On 23 June 2015, Professor Anne Worrall (Keele University) delivered the eighteenth annual Bill McWilliams Memorial Lecture at the Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge, UK. This series of lectures was established in 1998 to honour the contribution Bill McWilliams made to the Probation Service in England & Wales over a 30-year period, as a practitioner, researcher and writer. The lecture has been delivered by a range of prominent speakers whose work has centred on probation – either in the academic arena or in management/practice or related roles. Previous speakers have included Anthony Bottoms, Rod Morgan, Peter Raynor and Loraine Gelsthorpe.

memorial lectureAnne Worrall’s lecture was entitled ‘Grace Under Pressure: The Role of Courage in the Future of Probation Work’. Delivered just over a year after the implementation of the Coalition Government’s Transforming Rehabilitation reforms, which have split the probation service into a new National Probation Service and 21 new Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) owned by a range of private and third sector providers, Anne’s lecture focused on the role of ‘civil courage’ in past and future probation work – a concept she developed in the lecture with reference both to her own recent research on probation occupational cultures and a range of other sources. Anne argued that, in challenging times, probation workers – both individually and collectively – need to recognise and be recognised for their everyday acts of courage, which include facing up to and working with risks, exercising creativity, and standing up for the values and ethics of the profession. Anne singled out the recent establishment of an independent Probation Institute to promote excellence in practice and a strong professional identity, as an act of collective courage on the part of its founders, one of whom (Sue Hall) delivered the 2014 Bill McWilliams lecture. Anne also acknowledged the value of looking to other European countries for examples of good practice and innovative ideas.

The lecture was followed by a lively discussion, which was facilitated by Mike Nellis, and which began with two brief responses to Anne’s presentation. The respondents were Lol Burke, who is a former probation practitioner and manager, and currently senior lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University; and Morgan O’Flynn, who is a practising probation officer. Both are members of the Bill McWilliams Memorial Lecture Steering Group.

Anne Worrall’s lecture was attended by around 120 people, including researchers, academics and many current and former practitioners and managers from probation and allied organisations. It will, in due course, be published in the Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, where the previous lectures in the series can also be found. The lecture series has been supported over the years by a range of charitable donations from organisations and individuals, to whom the Bill McWilliams Memorial Lecture Steering Group is indebted. Planning for the 2016 lecture will begin in January, and it is hoped that the nineteenth lecture will continue the tradition of stimulation discussion and reflection about probation, albeit in increasingly challenging times.

You can listen to the full lecture at http://sms.cam.ac.uk/media/2013332

If you have any queries about the lecture or would like more information about the series, please contact Joanne Garner at jf225@cam.ac.uk

Gwen Robinson, on behalf of the Bill McWilliams Memorial Lecture Steering Group

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