New ‘Urgent Notification’ protocol for prisons inspector

By agency reporter
December 5, 2017

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, has welcomed a new process allowing him to publicly demand urgent action by the Secretary of State for Justice to improve jails with significant problems.

Mr Clarke said, “I welcome the new ‘Urgent Notification’ protocol which the Secretary of State for Justice has announced.

“This has the potential to be an important outcome of prison inspections, and to strengthen the role of HM Inspectorate of Prisons. Our job is to report on the treatment and conditions experienced by prisoners, and these new arrangements should mean that in the most serious cases there will be an effective and speedy response.

“In particular, I welcome the principle of transparency and accountability underpinning this new protocol. The Secretary of State has accepted that he and his successors will be held publicly accountable for delivering an urgent, robust and effective response when HMIP assesses that treatment or conditions in a jail raise such significant concerns that urgent action is required. The protocol requires the Secretary of State to respond to an urgent notification letter from HM Chief Inspector of Prisons within 28 days. The Chief Inspector’s notification and the Secretary of State’s response will both be published.”

Mr Clarke said HMIP supported the inclusion of measures in the Prisons and Courts Bill to require greater accountability and transparency in the response to HMI Prisons’ recommendations. “We regretted the fact that the provisions in the Bill relating to prisons were lost after the general election, but welcomed the commitment by the Secretary of State to achieve their objectives so far as possible without legislation.

“The Urgent Notification process announced this week is the culmination of many months of discussions between HMIP, the Ministry of Justice and HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS)”

Explaining the impact of the new arrangement, which is incorporated into the existing protocol through which HMIP inspects prisons, Mr Clarke added: “Whenever the new process is invoked, we will expect swift and effective action to be taken in response.

“However, the implementation and monitoring of improvements is a clear responsibility of HMPPS, not the Inspectorate. HMI Prisons will take account of a range of factors to decide when, in the judgement of the Chief Inspector, a prison should next be inspected. If for any reason an HMIP recommendation is not accepted, we would expect the rationale to be explained and published.”

Read the new Protocol here

* HM Inspector of Prisons


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