PROBATION officers in Bolton took to the picket line to protest against government plans to privatise 70 per cent of the service.

Dozens of workers, who are members of the NAPO union, held placards with the message “not for sale” and chanted outside Bolton Magistrates Court as part of a day-and-a-half long national walkout.

The service is responsible for supervising offenders who are sentenced to community orders or those released from prison on licence, as well as assisting the victims of serious crime.

Under Ministry of Justice plans, the majority of probation work would be outsourced to private firms and voluntary organisations.

Ian Lawrence, general secretary of NAPO, has described the move as “a recklessly dangerous social experiment”.

The strike began at noon yesterday and officers will not return to work until tomorrow morning.