Inspector 'Rambo', a man for radical solutions

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The Independent Online

Sir David Ramsbotham's reaction to conditions in Holloway - pulling out his inspection team until conditions were improved, the first time a Chief Inspector of Prisons has taken such action - fits his background and character.

His nickname "Rambo" has nothing to do with his appearance: like many generals, he is wiry and donnish, almost ascetic. But he has a reputation for extremely blunt speaking and radical solutions to problems. The conditions in Holloway appalled his military instinct for cleanliness and order, and like any military commander, he was acutely sensitive to the well- being and morale of his team.

Sir David began as an officer in the Royal Green Jackets, a regiment with a reputation for turning out generals, but also for being unorthodox. He was the Army's Director of Public Relations during the Falklands conflict and weighed into the arguments on the handling of the media which followed. For a senior officer, he was known to be unusually open with the press. In a recent paper, he described the media as a potential weapon, and like any weapon, one to be used with precision and skill.

His last Army job was as Adjutant-General - the Army's head of personnel, one of its top posts. Sir David oversaw the formation of the Adjutant- General's Corps, combining many of the Army's supporting services, including the Royal Military Police - his only direct experience of dealing with any law-enforcement agency before his present appointment.

Educated at Haileybury College and Cambridge University, he was Aide- de-Camp General to the Queen from 1990 to 1993.

After leaving the Army, Sir David worked closely with the UN Secretary- General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, on a study into a permanent intervention force for the UN. He authored several papers on the UN, and recommended the UN Charter be rewritten, because it did not fit with the realities of the new world order.

In his new role he is determined to be his own man. In a an interview recently, he said: "If I start fudging, then I am not doing my job. I shall be very critical, but I hope constructive. I am not going to respond to party political pressure, I am going to do my job as I see fit."