The 9th CEP Conference for Directors General of Probation was hosted in co-operation with the French Ministry of Justice on 23rd-25th November 2021 at the Abbaye de Saint Louis, Royaumont, near Paris. This year’s conference was particularly special as it celebrated the 40th anniversary of the first CEP meeting in November 1981 at Royaumont. Special thanks are due to our French colleagues for their generous support in facilitating CEP’s return to the historic and magnificent Royaumont venue.

A special highlight of the celebrations was welcoming two of the founders of CEP, Jan Schepel from the Netherlands and Breidge Gadd from Northern Ireland, who attended the conference dinner and recalled the challenges and the achievement in bringing probation leaders together to establish CEP in 1981. Greetings were also received from Jurgen Mutz (Germany) and Nico van Zelst (Netherlands) w­­ho were unable to attend but sent their best wishes. Brian Heath, former CEP Board Member, presented a lively and entertaining history of the first fourty years of CEP at the dinner.

The Conference organised for Directors General, policymakers, and senior managers in probation organisations in Europe, addressed probation in the ‘new normality’ with presentations and workshops on leadership, organisational change, quality assurance, education and training, mental health and domestic violence.

There was lively and challenging discussion throughout the conference with a frank acknowledgment of the practice pivot and operational changes needed to cope with the unprecedented disruption arising from the Covid-19 pandemic. Probation organisations have had to rapidly reconfigure supervision methods, restructure working practices, learn to cope with reduced face-to-face contact and reprioritize tasks.

In his address to the conference, Gerry McNally, CEP President, said that with the very rapid shift, for many, to remote supervision, reliance on technology and public safety restrictions, the mode and form of supervision have changed dramatically.  Assessment practice and the establishing and maintaining of relationships with people remotely have been challenging.

Vulnerable and at-risk people under supervision have had to manage with reduced access to services and supports as well as coping with isolation, anxiety and distress. The experience of the pandemic, thus far, and the changed practices, have already had a major impact on every probation organisation, the people who work for them and the people supervised. It is unlikely that things will ever be quite as they were before.

There has been, from the original roots of probation in the 19th century and before, an evolution in probation policy and practice, largely in step with the social and cultural changes of the times. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about many rapid and unplanned changes that will inevitably lay the ground for a ‘paradigm shift’ in practice as we come to terms with the new ways of working and living.

We have been busy ‘doing’ and coping with the consequences of the pandemic. It is now important that as leaders in probation organisations we should focus on ‘thinking’ and have a vision for probation practice in the future. There are likely to be unintended consequences from the rapid changes introduced to manage through the worst of the pandemic. It will be important that, as probation leaders, we examine our changing practices, structures and engagements to ensure that we are consistent with our objectives, values and underpinning principles.

The impact of the pandemic will be long-lasting. It is important, in building back after the Covid-19 pandemic, that we recognise that things cannot be the same as before and that we take the time to think and ensure that they will be better, more robust and purposeful.


Click here to access Brian Heath’s speech.

Click here to access the presentations.

Click here to access the photos of the 40-year journey.

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