Knowledge skills and methods in the probation service

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This case study concerns a young white man, ‘AJ’, and will detail the problems that he experienced when he came into contact with the Criminal Justice System because of his prejudicial treatment by a key member of court staff, how this impacted on his outlook and behaviour and how I worked with him to put things right and regain his trust. The whole event encompassed less than 11/2 hours but, by applying acquired knowledge, the outcome was changed for his benefit. He had been disqualified for three months two months earlier for a matter of No Insurance and had been caught driving two days prior to the current court appearance. He had not been represented and, because of his presenting manner, the Legal Adviser had neglected to explain to him his right to free legal representation. Thus AJ was left with the impression that, if he wanted to be legally represented, he would have to pay for it.

I work as a Probation Service Court Office in Woolwich Magistrates Court and am an offender’s first point of contact with the Probation Service.

My role is essentially that of representing the Probation Service in court which involves obtaining and processing information and passing it on to relevant professionals as well as to offenders. As such, my treatment and evaluation of an offender can inform how they are dealt with by report writers and other professionals. How I deal with a case and treat a person often has an impact on how they perceive the Probation Service and how they interact with offender managers and other staff on future occasions.

I see the offender in order to explain the fast delivery report process to them and also to obtain information to pass on to the duty Probation Officer who will be preparing the report. It is necessary to develop good working relationships with offenders and other court users – a process which is described as “innumerable transactions between people” (McNeill, 2004 retrieved from Studynet 13.8.06). Miller & Rollnick stress that it is “Not voluntary contact …but ordered…& thus authoritarian approach could prejudice compliance.” (Miller, W.R. & Rollnick, S. 2002 – retrieved from Studynet 13.8.06).

AJ had appeared in an upstairs court which, due to lack of staff, had not been covered by Probation. He had appeared on a matter of Drive Whilst Disqualified and his case had been put back for a fast delivery report with the Bench asking that the report be prepared for the following day with a view to a community penalty.

The List Caller came to me and explained the above but also said that he had been dealt with very abruptly by the Court’s Legal Adviser and as a result was very angry. She had alerted the Court’s Security staff to the fact that there was an angry young man waiting to see me

Theory Which Assisted Me in My Practice

A.J. presented as extremely angry and agitated, kicking chairs, pacing up and down and hitting walls and did not wish to remain behind to speak with me “After the way I was treated upstairs, why should I trust you?”

I felt that it would be appropriate to employ motivational interviewing techniques using the key principles of empathy, reflective listening, feeding back his version of events and building up his positive characteristics by supporting his self-belief (Miller, R.W. & Rollnick, S. 2002).

I spoke calmly to AJ & asked him if he could spare me some time to see what it was that had upset him and what we could do about it and he agreed. I felt that this was a way of putting the ball back in his court by allowing him the time to vocalise his feelings and giving him back some control over events & this seemed to have worked because he spoke at length about “the man being rude to me” and eventually calmed down. It became clear to me, after speaking to him for some time, that AJ had mild learning difficulties which appeared to manifest as aggressive behaviour when stressed and he described incidents of bullying in his childhood – memories of which had been triggered by what happened in court.

I spoke to him about the offence and why it had occurred. He had not fully understood the implications of the disqualification and had thought that, if he drove his mum’s insured car, then it was o.k. for him to drive. I explained to him that this was not the case and that he would have to wait until the full term of disqualification has elapsed before getting his licence back thus setting clear boundaries and expectations of him. At all times during this interview I remained calm but firm so as not to mirror his aggression or the treatment he had received in court & thus trigger off further episodes of aggression.

Theories which would apply to A.J’s case would be Sociological because he has experienced social exclusion due to his learning difficulties and Environmental because, again due to his learning difficulties, he is not in a position to better himself financially or environmentally in order to move to better housing for example. Another theory, which would be allied to his cognitive behavioural processes, would be Freud’s Psychoanalytic theory which describes three components to personality; the Id – based on a primitive, unconscious, force driven by need and gratification; he wanted to drive the car so just went ahead and drove it without thinking through the consequences, the Ego – which controls the Id and defers gratification and the Superego – which is the conscience – unconscious moral component which has absorbed Society’s rules. (Hayes, N. 2003) (Had A.J. received any form of supervision, the above theories could have been explored in supervision.)

I explained the fast delivery report process. He had been given a bail form, which he was not able to read and therefore did not understand. I explained that, under the terms of the Bail Act (Bail Act, 1976), he was bailed with a condition to reside at his home address to attend court the next day at 9.30 a.m.

I said that he may be entitled to Legal Aid (Legal Aid Act, 1988) – the criteria being that it would be in the interests of Justice (Davies, M., Croall, H. & Tyrer, J. (2005). I then spoke to the Duty Legal Adviser, explaining that he had learning difficulties and that he had not been offered legal advice by the Legal Adviser in court. She agreed to authorise Legal Aid and suggested that I approach the Duty Solicitor at court that day and ask her to represent him.

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