A former chief inspector of prisons has been appointed as the new chairwoman of the independent police watchdog, the Home Secretary said today – but it has been described as ‘a disaster’ by the editor of the national prisoners’ newspaper Converse.
Dame Anne Owers, who was chief inspector of prisons from 2001 to 2010, is the second person to take up the permanent position at the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
Dame Anne, who will take an annual salary of £60,000, said: “I am delighted to be joining the IPCC at this exciting time of change and challenge for the commission and the police service.
“The IPCC’s independent investigation and oversight plays a critical role in ensuring public confidence in policing, and I look forward to working with the commissioners and staff as they continue to carry it out.”
Home Secretary Theresa May said she “has considerable experience of criminal justice and a formidable public reputation”.
Dame Anne “will challenge all parties to get to the truth and ensure that the organisation provides a fair, transparent and trusted service to the public and police”, Mrs May said.
Jane Furniss, the IPCC’s chief executive, said: “Dame Anne Owers’ experience of leading organisations based on independence could not be stronger.
“This, coupled with her wealth of knowledge from across the criminal justice system makes for an exciting new era for the IPCC.
“I welcome the appointment and very much look forward to working with her to build upon the last eight years and take the work of the IPCC forward.”
Deborah Glass, the deputy chairwoman of the IPCC, added: “This is timely with the recently launched review of the way that we investigate our most serious cases, the work we are doing on police corruption and the increasingly high number of independent investigations we are conducting.”
Nick Hardwick, the current Chief Inspector of Prisons, was previously the IPCC chairman.
Dame Anne will take over from the current interim chairman Len Jackson and was appointed by the Queen following recommendations from the Home Secretary and Prime Minister David Cameron.
Mr Hardwick said: “This is excellent news.
“Anne did a brilliant job when she was the chief inspector of prisons and I can’t think of anyone better to chair the IPCC.
“The IPCC role is a tough job and I and all her former colleagues at the inspectorate wish her well.”
But Mark Leech, editor of the national prisoners’ newspaper Converse said the appointment was “a disaster” for police complaints.
Mr Leech said: “As pleasant as Anne Owers is as a person the reality of her eight-year tenure as Chief Inspector of Prisons was that she was a failure who achieved nothing positive.
“All that she did as Chief Inspector was to quietly tip-toe what was a vibrant, fiercely independent Prisons Inspectorate back inside the strait-jacket of the Ministry of Justice, silencing the once powerful voice that her predecessors, Judge Stephen Tumin and Lord Ramsbotham, had fought so hard have heard – and she will do the same to the IPCC.
“It’s a disaster for the independence of police complaints”