1 April 2014

In what presumably is a marker of April Fool’s Day, probation officers and criminal lawyers in England and Wales have chosen the birthday of the sector Minister – the Justice Secretary – to  engage in street protests and industrial action against the UK Government’s policy to privatise 70% of the probation service and to cut about £215 million from the legal aid budget. Probation officers however will wait until midday before taking action!

The UK Government funds a “very generous” £2 bn annually for “one of the most expensive legal aid systems in the world”. But in dealing with its financial challenges seeks savings of approximately 10% in legal aid spending.

The combined demonstrations aim to incapacitate the courts for the day, drawing attention to the effects of budget reductions that allegedly dismantle the criminal justice system and the right to a fair defence, and the “dangerous social experiment” of privatising the supervision of offenders on release from prison.

That may well be the case if outsourced probation services were to reflect the model of several US jurisdictions described in a recent Guardian article (link below).

Today also marks the commencement of the Accident Compensation scheme 40 years ago and the 101st anniversary of the New Zealand Public Service.