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Family of murder victim failed by probation provider


Organisation we investigated: Dorset, Devon & Cornwall Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC).

Date investigation closed: April 2019


The complaint

Ms Sarah Compton complained on behalf of her mother Mrs Michal Taylor about the victim support service that Dorset, Devon & Cornwall Community Rehabilitation Company (the CRC) provided to them. It was operated by Working Links at the time.

The complaint was about delays in producing the Victim Summary Report (VSR) they were entitled to as set out in the Ministry of Justice’s guidelines, unnecessary delays caused by presenting a draft copy to the family and errors made in dating the report. She complained that there was poor communication by the CRC and failings in their handling of the complaint: the CRC misunderstood the next stage of the complaint process and incorrectly directed the family to the Prison and Probation Ombudsman (PPO).

Background

When someone on probation commits a serious further offence, such as murder, the probation provider supervising that person must carry out a Serious Further Offence (SFO) review. The review looks at whether or not the probation provider gave adequate supervision. This was completed in January 2016.

At the same time, the CRC is also required to write a Victim Summary Report (VSR) based on the SFO review. The CRC did not provide a VSR to the family until over year later, and only after Ms Compton requested one after being prompted by a third party. She was concerned that she did not know that she was entitled to see the VSR and the CRC failed to provide a reasonable response as to why this happened.

A copy of the VSR was presented to the family at a meeting in June 2017. Ms Compton emailed the CRC to say that she was unhappy with aspects of the report in July 2017 and requested a hard copy. She did not receive this until November 2017 only to find a number of differences. This was due to the June copy being a draft, not a final report. Ms Compton did not receive a reply to nine out of the ten aspects of the report she was concerned about in July until November. Furthermore the hard copy received in November was dated March 2017.

What we found

We found that the CRC did not prepare the VSR at the correct time as set out in the Ministry of Justice’s guidelines, did not make the VSR available on request, took too long to allow Ms Taylor to view the VSR, caused unnecessary delays by presenting a draft copy to the family, made errors in the dating of the report, communicated poorly by not replying to emails in a reasonable time and that there were failings in their handling of the complaint. The CRC misunderstood the next stage of the complaint process and incorrectly directed the family to the Prison and Probation Ombudsman (PPO).

We found that the failings identified added to Ms Compton and Mrs Taylor’s distress at what was already a very difficult and traumatic time for the family.

Putting it right

The CRC had apologised verbally for the delays and incorrect signposting. It took steps to reduce the risk of the failings being repeated.

However, we recommended that the CRC needs to do more to right these wrongs. The CRC should apologise in writing for the failings, acknowledge the impact their failings had on the family. We also said they should provide an updated version of the VSR and take actions to address the failings we identified.