Crimewave warning issued over cuts
Crime will rise and there will be more victims if "draconian" public spending cuts of 25% go ahead, a union has warned.
Probation union Napo said many programmes for offenders in the community will be cut or withdrawn if the proposed cuts go ahead.
But the Government said their was no evidence that cuts to the Probation Service would lead to an increase in crime and Cabinet ministers vowed last week to stand firm against "vested interests" pleading for special treatment.
Harry Fletcher, Napo's assistant general secretary, said: "The gains of the last decade risk being jeopardised because of draconian cuts. The Probation Service will not be able to maintain the same level of service."
Many areas will only be able to offer a reduced service for sex offenders and those involved in domestic violence, while others will be rationing their programmes to those who pose an imminent risk, he said.
More expensive schemes, such as the Integrated Domestic Abuse Programme (Idap), which involves 26 weekly sessions to manage anger and address the causes of domestic violence, are already being rationed in some areas, Napo said.
The programmes, which also include schemes to treat drug and alcohol dependency and sexual offending, have been a success, Napo said, and can reduce reoffending rates from 50% to 35%.
But Mr Fletcher predicted the number of successfully completed schemes could fall from 40,000 last year to 30,000 by 2012 if the cuts go ahead. "This will increase reoffending rates and create more victims, particularly of domestic violence," he said. "It is ironic that if the programmes are not available, prison will certainly be used by sentencers as an alternative."
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "Public protection is one of our main priorities and there is no evidence to suggest that savings made to the Probation Service will compromise this or increase crime. Any savings will look to retain front line services which will ensure the public is protected and re-offending is reduced.
"The coalition Government is also looking at how private and voluntary sector providers can get involved in running rehabilitation services to make them tougher for criminals and better value for the taxpayer."