MoJ creates new DG roles in prison and probation shake-up

Expanded senior leadership team will help next prison and probation service chief deal with secure-estate crisis.

Ministry of Justice perm sec Sir Richard Heaton. Credit: Parliament TV

By Jim.Dunton

03 Jan 2019

The Ministry of Justice has created two new director general posts to help HM Prison and Probation Service deliver its “large and critical workload”, permanent secretary Sir Richard Heaton has said.

Heaton, who was awarded a knighthood in the New Year Honours List, revealed the expansion of his department’s senior management team in a letter to MPs on the Justice Select Committee.

It follows a torrid period for HMPPS that has seen multiple difficulties with prison and probation outcomes including riots, damning inspections, and the collapse of contractor Carillion – which was responsible for facilities management contracts at more than 50 jails.


Other problems have included an unanticipated spike in prisoner numbers that required the reopening of mothballed facilities and delays to the planned closure of others. In July, justice secretary David Gauke also announced the early end to 21 contract agreements for the provision of probation services after widespread resourcing issues and performance failures.

In August, prisons minister Rory Stewart pledged to quit in a year if he had not managed to reduce levels of violence and drug use in 10 target facilities. The following month, the MoJ announced HMPPS chief executive Michael Spurr’s departure because of what Heaton described as a need for leadership change. 

In his letter to Justice Select Committee chair Bob Neill, Heaton said he expected the new DGs responsible for prison and probation services to be recruited once Spurr's replacement was in place, with interim DGs serving in the meantime. He said candidates for Spurr’s role were due to be interviewed this month. 

“The intention is to put additional senior leadership into HMPPS to help an incoming chief executive deliver the agency's large and critical workload,” he said.

Phil Copple, director director, public sector prisons at the National Offender Management Service, has been appointed as interim DG prisons, and Amy Rees, executive director for HM Prison and Probation Service in Wales, as DG probation, Heaton said. "They will both bring crucial leadership skills and highly relevant expertise, and they will help Michael and his successor to guide the agency and the wider department through the period of transition," he added.

“My intention would be to advertise the posts on a permanent basis once the new chief executive is in place.”

Heaton added that there would also be some “further changes” within the department to more directly address chain-of-command issues in the prison and probation service.

“Some functions that are currently delivered by policy teams will move into HMPPS; others will move into a single unified policy, analytical and communications group headed by [DG justice and courts policy] Mark Sweeney,” he said.

“My rationale for this move to a single policy and analytical group is to create a more streamlined and coherent capability, with fewer unclear boundaries and hand-offs, and a greater emphasis on system-wide policy thinking.”

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