To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether any probation areas in England and Wales reported that they had failed to produce court reports within the 15 days work standard because of staff shortages, vacancies or resource issues in the last period for which information is available.
The Home Office does not collect data on the reasons for failure to produce court reports. Centrally available data shows that the proportion of court reports provided within 15 days of request in the first half of 2004–05 was 78 per cent. Although this falls short of the 90 per cent. target, it is a significant improvement on the 65 per cent. achieved in 2003–04.
The National Probation Directorate are currently exploring the possibility of introducing a more appropriate target that measures the proportion of reports that meet the time scale set by the courts, which in many cases may be different from the current 15 working days standard.
Probation staff are employed by the 42 local Probation Boards and staff shortages are a matter for each individual employer. The number of staff working in the National Probation Service has increased from 13,968 in 1997 to 19,237 in March 2004, an increase of over 5,000 extra staff.