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30 August 2005
To notify Probation Areas of the new liaison arrangements that are being put IMPLEMENTATION DATE:
in place to ensure effective communication between probation/NOMS and
August 2010
Chief Officers should review the contents of this Circular and work
collaboratively with sentencers, justices’ clerks and court staff to ensure that
the appropriate arrangements are in place as soon as possible.
Chairs of Probation Boards
SUMMARY Chief Officers of Probation
New liaison arrangements between sentencers, probation and NOMS have Secretaries of Probation Boards
been agreed with the Senior Presiding Judge, Lord Justice Thomas. These
arrangements provide for meetings to take place at Bench level, the 42 CC:
criminal justice area level and in the Crown Court. The aim of these meetings
Board Treasurers
is to ensure that there is effective communication and dialogue with
sentencers on issues of joint concern. These issues and other aspects of the Regional Managers
new arrangements are detailed in the attached protocol at Annex A, which
has also been sent to the judiciary and HMCS staff. All existing liaison AUTHORISED BY:
arrangements will need to be reviewed to ensure they are consistent with Roger Hill, Director of Probation
these new arrangements.
None Annex A – Protocol


Mark May, 020 7035 1763,

National Probation Directorate

Horseferry House, Dean Ryle Street, London, SW1P 2AW

1. The probation service has long been aware of the importance of good communication with sentencers at the local
level and various liaison arrangements are in place for dialogue predominantly with magistrates at Bench level.
However, these arrangements are not in place consistently across the country and there are few arrangements for
regular dialogue at the 42 area level or with the Crown Court. The NPS Business Plan for 2005/6 refers to “a new
emphasis on work in and around the court” and states that “chief officers should ensure that good liaison
arrangements exist with local sentencers and professional court staff.” This circular provides chief officers with the
means to achieve this aim with all courts.

2. Discussions with the Senior Presiding Judge, Lord Justice Thomas, the Magistrates’ Association and others have
taken place to ensure that effective arrangements are put in place across England and Wales not only at Bench level
but at the 42 area level and at the Crown Court. A detailed protocol agreed with Lord Justice Thomas is attached to
this circular. It details the terms of reference for liaison meetings and provides information on the organisation of the
meetings. It also provides guidance in relation to resources, local Probation Boards and the role of the Judge
member of the Board. It refers to meetings for sentencers alone to discuss Sentencing Guidelines Council (SGC)
data. A copy of this protocol has been sent to the judiciary and to HMCS court staff by Lord Justice Thomas and
HMCS respectively.

3. Paragraphs 1-4 of the protocol set out the new arrangements for liaison between sentencers, and the probation
service and NOMS. The terms of reference and areas for consideration at liaison meetings are contained at
paragraph 1.

4. The protocol states that for the Crown Court the judge member of the Probation Board will be responsible, in
conjunction with the Resident Judge, for arranging liaison. In the Magistrates’ Court the meetings are to be
organised jointly by the Justices’ Clerk and the Probation Board. At the 42 area level the meetings will be organised
through the office of the Area Director as they will be held either before or after the Area Judicial Forum, which the
Area Directors already arrange. Chief Officers will wish to help set up these new arrangements at all levels.

5. All existing liaison arrangements will need to be reviewed to ensure they are consistent with these new


6. Chief Officers are asked to help to set up liaison meetings working with key organisations and individuals in their
areas immediately.

PC73/2005 – Liaison Arrangements Between Sentencers and the Probation Service 2

August 2005 Annex A



General Liaison
1. Liaison between (1) the judiciary and (2) the Probation Service and NOMS
is essential so that:

a. NOMS and the Probation Service can inform sentencers as to:

i. The content and types of reports available.
ii. The programmes and services that are available.
iii. The outcomes of particular cases and the benefits or
disadvantages of programmes as evidenced by general
iv. The cost of particular programmes, arrangements or facilities for
requirements under s.177 and ss.189-90 of the CJA or of
custodial sentences.
v. The procedures adopted on breach or termination of orders.
vi. The work of NOMS and the Probation Service.
vii. The plans which NOMS and the Probation Service have for
future programmes and other provision in the light of changing
information, including that in relation to the Criminal Justice Act
and data published by the Sentencing Guidelines Council
viii. The number and type of orders made under s. 177 and ss.189-
90 of the CJA 2003.
ix. Any difficulties encountered in implementing orders made under
s.177 or ss. 189-90 of the CJA 2003.
x. Opportunities available to see work or other activities being
done under programmes, arrangements or facilities provided by
NOMS for the requirements which may be ordered under s. 177
or under ss. 189-90 of the CJA 2003.
xi. Arrangements for visiting prisons and other custodial institutions.

b. Sentencers can inform NOMS and Probation Service of their views as

i. The programmes that are available or should be available.
ii. The timeliness and quality of the delivery of prisoners to court,
their collection after sentence and the movement of prisoners
between the court room and the cells.

iii. The quality of programmes, arrangements or facilities provided
by NOMS to meet requirements which can be ordered under
s.177 or s.189-90 of the CJA 2003:
1. Those perceived to be valuable.
2. Those where improvements might be made.
3. Those which are perceived not to be operating properly or
which are substandard or where the delivery is inadequate.
4. Those that do not meet the needs of sentencers.
5. Those where there is insufficient availability.
6. Other information in relation to programmes, arrangements
or facilities which will enable to NOMS to evaluate the quality
of the programmes arrangements and facilities available and
improve the programmes, arrangements and facilities
available for requirements in orders which may be made by
sentencers under s.177 of the CJA 2003.
iv. The contents, types and quality of reports available or made.
v. The procedures on breach.

c. There can be discussion, subject to paragraph 4, on these and similar


2. In the Crown Court, the judge member of the Probation Board will be
responsible, in conjunction with the Resident Judge, for arranging the
liaison between NOMS and the Probation Service and other Crown Court
Judges. In London, special arrangements are to be made.

3. In the Magistrates Court:

a. The Area Judicial Forum for each of the 42 Areas outside London
and the Areas (sectors/regions) within London should make it clear
that the establishment of liaison meetings at Bench level is essential.
i. These will be chaired by the Chairman of the Bench or his
nominee or a District Judge (Magistrates Courts).
ii. Those present should be representatives of Magistrates and of
any District Judges (Magistrates Courts), the Justices Clerk (or
the senior legal adviser to the Bench) and representatives of
iii. Such meetings should take place at a court where the Bench
sits about three times a year and be organised jointly by the
Justices Clerk and the Probation Board in the Area.
iv. The Justices Clerk will minute the meetings in conjunction with
the Probation Board and circulate the minutes to all
Magistrates and District Judges who sit on that Bench.
v. It will be for each Bench to decide how many should e present
at the meeting, but a general guide is that about 10 should
represent the Magistracy and the District Bench.

b. Liaison meetings should take place at 42-Area level; such meetings

should be arranged to take place before or after the meeting of the
AJF. The judge member of the Probation Board for the Area (or his
deputy) should be present and should chair that meeting. Such
meetings should take place half-yearly or quarterly.

4. The discussion at meetings between the judiciary and the Probation
Service and NOMS should not involve the discussion of sentencing
decisions or levels or patterns or consistency of sentencing (including
information provided by the SGC to sentencers for that purpose). These
matters are for discussion by the judiciary as set out in paragraphs 9 to 12.

5. From time to time, it is possible that the local Probation Board will have
insufficient resources to provide the programmes that either they or the
judiciary would like.

6. If an issue arises within an Area as to the availability of programmes or

sentences which the Probation Service cannot provide because resources
are insufficient, the Chief Probation Officer will at once inform the Judge
member of the Probation Board of the Area.

7. The judge will discuss the issue with the Resident Judge (if the issue
affects the Crown Court) and the Bench Chairmen and Justices Clerk for
the Area (if the issues affects the Magistrates Courts) and will then try and
resolve the issue by discussion with the Chief Probation Officer for the
Area in accordance with the protocol on Guidance given to the judge
members of the Probation Board in March 2005.

8. If they are unable to reach agreement, the Senior Presiding Judge, the
Director of the National Probation Service and the National Offender
Manager will be informed.

Information provided by the SGC

9. The SGC will publish from time to time data on sentencing patterns, both
national and local.

10. The SGC intends to provide this to:

a. All judges
b. All magistrates
c. All Justices Clerks

11. Sentencers must act in accordance with the provisions of Acts of

Parliament. They should also take into account the approach set out in the
Guidelines laid down by the Sentencing Guidelines Council, decisions of
the Court of Appeal or other courts binding on them and materials from the
Judicial Studies Board.

12. It will be both useful and necessary for sentencers, at periodic intervals, to
discuss issues relating to local sentencing amongst themselves, including
issues as to consistency using information provided by the SGC:

a. In the Crown Court, this will generally be done:

i. At the annual circuit seminars organised by the Presiding
Judges for the Judicial Studies Board.

ii. If the Resident Judge or the judge member of the Probation
Board think necessary at a particular Crown Court or group
of Crown Courts within an Area.

b. In the Magistrates Courts, this will be done

i. At the Area Judicial Forum.
ii. At training organised locally through the MATC, BTDC,
Justices Clerks etc for the Judicial Studies Board.
iii. At Bench meetings.
iv. At seminars or meetings organised for the Judicial Studies
Board by the Senior District Judge (Magistrates Courts).