Welcome to issue #4 of The Investigator, the PPO’s quarterly newsletter.

The Investigator, Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, newsletter

Welcome to the latest issue of The Investigator.

I took up the post of Prisons and Probation Ombudsman in October 2018, so my first anniversary in the role coincided with the publication of the PPO’s Annual Report for 2018/19 earlier this month. It has been a learning year, and one spent on the road visiting as many establishments within our remit as possible.

While the past year has been invaluable in enabling me fully to understand the challenges facing the Ombudsman’s office, the demand for our services remains critically high: in the last quarter, alone, we have begun investigations into eighty-five deaths (twenty-four of them self-inflicted), and received 1,277 complaints.

In the Annual Report, I wrote about a worrying 23% increase in self-inflicted deaths on the previous year, and an overall increase in the number of fatal incidents of 6%. In all, the PPO began 334 fatal incident investigations. In many cases, we had to make the same recommendations as in previous years, where remedial action had been promised.  This led me to ask two seemingly obvious questions:

  • Why are we making so many repeat recommendations?
  • What is preventing our work from having the impact it should?
Obvious, perhaps, but which go to the heart of some long-standing and systemic issues which will require determination and new thinking to resolve. I believe that our collective response to these questions will shape the rest of my tenure.

We have stepped up our engagement with those stakeholders we see as crucial to the success of this mission:
  • at ministerial level as we continue to press to gain statutory footing for the office;
  • with academia as we look to use our unique evidence base to influence new policy thinking on safety and fairness in custody;
  • with the HMPPS leadership in prisons and at both regional and national level as we establish clear lines of communication to help us track the implementation of our recommendations; and,
  • on the wings and landings as we take steps to improve complainants’ access to and confidence in our service.
It’s a tough challenge – I expect demand to remain high even as we are being asked to continue to do more with less. However, I can assure you that everyone at the PPO remains wholly committed to delivering high-quality, effective independent investigations, while we explore every means at our disposal to help make custody safer and fairer.
Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, Sue McAllister

Thank you for reading,

Sue McAllister, Prisons and Probation Ombudsman

Prisons and Probation Ombudsman Newsletter, features

Investigating cases involving IPP prisoners

Property pitfalls and how to avoid them

Quarterly stats banner

Quarterly statistics covering the PPO’s investigations into both complaints and fatal incidents in custody from July to September 2019.

Complaints from those under 21

As in previous years, the number of complaints from those under 21 remained disproportionately small: accounting for just 26 of the 2,569 that we investigated. We know there are a number of reasons why young people do not complain to us. Anecdotal evidence suggests that they find the complaints process overly bureaucratic or complicated.

We continue to welcome the fact that we receive complaints from advocates, solicitors and charities made on behalf of young people. In the following case study the Howard League, acting on behalf of a number of young men at a Young Offenders Institution (YOI), submitted complaints about the use of segregation.

YOI, complaints investigation

Click on the image above to read about the case brought by the Howard League
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