The former prisons and probation ombudsman, Sue McAllister, has been named interim probation inspector while a replacement is found for Justin Russell.
McAllister, who has also held senior policy roles and worked as a prison governor, will take up her role as HM chief inspector of probation on 1 October, when Russell’s term ends.
In her four-year stint as ombudsman, which ended last year, McAllister led two independent investigations into deaths of babies in custody: Baby A at HMP Bronzefield and Baby B at HMP Styal.
She also led an independent investigation into a serious disturbance at a Home Office detention centre and was a member of an independent review into a sensitive death in custody
Before becoming ombudsman in 2018, McAllister was the director of reducing offending and prison service director general for Northern Ireland’s Department of Justice. Her previous policy roles include heading up the public sector bids unit at the National Offender Management Service.
She has also spent time on the ground in operational roles as a prison governer and head of the security group and area manager for the West Midlands.
McAllister’s term as interim chief inspector will end on 1 March 2024 “or when a substantive post holder is appointed, whichever is earlier”, the Ministry of Justice said.
Russell announced his departure in May, saying it would fall during "a natural break in our inspection programme as we prepare to start a new cycle of regional probation inspections, at the end of 2023, and a new cycle of youth inspections in 2024".
"This will give my successor time to put their own stamp on both these important new programmes and to get to grips with our interesting and challenging work," he said.
He said he was leaving "after careful thought and consideration" and that it had been "a great privilege to lead such a hard-working and talented team"
“We have been able to shine a light on the work of both probation and youth justice services: highlighting where things need to improve, but celebrating where things are done well too, through our range of effective practice guides," he added.
Russell's last report as chief inspector was published earlier this month and called for an independent review of the “struggling” Probation Service to determine whether it should be brought back under local control, two years after major reforms to renationalise private services.
In the report – which said “chronic staffing shortages” and reforms had left probation services constrained and playing “second fiddle” to prisons – Russell said 2022-23 had been a “disappointing year on which to finish my term of office”.
His report painted a picture of stretched services delivered by burnt-out staff with “unmanageable” workloads, which has led to gaps in services and difficulty retaining experienced probation officers.