Joint Committee On Human Rights Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

60.  Memorandum from HM Inspectorate of Probation

  I write in response to Paul Evans' letter dated 21 March 2002. You will see from the replies to the questions posed in that letter, that HM Inspectorate of Probation has not, to date, performed the roles that are identified as possibly falling within the remit of a Human Rights Commission.

  HMIP has recently completed a programme of inspections covering all 42 probation areas in England and Wales, which started in January 1999 and over the next few months we will be planning our next area inspection programme, due to commence in January 2003. It is my intention that the new programme will give attention to the National Probation Service's compliance with human rights and the action taken to establish a culture of human rights among staff. The detail of that programme and how human rights issues will be addressed has not yet been developed, but, given the range of other work that must be examined, the amount of time that can be allocated to the subject will be relatively limited. An alternative that I will consider is whether human rights might be the focus of a separate thematic inspection. Such inspections take a national view of the probation service's work on a particular topic, allowing it to be examined in more depth. The final selection of subjects to be examined by that means rests with the Secretary of State and, as you will appreciate, there is no shortage of issues competing for attention.

  In considering the best approach to inspecting probation services' compliance with human rights HMIP will be seeking the advice of other inspection and audit bodies in the criminal justice system that may already have some experience of inspecting this subject. Any information from the Joint Committee or relevant experience of other similar bodies would be helpful.

  In reply to the particular questions posed and taking them in the order in which they appear in Paul Evans' letter:

  1.  To date compliance with human rights has not been referenced by HMIP in assessing the performance of the National Probation Service, although it is planned that it will be a criterion in future inspections.

  2.  As above.

  3.  Not applicable.

  4.  No relevant experience or information at this stage.

  5.  When compliance with human rights becomes a part of the standards and criteria against which the performance of the NPS is assessed it will be the responsibility of HMIP to offer relevant advice to the National Probation Directorate and, on specific matters, to individual probation areas.

  6.  The role of HMIP includes (a) offering advice on particular problems when requested to do so, (b) pro-actively offering advice based on the findings of its inspections and (c) participating in fora convened to review the implementation of existing policy and consider further policy development, again using the findings of inspections.

  7.  Yes. See comments above.

11 April 2002

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