Court proceedings halted in Warwickshire as industrial action takes hold

Probation workers in Warwickshire taking part in a demonstration outside the Nuneaton Justice Centre.
Probation workers in Warwickshire taking part in a demonstration outside the Nuneaton Justice Centre.

Only one criminal court in the whole of Warwickshire was open for proceedings on Tuesday as probation staff and solicitors joined together to stage a 36-hour strike.

Many offenders had the day off carrying out ‘community payback’ duties, while others were unable to attend supervision appointments as part of their criminal sentences due to a lack of staff being at work during the strike, which took place from noon on Monday until Wednesday morning.

Dave Adams, Warwickshire branch chairman of the National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO), estimated that between 65 and 70 per cent of probation workers in the county took part in the industrial action, which formed part of a dispute over the Government’s plans to partly privatise the country’s probation service.

Pointing out that this was the first time that solicitors were joining in the action, Mr Adams said: “This is unprecedented - it’s making a really big statement.

“The Government plans to outsource 70 per cent of the probation service is untried and untested. It is a dangerous social experiment that we believe will lead to a reduction in rehabilitation and fragment risk management placing the public at risk.”

Members of NAPO from Warwickshire formed a picket line outside the staff entrance to the side of the Justice Centre in Leamington on Tuesday morning and they staged a demonstration outside the Justice Centre in Nuneaton on Monday afternoon.

There was also a group from the county who travelled to London to take part in a rally outside the Houses of Parliament on Tuesday.

Mr Adams added: “If the Secretary of State really believes in these reforms, then we ask him to pause and to run pilots that can be independently evaluated to evidence they work.

“But he refuses to do this and is pushing them through ahead of the general election. It will cost the public in terms of both safety and taxpayers’ money.”

He added: “Our members feel passionate about their profession and the work that they do to protect the public and rehabilitate offenders. They do not take strike action lightly and this has been a very difficult decision for them.

“But the public needs to know how these changes will impact on risk management and ultimately public protection.”