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 fair and open recruitment, training and professional development of Lay Observers;
  • agreeing national policies;
  • ensuring that visits are carried out and reports completed;
  • bringing concerns to the attention of the contract managers, contractors and other stakeholders.

Lay Observer National Chair, John Thornhill

John Thornhill has been appointed as the National Chair of the Lay Observers by the Secretary of State for Justice. His term currently runs until 31 May 2023.

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.

Business Plan

Lay Observer Business Plan 2022-2025

National Protocols and MoUs

The Lay Observers operate with 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 came into force in February 2021.

Lay Observer Annual Reports

The 2020/21 annual report for Lay Observers was published in November 2021.

The 2019/20 annual report for Lay Observers was published in June 2020.

The 2018/19 annual report for Lay Observers was published in August 2019, and received a Ministerial Response in August 2019.

The 2017/18 annual report for Lay Observers was published in June 2018.

The 2016/17 annual report for Lay Observers was published in October 2017, and received a Ministerial Response in November 2017.

The 2015/16 annual report for Lay Observers was published in October 2017.