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Monday 23 April 2018
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16th Annual Bill McWilliams Memorial Lecture: "Privatising Probation: The Death Knell of a Much-Cherished Public Service?"

To be given by Professor Paul Senior, Director of the Hallam Centre for Community Justice

25th June 2013, 1.00pm

The Institute of Criminology and the Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge

The probation service has showed a remarkable facility to reinvent itself over a century of turbulent but sustained history. This lecture will explore the ethos underpinning that survival as the service faces its potential fragmentation and even dismantling given the government commitment to privatise much of its current business. If the institution of probation collapses, is there still an important place for probation skills and in what institutional forms will this be re-constructed. Can a hopeful scenario for the future be garnered from the current policy imperatives? Does it matter? And if it matters how can a vision be created which builds on that history in concert with partners from all sectors? This lecture will reflect on these themes in a policy framework which is fluid, uncertain and deeply challenging.

Prof. Paul Senior
Paul Senior became Professor of Probation Studies in 1996 following a career in probation from 1977 to 1994, which included 11 years as a joint appointment between South Yorkshire Probation and Sheffield Hallam University. He was co-editor of the three-volume, fifth edition, of Jarvis from 1992. As a freelance consultant, Paul's extensive engagement in probation training secured, in 1997, a key role in its revision, creating the structure and curriculum for the new, graduate level, Diploma in Probation Studies. In 2002, having developed a robust criminology and community justice presence within Sheffield Hallam University, Paul started the Hallam Centre for Community Justice, a contract research centre specialising in offender management, resettlement and restorative justice, where he is now Director. Paul launched the Community Justice Portal providing an online information exchange facility in 2002, which also saw the creation of the international journal, the British Journal of Community Justice in a partnership between Hallam and de Montfort universities, which he continues to co-edit. Paul's career has thus been linked to policy, practice and research in and around probation and with probation partners in criminal justice. He has written on many aspects of probation practice and community justice and two recent books include Understanding Modernisation in Criminal Justice (2007) with Crowther-Dowey and Long and Moments in Probation (2008). His association of 38 years with probation has seen Paul engaged as a practitioner, manager, trainer, consultant, researcher, advisor and policy developer in the UK and in Europe, Hong Kong and Singapore.


This is the 16th of a series of annual memorial lectures given in the spirit of Bill McWilliams’s work. In addition to individual invitations there will be a limited number of places available (on a first come first served basis) for others interested in attending. The 2013 lecture is to be hosted by The Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge.


If you are interested in attending, please contact Mrs Joanne Garner, Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge, Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge CB3 9DA. Tel: 01223 335360, Email:




The Bill Williams Memorial Lecture


Bill McWilliams, who died in 1997, had a prestigious career as a probation practitioner, researcher and writer. His quartet of articles on the probation service’s development up to the point at which the “punishment in the community” debate began, is now widely regarded as its definitive history of ideas. He was a staunch advocate of the need for rigorous evaluation of probation practice – but an equally staunch critic of the excesses of the management ideal. He had an independence of mind – irritating to more timid souls – that won him friends across the spectrum of political opinion in the Service. There are many who would say – as W.H. Auden said of George Orwell – “how I wish he were still alive, so that I could read his comments on contemporary events”.


To keep his spirit alive, a group of Bill’s relatives, colleagues and friends has established The Bill McWilliams Memorial Lecture. It is intended to honour the contribution he made to the probation service over a thirty-year period and keep his perspectives at the forefront of probation thinking as the Service moves into the 21st century. Beginning in 1998, speakers to date have been Ken Pease (Professor of Criminology), John Harding (then Chief Probation Officer), Barbara Hudson (Professor of Law), Martin Wargent (then Chief Executive of the Probation Boards’ Association), Antony Duff (Professor of Philosophy), Rod Morgan (then HM Chief Inspector of Probation), Todd Clear (Distinguished Professor of Criminal Justice), Hindpal Singh Bhui (HM Inspector of Prisons), Anthony Bottoms (then Wolfson Professor of Criminology, University of Cambridge and Professorial Fellow in Criminology, University of Sheffield), Mike Nellis (Professor of Criminal and Community Justice, University of Strathclyde), Judy McKnight (then General Secretary, Napo), Loraine Gelsthorpe (Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Cambridge), John Crawforth (then Chief Executive, Greater Manchester Probation Trust), Peter Raynor (Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Swansea University), and Steve Collett (Retired Chief Officer, Cheshire Probation Area/Trust (2001–2010)) . Each of the lectures has been, or is to be, published in The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice (see below). The lecture series has already run over a fifteen-year period - the “transition years” of the 20th to 21st centuries - developing a tradition of drawing on academic and professional contributors and using educational and probation service settings in different parts of the country. It has now been scheduled to continue in the Institute of Criminology, Cambridge.


For information or to offer suggestions about the development of the lecture series, please contact The Bill McWilliams Memorial Lecture Steering Group at 48 Rock Road, Cambridge, CB1 7UF; e-mail