HM Inspectorate of Prisons report on HMP Liverpool Contents

1The inspection of HMP Liverpool

1.Her Majesty’s Prison Liverpool (HMP Liverpool) is a category B men’s prison covering a 22-acre site in the centre of Liverpool. It was built in 1855 and at the end of September 2017 Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) judged that it could safely hold up to 1,222 men.1 The Inspectorate have characterised the prison as “a traditional local jail with a very strong sense of local identity”,2 and it is often referred to by its original, Victorian, name of “Walton Jail” in local press reports.

2.The prison was inspected by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) between 5 and 14 September 2017 and the report, published on 19 January 2018, found the prison had “basic failings” that were “painfully obvious”.3

3.HMIP is an independent inspectorate which reports on conditions for and treatment of those in prison and other places of detention. Most inspections (including that of HMP Liverpool) are unannounced. Inspections of prisons in England and Wales are conducted by HMIP, jointly with Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission, the General Pharmaceutical Council and HM Inspectorate of Probation in England, and jointly with the equivalent devolved bodies in Wales.

4.HMIP judge the outcomes for prisoners against four tests: safety; respect; purposeful activity; and rehabilitation and release planning. Outcomes are judged on a four-point scale, of: good (the highest); reasonably good; not sufficiently good; and poor (the lowest). The Inspectorate uses five key evidence sources: observation; prisoner surveys; discussions with staff; discussion with prisoners; and documentation. HMP Liverpool was judged to be poor for respect and purposeful activity, and not sufficiently good on rehabilitation and safety.

5.On 16 October the Liverpool Echo, a local print and online newspaper, reported that the prison Governor, Peter Francis, had been “removed from his post after a snap inspection”.4 On 18 December 2017 news outlets, including the BBC,5 reported leaked content from the unpublished Inspection report. News reports talked about “squalid conditions” and contained images of cockroaches, and quoted findings from the HMIP report that half of prisoners said they had been victimised by staff, and one third felt unsafe.

6.We were deeply concerned about the reported findings and decided to hold an evidence session immediately after the publication of the report.

HM Inspectorate of Prisons and the “Urgent Notification Protocol”

7.On 30 November 2017 the Ministry of Justice and HMPPS introduced an “Urgent Notification Protocol” which formalised a process for the Chief Inspector to notify the Secretary of State of “significant concerns with regard to the treatment and conditions of those detained”.6 The protocol states that the Chief Inspector will write to the Secretary of State within 7 calendar days of an inspection concluding, and commits the Secretary of State to publicly respond within 28 calendar days with an action plan. The Government has also established a new unit within HMPPS with the remit of responding to HMIP reports and recommendations.

8.The inspection of HMP Liverpool took place before the new protocol was in place, but the Chief Inspector wrote to the head of HMPPS, Michael Spurr on 19 September, stating that “it is my judgement that had the forthcoming Urgent Notification process been in place, the inspection findings at Liverpool last week would undoubtedly have prompted such a notification to the Secretary of State. The problems at HMP Liverpool are so severe that I believe they need urgent intervention … ”. The Chief Inspector shared this letter with us on 30 October.7

9.Our one-off session took place on 24 January. We heard from the newly appointed Minister of State responsible for prisons, Rory Stewart; officials from Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service; officials from NHS England, who provided healthcare in the prison; the facilities provider Amey, who hold the maintenance contract; and the incoming Governor. Following the session, we wrote to the Ministry of Justice and NHS England seeking more detailed information. We will pursue the issues raised in our letter in due course. In the meantime, however, due to the severity of the issues identified, we decided to produce this short report to make recommendations for immediate improvements, and to make clear our intention to hold Government to account when prisons fail.

10.Previous Justice Committees have looked at the oversight and management of prisons, notably in reports on Governor Empowerment;8 which was introduced in 2016; on part 1 of the Prison and Courts Bill9 and on prison safety. Although the Prisons and Courts Bill fell when Parliament was dissolved before the 2017 General Election, the Government announced it would take forward many of its provisions by non-legislative means.10 The system under which prisons are managed has been subject to considerable change and we intend to return to this topic in future reports. This report is intended to focus solely on what needs to change immediately as a result of the findings of the inspection at HMP Liverpool.

11.Our report is not intended to reach any judgements about the actions of the governor of HMP Liverpool at the time of the inspection, Mr Francis. We did not explore this during the evidence session, and we did not take evidence from Mr Francis. We did however hear evidence which gave us reason for concern about the level of support provided to prison governors under present arrangements.


1 Operational Capacity, defined as “The operational capacity of a prison is the total number of prisoners that an establishment can hold taking into account control, security and the proper operation of the planned regime. It is determined by the Prison Group Director’s on the basis of operational judgement and experience.”; Downloaded on 28.1.18 from; HM Prison and Probation Service; https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/651825/prison-pop-september-2017.rtf

2 Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Liverpool (4–15 September 2017)

3 Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Liverpool (4–15 September 2017)

4 The Liverpool Echo, Walton Prison governor removed from job after snap inspection, 16 October 2017

5 BBC News, Liverpool jail: the worst conditions ever seen says report, 18 December 2017.

6 Protocol between The Ministry of Justice and HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, 30 November 2017.

7 Mr Neill MP, Chair of the Committee, wrote to HM Chief Inspector of Prisons on 25 October 2017 requesting letters sent from the Chief Inspector to the Ministry of Justice and HMPPS in relation to some prison establishments. The Chief Inspector shared the letters with the Committee on 30 October 2017. Q2 and Q114

8 Justice Committee, twelfth report of the session 2016–17, Prison reform: governor empowerment and prison performance, HC1123

9 Justice Committee, Fourteenth report of the session 2016–17, Prison reform: Part 1 of the Prisons and Courts Reform Bill, HC 1150

10 Justice Committee, sixth report of the session 2015–16, Prison safety HC625




14 February 2018