PROBATION staff and solicitors across the region are joining a national strike in protest over privatisation and cuts to law services.

Napo, the Trade Union for Probation and Family Court staff, has organised action which will see picketing and rallies in Stockton, Middlesbrough, Newton Aycliffe and Bishop Auckland on Monday afternoon.

The Durham Tees Valley Napo branch is joining Northumbria for a rally in Newcastle, where Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird and Napo’s national chair, Tom Rendon, will be speaking.

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On the same day solicitors will be protesting against the government’s cuts to legal aid in action organised by The Justice Alliance.

Napo’s action is in response to government proposals to privatise 70 per cent of the probation service which it says will have a significant impact on public safety and public protection.

Ian Lawrence, Napo general secretary, said: “The government plans to outsource 70 per cent of the probation service is untried and untested.

“It is a dangerous social experiment that we believe will lead to a reduction in rehabilitation and fragment risk management placing the public at risk.”

The union’s campaign to fight the proposals has won support from agencies such as the Howard League for Penal Reform, Penal Reform Trusts, and academics and professionals across the justice sector.

Nicola Hill, president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association, said: “What’s happening to probation and criminal legal aid belongs to the same sorry story.

“That’s why criminal defence solicitors are standing by colleagues in probation.

“As the government dismantles the criminal justice system, risks are being taken which threaten public safety and the right to a fair defence.

“The Ministry of Justice is taking a gamble on outsourcing the supervision of the most persistent offenders on release from short-term prison sentences.

“Meanwhile as the Justice Secretary scrimps on legal aid, the risk of the innocent going to jail is set to become a nightmarish reality.

“Miscarriages of justice for ordinary people will increase because they can’t get a decent lawyer.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “It is very disappointing that Napo has chosen to strike when we are making positive progress towards the implementation of these vital reforms.

“Probation Trusts have well established contingency arrangements to deal with any potential action and we will continue to support staff and engage with unions as our reforms move forward.”