey we have a satisfaction level of 98
per cent for responding quickly to requests from magistrates.

“The satisfaction level represents a 20 per cent increase on the result of the
previous survey.

“Other key findings included a 96 per cent satisfaction rate in the overall
usefulness of pre-sentencing reports in reaching a sentencing decision and a 93
per cent satisfaction rage for the appropriateness of proposals for sentence.

“We are really pleased with the outcome of the survey because it is vital that we
have the confidence of judges and magistrates in what we can deliver.

“Without that confidence, they would be unlikely to sentence offenders to
community orders and that would lead to a rise in the number of people in prison.

“We have a very strong reputation in Cheshire for returning offenders to court if
they fail to comply with their community orders.

“That means that judges and magistrates can be assured that we are really
robust in our safe management of offenders in the community.

“It’s a really improving position and sentencers are now more likely to use
community orders more appropriately.

“If they have more knowledge about the treatments available as part of the
sentence for offenders with a drugs or alcohol problem, they are more likely to
use that rather than send them to prison.

“Offenders going into custody for 12 months or less don’t get treatment while
they’re in prison while those sent to prison for longer terms do have access to
treatment programmes – for gambling, alcohol, drugs sex offending, whatever it
might be.

“Those being sentenced by magistrates are therefore a lot less likely to get
treatment while they’re in custody because they can’t impose long sentences.

“By the same token, if they are sentencing more appropriately the sentences are
likely to be more effective.

“If you get the right offender on the right programme at the right time, the impact
can be absolutely phenomenal in terms of reducing their reoffending.
“We have put in a tremendous amount of work with sentencers in the last two
years and I am delighted that it is has been so well received.”

				
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