Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons is the head of HM Inspectorate of Prisons and the senior inspector of prisons, young offender institutions and immigration service detention and removal centres in England and Wales. The current Chief Inspector is Dame Anne Owers; she took over from Gen Sir David Ramsbotham in 2001.
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons is appointed by the British Home Secretary from outside the prison service for a period of five years. The post was created by Royal Sign Manual on 1 January 1981 and established by the Criminal Justice Act 1982 on the recommendation of a Committee of Inquiry into the UK Prison Service under Mr Justice May. The Chief Inspector provides independent scrutiny of detention in England and Wales through carrying out announced and unannounced inspections of detention facilities. Their remit includes prisons, young offenders institutions and immigration service detention centres. They are also called upon to inspect prison facilities in Commonwealth dependencies and to assist with the monitoring of Northern Ireland prison facilities.
The Chief Inspector is not operationally part of HM Prison Service or the Home Office, and both have been criticised at times in the reports issued by the Chief Inspector after prison visits, or in their Annual Report, delivered to the Home Secretary and presented to Parliament. The Inspectorate's independence has been interpreted differently by the different holders of the post. From the inspectorate of Stephen Tumim onwards, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons has been more willing to speak critically in public of Government penal policy.
There is also a separate post of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland.