In memory of Paul Senior

Date01 March 2020
AuthorMike Nellis
Published date01 March 2020
Subject MatterObituary
PRB905143 89..92
The Journal of Community and Criminal Justice
Probation Journal
In memory
2020, Vol. 67(1) 89–92
ª The Author(s) 2020
of Paul Senior
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0264550520905143
Paul Senior, who died on 22nd June 2019, was born in Barnsley in 1952, moved
with his family to Suffolk, where he did his secondary schooling, returning to
Yorkshire as a student at the University of York in 1971, and remaining in the county
for the rest of his career. He had initially intended to become a secondary school history
teacher, but decided against this, moving via volunteer youth work into social work,
and gaining his Certificate of Qualification in Social Work (CQSW) between 1975
and 1977. Some of the thinkers he encountered in teacher training, not only practical
educators like AS Neil and Maria Montessori but also Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci,
George Orwell, Ivan Il ich, and Paulo Freire, were lasting influences on his multifaceted
career in and around the probation service. Gramsci and Freire, in particular, were
socialist intellectuals for whom producing knowledge was always about serving the
political and practical interests of disadvantaged people and critically supporting the
efforts of those who worked with and for them. They informed the outlook that Paul used
to appraise and judge probation practice and probation training and, later, probation
policymaking. He consistently understood that the probation ideal, like the National
Health Service (NHS) ideal, had devious political enemies hell-bent on obliterating it,
and that canny political action was as – often more – important as rational argument
and empirical evidence in upholding and extending it.
Paul worked as a front-line probation officer in the South Yorkshire probation ser-
vice for six years, and conceded that his ‘intellectual curiosity was not always seen as
helpful by my colleagues’. Temperamentally combative, and always politically astute,
he was a natural activist within National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO) –
particularly its radical Action Group: he spoke regularly at its conferences and spent
eight years on its Probation Practice Committee, producing ‘a huge number of policy
papers whilst we were stil at the strategic table with the Home Office’. Furious debates
on the future of the probation service, some with a socialist inflection, occurred within
and without it in the late 1970s and early 1980s. There was no consensus on the
theories that could or should inform practice, or on the acceptable level of...

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