Jail watchdog 'ignored'

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Home Affairs Correspondent

The credibility of the new Prisons Ombudsman is being threatened by the Prison Service's failure to implement many of his recommendations.

The post was created in the aftermath of the Strangeways riots. A report into the first six months of the work of the ombudsman, Sir Peter Woodhead, reveals that while he is upholding more than half of all prisoners' complaints, the Prison Service is rejecting nearly one in five of his decisions - far more than any other administration under ombudsman scrutiny. He has also had to contend with un-cooperative staff, had difficulty in gaining access to documentation, and faced unnecessary delay.

The six-month review warns: "If prisoners, staff and the wider public cannot be confident that the Ombudsman's investigations are based on all the available information, that his judgement is in accordance with the balance of evidence, and that the vast majority of his recommendations will be accepted by the Prison Service, the Prisons Ombudsman may prove at best an irrelevance and at worst a waste of scarce public resources."