Vinnett Pearcy's stroy

I’ve worked for the inspectorate since 2007. Before that, I managed a youth offending team. I’d experienced inspection first-hand and was intrigued by the process and methodology. I thought it would be interesting to go to different places and speak to different people.

Before working in youth offending, I was a probation officer supervising adult offenders in the community. I also saw people in prisons, assessing their risk and writing parole reports. I like getting a thorough understanding of the circumstances and motivation of people who commit offences. The work I was doing was trying to bring about some kind of change.

At the inspectorate, we start with the prisoner. We hold groups with them. It’s not about processes and policies, but about values. We’re based on human rights principles so we start from a different angle. Those people have a voice.

I now work in the police custody team. It’s interesting learning about the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) and how police work within it. When people are detained, they are innocent until proven guilty, at the beginning of a potentially lengthy journey. They should be treated respectfully. The police need high standards in such a high-risk area. Some forces really get it right and it’s gratifying. They hold a variety of people, including some very unwell people.

I don’t have a police background and it’s sometimes challenging when you ask them why they do what they do. Custody is tough. Individuals make significant decisions - should this person go to hospital? Should this person be detained at all? Sometimes police will refuse to detain and ask for more evidence.

Inspection is making a difference. There have been improvements. One force has taken on board our recommendation about treating 17-year-olds as juveniles, and hence providing them with appropriate adults, which isn’t a PACE requirement.

Personally, I like the degree of autonomy. You do your own preparation but it’s also incredibly collaborative. It’s about making an appropriate assessment of the place you’ve been to. In a custodial environment, it has a massive impact, so you must get it right.

HM Inspectorate of Prisons


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