Seventeenth Letter to the Lord Chancellor

Lord Chancellor, Secretary of State for Justice,

Mr Chris Grayling MP,

22nd July 2014,

Dear Lord Chancellor,

Well you survived the reshuffle you old dog. It’s no surprise to me that you have kept your job given things are going so well at the MOJ with you at the helm.

Prisons policy
1. Prison officer numbers have been cut by 30% between 2010 and 2013 (27,650 down to 19,325).
2. 18 jails have closed in that period with a reduction of 6,500 places.
3. But there has been a recent sharp rise in the prison population.

4. Overcrowding has increased with the current population standing at 85,661 (1000 off its maximum limit).
5. Riots are up 72% (between 2010 and 2013).
6. Prisoners are festering in cells and on landings and not doing training or courses to help cut re-offending.
7. You have decided to tackle this crisis by re-employing 2066 former prison officers who you have already made redundant over the last two years. Having already spent on average £35,000 per prison officer’s redundancy package you have offered them new contracts.

You dissembled so ably when asked why yet another scheme to save money at the MOJ has ended up costing more: “I am establishing a focused, flexible reserve capability among former staff.”

Probation policy
1. Your sensible reorganisation of the probation service (handing 70% of it to the private sector) has started.
2. Computer failures have led to thousands of offenders’ files being lost, frozen or wiped since 2nd June. This has resulted in offenders being turned away from appointments they’ve quite properly turned up for.
3. Hundreds of offenders (one source estimated 2,500) have not been assigned a probation officer and are walking free without an assessment.
4. Letters sent by South Yorkshire probation trust to probation officers show that their jobs have been outsourced to companies (such as G4S) after their names were ‘drawn out of a hat’. Their jobs seem to have been privatised at random. Initially you denied this had happened and sought an investigation. It then turned out it was a department policy approved by you.
5. 60 domestic violence case files were found left in a cupboard with no offender manager.
6. 291 offenders in South Yorkshire alone have not been assigned.
7. Many probation officers are now reporting serious instances of strain or illness.
8. An MOJ spokesman said “With any change, it is normal to experience some issues, which is why we prepared so extensively for it.”

Outsourcing contracts
1. Capita are the firm that provides the much criticised and derided court interpreter service. They were criticised heavily by the Justice Select Committee and are a laughing stock of inefficiency and inadequacy.
2. Last week you awarded them the six year contract for the next generation of electronic tagging of offenders.
3. Capita said the contract was worth £400 million to them in revenue over six years. Their executives are said to be delighted at the development.
4. Given the job they have done with court interpreters, on balance I think you were right to reward them.

IT projects
1. In June 2014 the MOJ wrote off £56m spent on an IT project after discovering it was being duplicated by another government department.
2. The Cabinet Office was implementing a similar scheme.
3. A spokesman for the MOJ said “the write-off will enable the department to save money in future.” What good news that £56 million loss is for the taxpayer.

Operation Cotton update
Anthony Peto QC, the silk who ineffectively tried to intervene for the MOJ in the one day Operation Cotton Court of Appeal case in May and spoke for a few minutes and then adopted the arguments of the Crown after his application failed was paid £6,300 (excluding VAT) by your department, it has been revealed.

Some ignorant lawyers expected your head to roll in the reshuffle. They simply failed to understand that Lynton Crosby was engineering Her Majesty’s Cabinet with one aim in mind: to take on and beat UKIP at the 2015 election. You told last year’s Conservative conference that you would publish a policy document and then a draft bill on scrapping the Human Rights Act and withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights. We have yet to see the draft of this document. That thoughtful and independent QC Dominic Grieve has been sacked as Attorney General because Lynton Crosby saw he was an impediment to this change. It is crucial that the Attorney General is independent and fearless so as to give the Prime Minister of the day advice he may not want to hear, or that may not be politically expedient. That legal nonentity Jeremy Wright MP has accepted the post of Attorney General and so thereby proved he is not capable of doing the job. Jeremy Wright is not there to give unwanted independent legal advice to the government; he is there to nod his head and help implement the legal landscape desired by you and your chums.

In Volume 1 of Campbell’s Lives of the Chancellors it reads “No office in the history of any nation has been filled with such a long succession of distinguished and interesting men as the Lord Chancellor.” Why is it that nobody, except me, can see that that long succession includes you?

Yours with political expediency,

the intrigant.

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