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Prisons chief gets the boot over soaring violence

MoJ ‘asked Spurr to step down’ following prison rioting, rise in self harm, protests and murder

THE boss of England’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) is to step down as prisons across the country spiral into further chaos and violence.

Michael Spurr was reportedly “asked to step down” by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) today as violence in prisons and incidents of self-harm continue to climb to unprecedented levels.

His departure comes a month after Prisons Minister Rory Stewart admitted acute problems with drugs and violence in jails and said that he would himself resign if the situation was not improved within a year.

Thousands of prison officers walked out for six hours last week in protest against “unprecedented violence” in jails.

Mr Spurr will stay on as chief executive until the end of March next year.

His departure was welcomed by the National Association of Probation Officers (Napo), which said he was the fundamental architect in Transforming Rehabilitation “which has left probation in chaos.”

The union's general secretary Ian Lawrence said: “Many of our members will welcome his departure, not least because he has continued to be rewarded for his failure with regular bonuses while our members have endured a 10-year-pay freeze.

“That said, it must not distract from the fact that the former justice secretary Chris Grayling is ultimately responsible for the position prisons and probation are currently in and he must be held fully accountable.”

As justice secretary, Mr Grayling, who is now in charge of Britain’s chaotic rail system as Transport Secretary, oversaw the redundancies of 7,000 prison officers and the privatisation of 70 per cent of the Probation Service.

Labour’s shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon said the cause of the chaos afflicting prisons in England is government cuts.

“The unprecedented crisis in our prisons is a direct result of the Conservatives’ decision to slash budgets and staffing levels,” he said.

“If the government really wants to put an end to this crisis then it needs to overhaul its policies.

“It should start with a national emergency plan and new Treasury funds to end overcrowding and understaffing across the prison estate.”

Mr Spurr has worked in prisons for 35 years and his time as head of the service has been dogged by controversy.

In January this year, anti-terrorism expert Ian Acheson, who led a government review into extremism among prisoners, called on Mr Spurr to resign because of the “chaotic state” of jails in the country.

And in February, MPs sitting on the justice select committee said his position was “hanging by a thread” following the murder of Khader Ahmed Saleh, a drug dealer, at Wormwood Scrubs prison, west London.

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