Head of Prison Services asked to step down amid concerns of drugs and violence

Head of Prison Services asked to step down amid concerns of drugs and violence

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The head of the prison and probation system in England and Wales has been asked to stand down, amid an ongoing crisis in the prison service.

The Minister of Justice announced that Michael Spurr will leave his role as chief executive of HM Prison and Probation Service at the end of March 2019.

Mr Spurr has worked in prisons for 35 years and headed the system for nine, first as chief executive of the National Offender Management Service Agency from 2010 and then leader of HMPPS when it was created in April 2017.

This comes as Prisons Minister Rory Stewart admitted there were problems with drugs and violence in a number of public-ly run prisons last month.

He added that he would resign if the situation was not improved within a year.

Thousands of prison officers walked out for six hours last week in a protest at “unprecedented violence” in British jails.

In a statement announcing his departure, Justice Secretary David Gauke said: "I am extremely grateful to Michael Spurr for his leadership of HMPPS.

"His focus has been unwavering on doing the best for his staff and for victims of crime, on discipline in the prison estate and on caring for and rehabilitating offenders.

"He is an example of the very best of public service and civil service leadership. I look forward to continuing to work closely with Michael into the New Year."


‘overcrowded and under-resourced prisons’

The process of appointing a successor will begin in October.

Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: "Michael Spurr will be an extraordinarily hard act to follow.

"He is an exceptionally principled and knowledgeable leader who has selflessly served an endless succession of short term ministers.

"Whoever takes over will face the same fundamental problems of overcrowded and under-resourced prisons.

"Those are problems which only ministers can address and none of those whom Michael has served so faithfully have delivered.

"Anyone who thinks the problems in our prisons can be solved by a change of leader is deluding themselves."

The Prison Governors Association said: "The current crisis cannot be levelled at Michael Spurr as this is clearly a result of government policy over the last decade, driven by the myriad of Secretaries of State and prison ministers, along with austerity and changes in strategic direction."

Much of the prisons estate in England and Wales has been gripped by surging levels of violence, drug use and self-harm in recent years.

Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke has demanded Government action at four troubled jails in less than a year, including three state-run establishments.

Last week he triggered an "urgent notification" for HMP Bedford after an inspection found inmates had effectively taken over the violent, overcrowded and vermin-infested prison.