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Justice secretary warns probation officers there will be consequences for ‘criticising’ outsource plans on Facebook and Twitter

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By Jennifer Faull | Deputy Editor

March 21, 2013 | 2 min read

Chris Grayling, the justice secretary, has issued a warning to probation officers that they will face disciplinary action if they criticise plans to outsource 70 per cent of their work.

He has cautioned staff against making "any comments that are made in criticism or designed to undermine the justice secretary's policy or actions," as well retweeting others' comments which will be taken as "incitement or approval".

A staff email from Caroline Corby, the chair of the London Probation Trust (LPT), read: "If you associate yourself with London Probation Trust through the publication of details about your role as an employee, or Board member, you must not make or endorse any postings or tweet that may bring LPT, the secretary of state for justice or officials acting on his behalf into disrepute."

She goes on to say that for the "avoidance of doubt, the following are non-exhaustive examples of unacceptable postings, endorsements tweets or retweets", listing derogatory statement as well as "comments that are made in criticism or designed to undermine the justice secretary's policy or actions."

A probation trust senior officer told the Guardian: "He advised that the government are unhappy with CEOs and other senior managers being critical of government policy, regarding Transforming Rehabilitation on Twitter.

"He told them to behave like civil servants as they are being paid by the government. So much for free speech and democracy. It seems government policy cannot be questioned in public arenas. I am furious that staff and managers are effectively being gagged in asking questions and objecting to the direction of travel."

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