Creation of the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman’s role

The report into the prison disturbances of 1990 led to the creation of an independent adjudicator for prisoner complaints. The report identified a lack of an independent point of appeal as one of the causes for the disturbances and recommended that an independent arbiter be appointed who would consider applications from complainants who had not achieved satisfaction through the internal complaints system. The office of the Prisons Ombudsman was officially created in 1994.

In 2001 the Ombudsman’s remit was extended to include complaints from those under probation supervision. The office was re-named the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman to reflect this change. A further extension in 2006 incorporated complaints from those in immigration detention.

The fatal incidents function was introduced in 2004 adding to the Ombudsman’s remit the requirement to investigate all deaths in prisons; probation approved premises, immigration detention facilities and secure training centres. The Ombudsman also has the ability to conduct ad hoc investigations on request.

The current incumbent, Nigel Newcomen, has placed a particular emphasis on learning lessons from across investigations , rather than only relying on the findings and learning arising in individual cases. As a result, the office has in recent years produced a wide range of learning lessons publications which are available on this website.

The Ombudsman

The Ombudsman is appointed by the Secretary of State for Justice in line with the public appointments process and after a confirmation hearing before the House of Commons Justice Select Committee. The role and responsibilities are outlined in the Ombudsman’s Terms of Reference.

The office has been held by the following individuals:

Nigel Newcomen CBE
September 2011 – present
Jane Webb (Acting Ombudsman) April 2010 – June 2011
Stephen Shaw CBE November 1999 – May 2010
Sir Peter Woodhead KCB May 1994 – October 1999