The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) is operationally independent of the Ministry of Justice and wholly independent of the services it investigates (the National Offender Management Service covering the prison service and probation services, Youth Justice Board covering secure training centres and Home Office Immigration Enforcement covering immigration detention). Administrative guarantees of this independence are set out in the PPO’s Terms of Reference.

The PPO currently employs just over 100 staff in either an investigative or support function. The Ombudsman is a Non-Statutory Public Appointee, while his staff are all civil servants employed by the PPO’s sponsoring department, the Ministry of Justice. Previously, all staff were Home Office civil servants when that department was the sponsor.

As in any organisation, the PPO’s staff have a range of employment backgrounds. These include posts outside the civil service, as well as civil service posts in various Government Departments and their agencies.

After interest in Parliament and elsewhere about the backgrounds of staff in independent investigative bodies such as the PPO, we conducted the first snapshot survey of our staff’s employment background in September 2012 – this data had not previously been otherwise obtainable.

The most recent survey was conducted in March 2015. There were 96 staff who responded to the survey (a response rate of 87%). The results showed the following:

1.    The majority of PPO staff (51) had no previous experience of working with prisons, probation, or immigration before joining the PPO.

  • Less than a quarter (22) have worked in the services in remit in the last ten years.

2.    Of the 22 who have worked in the services in remit in the last ten years:

  • seven worked in operational roles – either as officers or managers in a prison, Young Offender Institution, Secure Training Centre, Immigration Removal Centre, or probation office;
  • six worked in administrative or other non-operational roles;
  • nine worked on policy or casework within the headquarters of one of these services.

3.    A further 23 staff worked in the services in remit more than ten years ago; four in operational roles.

The PPO needs a good mix of experience across its staff complement, including some with previous operational knowledge of the organisations subject to investigation. However, the PPO is, first and foremost an independent investigative body. Staff are recruited, not for their background, but for their skills and competencies and the essential requirements that they need to fulfil their role. All investigators are expected to undertake accredited investigative training to develop their skills as independent investigators.

Whatever their backgrounds, all PPO staff are required to exercise absolute independence of judgement and to behave in a way that is fair, honest and impartial. These are amongst the PPO’s core values (our statement of Vision and Values is also available on this website).