Lay Observers are organised through a Chairman, a National Council and a number of Lead Lay Observers.
Under the leadership of the Chairman, the National Council is responsible for:
- the overall strategy and planning of the Lay Observers;
- developing the processes and procedures that can support the work of the Lay Observers;
- the fair and open recruitment, training and professional development of Lay Observers;
- agreeing national policies;
- ensuring that visits are carried out and reports are completed;
- bringing concerns to the attention of the contract managers, contractors and other stakeholders.
Lay Observers National Chair
The Lay Observers National Chair is currently vacant. The National Council are working collaboratively to cover the Chair’s responsibilities.
The National Council
The National Council is responsible for overall strategy and planning, and for developing the processes and procedures that can support the work of Lay Observers.
National protocols and MoUs
The Lay Observers have a shared protocol with the Ministry of Justice, clarifying the remit and independence of the Lay Observers and specifying agreements concerning funding, communication, governance, accountability, and other organisational matters. The protocol was signed by the National Chair of the Lay Observers, John Thornhill, and the Permanent Secretary of the MoJ, Antonia Romeo, on 04 May 2021.
The Memorandum of Understanding between Lay Observers, The Prisoner Escort and Custody Services (HMPPS), and Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service was agreed and came into force in June 2021.
The Memorandum of Understanding between Lay Observers, Directorate of Security in His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, His Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service, and The Prisoner Escort and Custody Services was agreed and came into force in October 2022.
The Prison Sanctions Protocol was agreed between Lay Observers, the IMB, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons, and the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman was agreed and came into force in February 2021.
Lay Observer annual reports
The annual reports section contains a list of all Lay Observer annual reports and ministerial responses.