Gove recommends outsiders as chief prison/probation inspectors

While there are clear advantages to inspectors having an outsider's view and a fresh perspective on the service they are responsible for, they are also vulnerable to accusations of not understanding the context in which they are working.

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Letter to Justice Select Committee

As regular readers will know, Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, is responsible for the Prison and Probation inspectorates and is in the process of replacing the Chief Inspectors.

The process for this is that Mr Gove selects his preferred candidates who are considered by the Justice Select Committee in a formal hearing. He does not have to abide by the decision of the committee, but it would certainly be controversial if he didn’t. Yesterday, 20 November 2015, he announced these candidates via the MoJ website.

Here is the relevant text:

As you are aware, I am responsible for Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons and Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Probation. Further to our correspondence before the recruitment process began, I am pleased to put forward my preferred candidates for the Committee’s consideration: Peter Clarke for Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons and Glenys Stacey for Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Probation.

Peter is a retired senior police officer, who served in the Metropolitan Peter ClarkePolice Service for more than 30 years. He rose to the rank of Assistant Commissioner and also served as Head of the Anti-Terrorist Branch and National Co-ordinator of Terrorist Investigations. In 2014 he was appointed Education Commissioner for Birmingham, with a remit to conduct an inquiry into the allegations concerning Birmingham schools arising from the ‘Trojan Horse’ letter. Peter is currently a member of the Board of the Charity Commission.

Glenys is currently the Chief Executive of Ofqual, the examsGlenys stacey regulator in England. She is a solicitor by profession but also has 17 years’ experience leading public sector organisations, having previously served as CEO of Standards for England, Animal Health, the Greater Manchester Magistrates’ Courts Committee and the Criminal Cases Review Commission. In August this year, she announced her intention to leave Ofqual when her term comes to an end.


The strikingly interesting thing about both these candidates is that they are both outsiders. Since writing this post, I’ve learnt from the estimable Rob Allen that former prison service employees are excluded from becoming Chief Inspector of Prisons (although this doesn’t apply to Probation Chief Inspectors).

Glenys Stacey, probably the new Chief Inspector of Probation, is a lawyer by profession with a career as head of a number of quangos including two in the criminal justice sector.

Peter Clarke, the proposed new Chief Inspector of Prisons, is a career police officer. Part of his remit will be to inspect police custody suites.

While there are clear advantages to inspectors having an outsider’s view and a fresh perspective on the service they are responsible for, they are also vulnerable to accusations of not understanding the context in which they are working.

This is not a charge which could be levelled at the current Chief Inspectors.

The current Chief Inspector of Probation, Paul Wilson, was appointed on an interim basis in February 2015; he had spent his whole career in the probation service and was Chief Executive of London Probation Trust from 2009 to 2010. Mr Wilson’s first inspections of the new probation model (introduce under the Transforming Rehabilitation initiative) were critical of the new split service.

Nick Hardwick, the current Chief Inspector of Prisons, is much respected. He had a difficult relationship with previous Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, who was clearly unhappy with Hardwick’s readiness to be brutally honest about the current deterioration in prison conditions. Hardwick had a long career in the voluntary sector in organisations concerned with young people, offenders and refugees, including NACRO, Centrepoint and the Refugee Council.

If Mr Clarke is appointed as Chief Inspector of Prisons, he will will be judged against a very highly regarded predecessor.

We will have to wait and see what view the Justice Select Committee take of the proposed new appointments


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2 Responses

  1. Well, nothing new here – was there ever a chief inspector of prisons who WAS an ex governor? More important is personal credibility, quality of judgement, ability to learn fast and with some humility, utter commitment to the job and to the wellbeing of our prisons and prisoners, ability to lead and to work with people, total independence of mind (without needless confrontation and grandstanding). Its a tall order and we’ve been very lucky with Hardwick and Owers.

    Independence is crucial in another way – the saga over Hardwick’s non reappointment illustrates the undesirability of this appointment being made by the very MInister who stands to be criticised by the post holder or (on re-appointment) has been in the past. Better that the appointment were made independently. Though by whom is a nice question.

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