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Probation staff 'forgetting' to do police checks due to high caseloads

Following the damning SFO review of Jordan McSweeney, HM Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell has said that police aren't always being consulted about domestic abuse risks.

Probation staff have caseloads "so big" that they often forget to undertake standard police checks while assessing offenders, hugely affecting how effectively risk can be detected.

Following recent serious further offence reviews (SFOs) for quadruple murderer Damien Bendall and Jordan McSweeney, Justin Russell told Sky News that risk assessment is “the weakest area of performance” for the service. 

With the quality of risk assessment deemed unsatisfactory in two thirds of the cases the inspectorate looked at over the past 18 months, he said "caseloads are so big they have limited time to do an assessment".

“So they tend to just focus on the most immediate offence rather than looking back over someone’s whole criminal history," he said, adding: “They are also forgetting to do the checks with the police that they need to do about domestic abuse risks.

"And they need to be checking with local councils about child safety risks as well.”

The upshot of this landscape is that an individual like McSweeney could strike again, he told Times Radio.

"It could happen again. There are over 500 serious further offences committed by people on probation each year."

The minister of state for crime, policing and fire, Chris Philp, has promised more funding in the form of an extra 2,500 probation officers and an additional £150 million per year for the service.

Mr Philp added: “The Probation Service have fully accepted the recommendations made by the inspector, they are changing the way they conduct their risk assessments, they are taking into account a wider range of circumstances."

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