MoJ ushers in 'new era' at HM Prison and Probation Service as it announces next chief executive

HMPPS is "emerging from several challenging years", says MoJ permanent secretary Richard Heaton 

Photo: PA

The Ministry of Justice has appointed Jo Farrar, a director general at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, as the next head of HM Prison and Probation Service as the agency seeks to distance itself from the problems it has faced in recent years

Farrar, who has been DG for local government and public services at MHCLG since 2016, will succeed Michael Spurr, who was asked to stand down following a trying period that has included riots, damning prisons inspections and the collapse of outsourcer Carillion last year.

Farrar’s public service career began at the Parole Unit of the Prison Service, an agency sponsored by HMPPS. She spent 16 years in central government before becoming chief executive at Bath and North-East Somerset Council and then Bridgend County Borough Council.


Farrar, pictured, said she was “delighted to return” to the prisons and probation service. “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,” she said.

“The issues we face in our prisons, and the need to put vital probation services onto a strong footing, are well known,” she said in a statement.

Advertising for the role last year, the MoJ said Spurr’s successor would have the opportunity to make "a distinctive contribution to the next chapter in the reform of prison and probation services”.

Over the last year the prisons inspectorate has carried out a series of damning prisons inspections, including one so severe that it led the MoJ to take over control of HMP Birmingham from the private contractor G4S amid concerns for prisoners’ safety.

MoJ permanent secretary Sir Richard Heaton said in September that it was the “right time to ask a new chief executive to take on this important role”. Spurr will step down in April after being asked to stand down.

A spokesperson for the MoJ told CSW at the time that Heaton was also taking the change at the top of HMPPS as an opportunity to review its management structure. The department later announced it would create two new director general roles once Spurr’s replacement was in post and reorganise some of the agency’s functions to address chain-of-command issues.

Announcing Farrar’s appointment, Heaton said she would 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,” he said.

Justice secretary David Gauke added: "As HMPPS enters a new era, under new leadership, I very much look forward to working with Jo as we strive to deliver the world-class service to which we all aspire."

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