Paul Senior: An Editor Retires

Published 15/03/2016
Type Editorial Comment
Author(s) Dave Ward
Corresponding Authors Dave Ward, Professor of Social and Community Studies, De Montfort University

Only Paul could pull it off! For some time I had been aware that Paul Senior had been planning to organise an extended ‘conversation’ in his favourite Lakeland hotel for colleagues and friends from his career in probation. I had hinted my enthusiasm to be invited and hoped…

A better event it could not have been. Convening in the snowy depths of January 2016, it was a privilege to spend two days relaxed and quality time based in the impressive Georgian Heaves Mansion, now character-full country house hotel, with a group of colleagues who, amongst them, shared well over 300 years of involvement in probation, variously as practitioners, managers, trainers, consultants, researchers and academics. Freely sharing knowledge, experience and understanding, and debating vigorously, the papers in this edition are the product of conversations at Heaves and the continuing interchanges that took place in the weeks that followed. In typical forthright style, Paul led and facilitated our discussions with a strong eye on the production of this edition, ensuring that we did not descend, all too easily, into pessimistic conversation about the current woes of probation but, rather, to focus on the themes that had brought us together, Imagining Probation in 2020: hopes, fears and insights – and to look forward.

As a precursor to the final edition of the British Journal of Community Justice under Paul’s editorship and to his Valedictory Lecture on his retirement from Sheffield Hallam University, on 28th April 2016, the event at Heaves had been a stimulating and inspiring introduction, showing how well-honed knowledge and experience has much to say to the future. That Paul should organise this was entirely apt – our contributions and the direction we took representing, perhaps, a fitting cameo of Paul’s own career.

Paul Senior became Professor of Probation Studies at Sheffield Hallam University in 1996 following a career in probation beginning in 1977, which included 11 years as a Joint Appointment between South Yorkshire Probation Service and Sheffield Hallam University, responsible for the training of new probation officers. Over that time, developing his progressive and critical credentials across the span of criminal justice in which probation officers practised, he worked extensively in the youth offending field, with courts, with the legal professions and in prison resettlement and with the voluntary and community sector. He established himself, through numerous publications and presentations, as a highly regarded academic on probation and criminal justice policy and practice. I had noted particularly his challenge to the then current probation practice in his 1991 article ‘Groupwork in the Probation Service: Care or Control in the 1990s?’ in the journal Groupwork.

Indeed, in 1992, Paul was commissioned as co-editor to revise and update a three-volume, fifth edition, of Jarvis Probation Service Manual. Jarvis was the bible of probation officers and only a scholar/practitioner held in the highest esteem would have been entrusted with this responsibility. Likewise, while working 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, Paul started the Hallam Centre for Community Justice within Sheffield Hallam University, a contract research centre specialising in offender management, resettlement and restorative justice, where he has been Director. Reflecting his vision, he immediately set up the Community Justice Portal providing an online information exchange facility. He leaves both institutions highly regarded and well patronised.

2002 also brought to fruition an ambition, harboured and discussed between us for some time, the launching of the British Journal of Community Justice as a partnership between Sheffield Hallam and De Montfort Universities, for which we have been editors throughout. Seeking to take debate beyond what we viewed at that time as the traditional discourse and boundaries of criminal justice, the journal has sought to play a part in articulating and establishing a new and progressive domain of community justice by interrogating, debating and publishing research, theory, policy and practice and their interrelationships. Published thrice yearly, the BJCJ has now reached its 14th annual volume. Due in no small measure to Paul’s persistence, unfailing commitment and no little editorial, literary and commercial flair, the journal has established itself firmly as an authoritative contributor to the discipline and critical commentator and influence on policy and practice.

Paul’s career has been inextricably linked to policy, practice and research in criminal justice. Befitting his professorial role, he has published widely, including the books Understanding Modernisation in Criminal Justice (with Crowther-Dowey and Long, 2007) and Moments in Probation (2008) and the co-edited Values in Community Justice and Criminology (with Cowburn, Robinson and Duggan, 2013). However, it is Paul’s association of 38 years with probation, as a practitioner, manager, trainer, consultant, researcher, academic, advisor and policy developer that most clearly denotes the contribution for which he is, and always will be, renowned. Indeed, I am certain that Paul, on retirement, now Professor Emeritus at Sheffield Hallam University, will continue to make his mark through his role as inaugural chair of the Probation Institute which has been established to support the learning and development of justice professionals.