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UK prisons and probation chief Michael Spurr to be replaced amid epidemic of violence and self-harm in jails

The Independent logo The Independent 20/09/2018 May Bulman

Michael Spurr has been told to step down as chief executive of HM Prisons and Probation (HMPP) after the permanent secretary decided that it was 'the right time to ask a new chief executive to take on this important role' ( PA Wire/PA Images ) © Press Association Michael Spurr has been told to step down as chief executive of HM Prisons and Probation (HMPP) after the permanent secretary decided that it was 'the right time to ask a new chief executive to take on this important role' ( PA Wire/PA Images ) The boss of prisons and probation is being replaced amid soaring levels of violence and self-harm in jails across England and Wales.

Michael Spurr, chief executive of HM Prisons and Probation (HMPP), has tendered his resignation after the permanent secretary decided that it was "the right time to ask a new chief executive to take on this important role".

He will be leaving at the end of March 2019, after 35 years in the service and nearly nine years leading it.

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It comes after inspectors found conditions in prisons across England and Wales to be the "worse they had ever seen" as authorities failed to take action over high levels of violence, self-harm and drug use.

Announcing the decision, permanent secretary of HMPP Richard Heaton said: "Michael's leadership has been exemplary. But we now need to look ahead, building on Michael's work and developing a strategy for the next decade.

A general view of a Serco prison van leaving Wormwood Scrubs prison in west London.   (Photo by Ian Nicholson/PA Images via Getty Images) © Getty A general view of a Serco prison van leaving Wormwood Scrubs prison in west London. (Photo by Ian Nicholson/PA Images via Getty Images) "I have therefore decided that April 2019 is the right time to ask a new chief executive to take on this important role.”

Justice secretary and lord chancellor David Gauke said: “I am extremely grateful to Michael Spurr for his leadership of HMPPS. His focus has been unwavering on doing the best for his staff and for victims of crime, on discipline in the prison estate and on caring for and rehabilitating offenders.

"He is an example of the very best of public service and civil service leadership. I look forward to continuing to work closely with Michael into the New Year.”

Wormwood Scrubs Prison, in Hammersmith. The prison was built between 1875 and 1891.Wormwood Scrubs is a local category B prison accepting all suitable male prisoners over the age of 21 from courts within its catchment area and has an operational capacity of 1277.   (Photo by Ian Nicholson - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images) © Getty Wormwood Scrubs Prison, in Hammersmith. The prison was built between 1875 and 1891.Wormwood Scrubs is a local category B prison accepting all suitable male prisoners over the age of 21 from courts within its catchment area and has an operational capacity of 1277. (Photo by Ian Nicholson - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images) Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said Mr Spurr was an "exceptionally principled and knowledgeable leader who has selflessly served an endless succession of short term ministers".

He added: "Whoever takes over will face the same fundamental problems of overcrowded and under resourced prisons. Those are problems which only ministers can address and none of those whom Michael has served so faithfully have delivered.

"Anyone who thinks the problems in our prisons can be solved by a change of leader is deluding themselves.”

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