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Meet Jo Farrar: The new head of prisons & probation

Dr Jo Farrar succeeds Michael Spurr as Chief Executive of HMPPS on 1 April 2019.

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The Ministry of Justice announced earlier today that Dr Jo Farrar has been appointed as the next Chief Executive of Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service and will take over from Michael Spurr on 1st April.

The press release summarises Dr Farrar’s career going back to her time in the parole unit in 1987. She spent 16 years in central government working in the Home Office and Cabinet Office. She has extensive experience as a Chief Executive in local government a post she has held at both Bridgend County Borough Council and Bath and North-East Somerset Council. She was made an OBE in the New Year’s Honours in 2016.

During this time, her principal task would have been to have find ways in which the councils were able to deliver as many services as possible with less money to do so every year which will certainly suit her for life at the MoJ.

She returned to Central Government in August 2016 where she became Director General of the Department for Communities and Local Government.


Dr Jo Farrar

Sir Richard Heaton, Permanent Secretary at the MoJ, welcomed her appointment, although those working in prisons and probation might think his “cautious optimism” assessment of the current situation in our prison and probation systems is a little disconnected from the day-to-day realities:

Jo’s record of getting difficult things done in the public service made her an outstanding candidate for this job. She will provide energy, focus and humane leadership as HMPPS emerges from several challenging years. It is a tribute to Michael Spurr’s determination and skill, as well as to the hard work of so many colleagues across HMPPS, that Jo will arrive at a time of cautious optimism for this incredibly important service. I look forward to working closely with her as we consolidate and accelerate this progress.

Below you can watch a public lecture Dr Farrar made for the University of Bath’s Institute for Policy Research in February 2016 on the apposite subject of “Transforming Public Services in a Time of Austerity”

The press release also includes Dr Farrar’s “acceptance speech”:

I am hugely honoured by the opportunity to lead HMPPS at such an important time. It is a service that is critical to protecting the public and helping people turn their lives around. Early in my career, my work in prisons and probation gave me a lasting commitment to public service and a passion to make a difference. I am delighted to return.

The issues we face in our prisons, and the need to put vital probation services onto a strong footing, are well known. Working alongside the dedicated people in all parts of HMPPS, I look forward to addressing these challenges and delivering improvement over the years to come as we create an outstanding service of which we can all be proud.

Certainly Michael Spurr was highly respected by a large number of people in the prison and probation services and most attribute the current crises to political decisions and austerity rather than his failings as a leader.

We shall have to wait and see how both services fare under the leadership of Dr Farrar.

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7 Responses

  1. Michael Spurr left the criminal justice system in a mess, did nothing to challenge the situation and faced no consequences for his actions. Nice pay off too. Terrible leadership

    1. Totally true, I spent 32 1/2 years in the service and wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him, very corrupt.

  2. I worked with Jo in an early stage of her career (to be strictly accurate, I was her boss!). She was without a doubt the most outstanding person I ever worked with. Unless she has changed beyond recognition – which I very much doubt – the Prison and Probation services could not be in safer hands.

  3. I wrote a letter to micheal spurr few year ago. Explaining ways in which i believe prison service could change and that i could and would to implement these. He replied to me telling me there was nothing wrong with prison system..mmmm ok if say so mr spurr. Now i would like meet jo and give my ideas and help implement then. I k ow way i do it would work.

  4. I don’t like the borrowed label you have used #hiddenheroes this is an American campaign from 2016.

    Not a lot of thought gone into that one. Why not #Trueheroes it’s original and factual. I don’t hide, I’m frontline, a key worker.

    Can we have some more PPE and proper training to deal with COVID- 19 or you may wish to change the lable to #Hiddenvictims.

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