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Probation workers in sell-off protest

PICKET LINE ... Probation Service staff strike in opposition to Government privatisation plans. Front, from left, Ken Harrison, Mary Hayes, Linda Hill and Carla Hills.

PICKET LINE ... Probation Service staff strike in opposition to Government privatisation plans. Front, from left, Ken Harrison, Mary Hayes, Linda Hill and Carla Hills.

PROBATION officers in South Tyneside staged a 24-hour walkout yesterday in protest at controversial plans to privatise parts of the service.

They argue that criminals will be more likely to reoffend if the Government sells off Northumbria Probation Trust to a private firm.

Almost all the 30 probation staff in the borough, who work in Secretan Way, South Shields, took part in the protest against Justice Secretary Chris Grayling’s plans.

The proposals could see many serious offenders, including those guilty of domestic violence, managed by private companies. The action has been organised by the probation officers’ union, Napo.

Spokesman Mike Quinn said: “The Government’s plans will have a disastrous effect on public safety, and are very likely to result in an increase in crime. The Government is playing a dangerous game.

“It seems intent on pushing ahead with these plans, despite the fact that offending rates among those we supervise have fallen across the region since 2007.

“In South Tyneside, they fell by more than 10 per cent.”

He said: “We call upon the Minister to listen to the thousands of probation professionals, academics and the general public, and stop this gamble going ahead.”

Among those seeking to capitalise on the Coalition’s privatisation plans are G4S, Serco and Sodexo, the firm due to take over the contract to run HMP Northumberland later this year.

This week, Vera Baird, Northumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, joined 12 other PCCs in condemning the Government’s plans.

In the letter, addressed to Chris Grayling, they say: “We have grave concerns at your plans for dismantling the Probation Service, which we do not believe will lead to better outcomes and could, in fact, have major consequences for public safety.”

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