Thursday, 21 January 2016

Will the New Dog Bark?

Yesterday out-going Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick was giving evidence before the Justice Affairs Committee and we got further insight into exactly why his contract wasn't renewed by Chris Grayling. The appearance coincided with publication of an astonishing letter written by Hardwick to the Permanent Secretary making it plain that his independence was being seriously compromised by government interference. 

This is extremely serious given the state of crisis developing within our prisons and it must call into question both the circumstances surrounding the appointment of his replacement Peter Clarke and whether he's going to to be a dog that doesn't bark? This from the Independent:-  

Nick Hardwick: Prisons inspector steps down with attack on Chris Grayling for trying to influence his work

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is compromising the independence of Britain’s prison inspectorate by demanding “day-to-day control” over expenditure and the power to veto spending on a weekly basis, MPs have been warned. Nick Hardwick, the outgoing Chief Inspector of Prisons, told the House of Commons Justice Committee that senior MoJ officials had told him they needed to sign off on all specialist personnel hired to take part in prison inspections before they could take place.

He also revealed that the former Justice Secretary Chris Grayling had “robustly” tried to influence his reports despite his supposed independence from the Government. The situation became so serious that Mr Hardwick wrote to the MoJ’s Permanent Secretary warning him that he would suspend all prison inspections unless the financial restrictions were lifted.

The ministry has now agreed to allow Mr Hardwick financial independence until April but has made no guarantees that his successor, the former police chief Peter Clarke, will have the same freedoms.

Giving evidence to the Justice Committee Mr Hardwick said that he was concerned that the ministry was using financial controls to influence what he inspected as well as his ability to “get to the bottom” of what was going on in prisons.

“When the department whose services we are inspecting starts to say precisely how I should carry out those inspections then I think we have an issue about our independence,” Mr Hardwick said. “I should be able to choose the staff I need to carry out inspections. It should be my choice, not their choice.

“The major problem has been the controls over how I get to my conclusions. In order to reach a view I need to apply resources which some might think are intrusive or heavy-handed. That’s where the independence issue comes in. “If you are uncomfortable about looking at a particular area you would prevent me having money to do it.”

Mr Hardwick told the committee he did not know if the attempt to control his finances had been motivated by a desire to influence the work that it did. But he revealed that the previous Justice Secretary Chris Grayling had attempted to influence the contents of previous reports.

“[He told] me robustly what he thought,” said Mr Hardwick. “He certainly had a view about the conclusions I was reaching.” Asked whether Mr Grayling was trying to influence him Mr Hardwick replied: “Yes”. “It is important that if the inspectorate feels the need to make life uncomfortable for the department it is able to do that,” he added.

Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said that officials seemed to have got into an “embarrassing muddle” in their dealings with the inspectorate. “The idea that an independent inspectorate should have its budget cleared on a weekly basis is obviously absurd.”

In a letter released by the committee Richard Heaton, the MoJ’s Permanent Secretary, said the financial controls were “unavoidable” but insisted they were about bringing the department’s spending down and not about interfering with the independence of the inspectorate.


  1. We know the decision not to give Hardwick a further five years was taken by Grayling because he did not like Hardwick's streak of independence. It was usual practice for inspectors to serve two terms.

    We know that both the new inspectors applied after being encouraged by Gove. We also know that both are thin on relevant experience and that both have worked closely before with Gove.

    Hardwick was dispensed with because he honestly reported on prison conditions and he refused to water down critical reports which he says Grayling tried to make him do – they had 'robust' exchanges. In Hardwick they had someone who could bite as well as bark.

    Until there is evidence to the contrary in the future, these two inspectors will in the meantime will be regarded as spaniels.

  2. Let's support the new inspector before dissing him before he starts

  3. As long as we can all continue to use "poppers", those nice & safe non-illicit recreational drugs that are so critical & beneficial to our ongoing personal & intimate relationships, you could impose Nigel Farage as HMI probation and prisons!

    1. Ooh dear, Crispin, Urban75 website wants to spoil the party:

      "Side effects: Amyl can deliver the mother, father and immediate family of headaches. Never take amyl at work or at any place where there is a chance of physical danger - for the few moments that it kicks in you may well not be in control of your actions. If you're having a bit of a session and finding that it's becoming less effective, take a break from it.

      If you're snorting poppers while having sex, there's a chance that the heady, sex-beast rush may make you lead you to risky sex - so slap on a condom before you break out the amyl.

      Try not to take it with other stimulants (coke, speed, E etc.) as it could put too much strain on your heart. The liquid is also highly inflammable so be careful with your spliff!

      Health risks: Anybody who suffers from circulatory problems or from low blood pressure should be particularly wary of this substance. Using poppers can be a serious health risk for those with heart trouble, breathing problems, or anaemia and glaucoma. Always wash off any amyl that spills on your skin and never drink the stuff - it is highly poisonous.

      However, there is evidence that using poppers does lower immune function, although the damage can be undone within a day or so.

      People with impaired immune function should certainly think twice before taking snorting, but the idea that poppers cause permanent immune-system damage is speculative."

    2. Grayling's PPS also chipped in:

      "Tory Mike Freer (Finchley and Golders Green) said poppers help LGBT couples achieve intimacy that would be more difficult without the drug's muscle-relaxing properties.

      Mr Freer said it therefore has an important emotional and mental health benefit, although he backed the ban."

      If its such a vital accessory, make it available on prescription. The revenue might fund life saving cancer drugs. Or sell it in chemists & add VAT as they do to women's "luxury" goods.

  4. Have DLNR announced redundancies aswel as SWM crc?

  5. 58 across DLNR,no breakdown on which grades etc.

  6. So reading between that lines is this an indication that the Chief Inspector of Probation being led and dictated by the MoJ? If not, why hasn't he written a letter alongside Nick Hardwick?

    1. Because she wants the £135,000 a year salary.

    2. Justice Committee, Nov 2015:

      "Conclusion. - Glenys Stacey has had a distinguished career in senior positions in the public sector, including several posts on regulatory bodies and in the criminal justice sector. Her name as an appointable candidate has emerged following an exacting and lengthy recruitment process conducted under the auspices of the Office for the Commissioner of Public Appointments, during which Ms Stacey has been assessed against the criteria which the holder of the post must meet. Our role is not to assess whether the preferred candidate is the best person for the job, but whether he or she is appointable. We agree with the judgement of the selection panel that Ms Stacey is appointable to the post of HM Chief Inspector of Probation. Given her lack of experience in relation to probation, we consider that she will need to make a swift start in demonstrating and communicating a clear vision for the Inspectorate over the next few years. We recommend that within three months of taking up post Ms Stacey bring forward a strategy for the Inspectorate during the period of her tenure as Chief Inspector, and we would wish to hold an evidence session with her following production of that strategy to discuss its implementation."

    3. From Justice Committee report Nov 2015 (abridged):

      "Curriculum Vitae—Glenys Stacey

      Chief Regulator and Chief Executive, Ofqual March 2011 to date

      Chief Executive, Standards for England April 2008–February 2011

      Chief Executive, Animal Health October 2004–March 2008

      CEO, GM Magistrates’ Courts Committee Nov 2000–Sep 2004

      Chief Executive, Criminal Cases Review Commission Jan 1997–Oct 2000"

    4. It was about clipping Hardwick's wings and his use of specialists. It was a different setup in probation.

  7. E3 .... What does it look like now?

    Hmmmph. Still the shame chaotic, ever-changing, negative environment it has been for years. And .... Getting worse, that's what it looks like now.

    Please tell us when NPS PO posts are going be made redundant. I've done 14 years and have absolutely had enough. Workload nearly on 120% and they want to allocate more cases and reports. It's dangerous.

    All this and no salary increase for years. They don't even pay us the 'automatic', contractual incremental point. Shameful and a breach if contract. Why aren't you doing something about it NAPO?