"Public protection not private profit" was chanted through the streets of Epsom today as anti-privatisation campaigners took to the streets rallying against Chris Grayling's probation reforms.

Members of the Kent, Surrey and Sussex and London branches of Napo, the National Association of Probation Officers, as well as members of trade unions GMB and Unison, gathered outside the Epsom Playhouse at 11am.

They held placards reading "Grayling tells more lies than Pinocchio" and "Grayling you're failing".

They marched through the marketplace and down Epsom High Street, stopping traffic and singing "Why, why, why, Chris Grayling?", finishing with speeches outside the Ebbisham Centre which attacked the Justice Secretary's reforms.

The campaigners are against Mr Grayling's plans to hand the management of low and medium-risk offenders upon their release to private companies and voluntary sector bidders, in organisations to become known as Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs).

High-risk offenders will continue to be dealt with in the public sector, through the creation of the new National Probation Service (NPS).

Speaking at the rally Ian Lawrence, Napo's general secretary, said: "Welcome to Grayling world.

"By looking at the number of charity shops here I can see how austerity is hitting this once affluent area which I used to visit.

"Grayling world is about denial. Denial in the probation service, denial in prisons and in the cuts to legal aid.

"Your profession has been decimated by Mr Grayling.

"He says people should stop listening to the trade unions.

"No matter how much he denigrates us and systematically attacks our union and the probation service, this union will never be silent."

Catherine Neubert, vice chairman of the Surrey Napo branch, which deals with offenders from Epsom and Ewell at its Redhill branch, said Mr Grayling's changes were already putting the public in danger.

She said: "Locally there is a risk.

"As per yesterday, all the qualified staff to deal with domestic abusers have said they do not want to remain within the CRCs. They have all gone over to the NPS.

"So at the moment, there are no qualified probation officers dealing with 100 or so domestic violence cases which normally should only be dealt with by qualified probation officers.

"There is a strong risk to the public as a direct consequence of Mr Grayling's policies."

Pat Waterman, chairman of the greater London branch of Napo, said: "I have been a probation officer for 30 years and heard every story and lie there is.

"I have never heard so many as come out of Mr Grayling's mouth.

"Our community, our society, will be worse for it."

Epsom councillor Sheila Carlson, who will be standing against Mr Grayling as Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Epsom and Ewell in next year's general election, said the Lord Chancellor was "not fit for purpose".

"Chris Grayling and his mates in this Con-Dem government have brought people to their knees.

"There are people in this area who go to food banks as they can't afford to feed their families and they live in this affluent borough and it's a disgrace," she said.

Guy Tilbury, a probation officer with the programme team for Kent, Surrey and Sussex CRC, who works with men who have committed domestic violence, said Mr Grayling was "dismantling and destroying an effective and award-winning service that has been built up and developed over the past century".

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He said: "[Probation officers have] an immense knowledge of judging risk, of managing risk, of working with other agencies such as the police, social services, children's services, mental health agencies, housing agencies, charities and voluntary agencies.

"What experience does Grayling have? No experience whatsoever.

"We are concerned that the changes being brought in are untried, untested and unproven.

"Grayling brushes off these concerns.

"Other people may be concerned about the safety and welfare of their sons and daughters, their mothers and sisters.

"If you are the victim of domestic violence, do you consider it a low-risk crime?"

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Mr Tilbury added: "We don't want to be in a position in the future when, after some appalling crime takes place, because of a lack of proper supervision, a lack of proper care, a lack of understanding, because of the pruning of services so that a private company can satisfy its desire to make a profit for its shareholders, we have to say 'we told you so'.

"Then it will be too late for the victims of that crime."

"These changes will destroy the probation service and they will create new victims unnecessarily."

Following the rally, Mr Grayling said in a statement: "Our sky-high reoffending rates have dogged this country for more than a decade, with almost half of all prisoners going back to crime within a year.

"This is despite spending a massive £4billion each year on prisons and probation.

"The current system just isn't working, so we are introducing a new approach to rehabilitation that will finally tackle this unacceptable issue.

"Through our reforms, each year an extra 50,000 prisoners on short sentences who currently get no statutory supervision on release will get help to turn their lives around.

"This will be vital in cutting crime and making our communities safer."


Probation workers planning anti-privatisation rally in Chris Grayling's Epsom constituency

EXCLUSIVE: Chris Grayling insists probation reforms will not put public in any danger