The history of the Office


In 1997 the then Government of Western Australia began the complex process of contracting out various justice support and prison administration functions to the private sector. This process was driven as much by a need to reform prison culture as to achieve efficiencies for the State, but concern about privatisation saw the Government commit to establish a mechanism for independent scrutiny for both private and public sector prisons. This commitment resulted in the Prisons Amendment Act 1999, which came into effect on 8 December 1999, and which established the Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services.


The Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services was subsequently established as a department by Executive Council under Section 35 (a) of the Public Sector Management Act 1994 on 1 June 2000, with Mr Jack Busch being appointed as the interim Inspector of Custodial Services on the 13th of June 2000 (pending the announcement of the first Inspector).

Reporting directly to Parliament the Inspector’s initial scope was to inspect all prisons (both public and private) as well as all court custody centres and lockups that were managed by contract entered into with the then Ministry of Justice.

First Inspector

Professor Richard Harding was appointed as the first Inspector on 1 August 2000, with the Office’s core staff and systems operational by January of the following year.

Inclusion of Youth Custodial Facilities

On 15 December 2003 the new Inspector of Custodial Services Act (2003) extended the Office’s jurisdiction to include juvenile custodial facilities. This extension of the Inspector’s jurisdiction had originally been suggested by the then Attorney General, the Honourable Peter Foss, in a press release on 23 June 2000. (Other possible extensions to the Inspector’s jurisdiction suggested at the same time included community-based orders administered by the Ministry of Justice, and jurisdiction over all police lockups).

Second Inspector

On the 30th of March 2009 Professor Neil Morgan was appointed as the second Inspector, following the earlier departure of Professor Harding on 31 July 2008.

The death of Mr Ward

Following a series of recommendations arising from the coronial inquiry into the death of Mr. Ward The Inspector’s powers were further enhanced by the Inspector of Custodial Services Amendment Act 2011 to allow the Inspector to undertaken reviews of individual prisoners moving through the custodial system. In addition, where the Inspector had reasonable cause to suspect the existence of either a serious risk to life, personal safety, welfare, security or control or of treatment which is cruel, inhumane or degrading they were provided with the power to issue a Show Cause Notice on the Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Corrective Services.

Third Inspector

Professor Morgan retired in May 2019 and Mr Eamon Ryan was appointed.

Nomination as National Preventive Mechanism under OPCAT

In 2019, the Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services was designated by the Government of Western Australia as the National Preventive Mechanism under the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) for justice related facilities in Western Australia. This included police lock-ups, which the Office did not historically have jurisdiction over.

However, legislative amendments to enable the Office to undertake its NPM role have not progressed.

The Western Australian Ombudsman was also nominated as the NPM for mental health and other secure facilities.

A list of the Inspectors since the establishment of the Office is as follows:

1 August 2000 – 31 July 2008Professor Richard Harding
30 March 2009 – 3 May 2019Professor Neil Morgan
4 May 2019 –Mr. Eamon Ryan

Page last updated: 14 Mar 2024