A new probation system introduced in 2014 is putting the public at greater risk of harm, a report has found.
Some offenders were not seen for weeks or months and some were lost in the system altogether, according to a highly critical inspection report.
HM Chief Inspector of Probation Dame Glenys Stacey said probation services in London have deteriorated since Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRC) took over monitoring low and medium-risk offenders in the capital.
“Services are now well below what people rightly expect, and the city is more at risk as a result,” she said.
“There was some welcome good practice by individual officers and first-line managers but generally, practice was well below standard, with the public exposed unduly to the risk of harm in some cases despite lessons from the past. That is plainly not acceptable.
“A combination of unmanageable caseloads, inexperienced officers, extremely poor oversight and a lack of senior management focus and control meant some service users were not seen for weeks or months, and some were lost in the system altogether.
“This simple lack of management attention to basic attendance and supervision was the most striking and surprising finding, and again, not acceptable.”
The findings will spark fresh questions about the controversial shake-up of the regime rolled out two years ago which saw the probation services in England and Wales divided up into a new National Probation Service and 21 privately-owned CRCs.
The London CRC, which is owned by MTCnovo, is the largest of the companies and was supervising 28,750 offenders across the capital as of the end of June.
Inspectors examined the work of the CRC and the London Division of the NPS in north London, covering eight out of 32 London boroughs.
In one case a man with a long history of offending was recalled to prison following an allegation of domestic abuse, before being re-released subject to post-sentence supervision.
“There was no assessment in place of the risk of future domestic abuse and no flag on the database identifying him as a domestic abuse perpetrator,” the report said. “It was not clear where he was currently living and whether or not he was living with a partner.”
Justice Minister Sam Gyimah said: “I met senior managers at London CRC and told them this is totally unacceptable. An urgent improvement plan is now in place and I will not hesitate to take more action if necessary.”
The Government is carrying out a comprehensive review of the probation system, he added.
Helga Swidenbank, director of probation at the London CRC, said: “We recognise the importance of independent inspection and appreciate we have a number of improvements to make.
“Our change plan, introduced prior to the inspection, is already addressing the recommendations made in the report and is more far reaching as it identifies and tackles the many legacy issues inherited from the London Probation Trust.”