OBE for East Langton woman in New Year Honours list

East Langton woman Heather Munro during a debate about prison reform at the University of Leicester in March 2011
East Langton woman Heather Munro during a debate about prison reform at the University of Leicester in March 2011

A leading probation service innovator has been made an OBE in the New Year’s honours list.

Heather Munro, who lives in East Langton near Market Harborough, said she was “very shocked, but delighted”.

For four years Mrs Munro took on the most high-profile job in the probation service – chief executive of the London Probation Trust.

She is credited with helping to bring a new spirit of thoughtfulness to the service, which was aimed not at mollycoddling offenders, but at preventing a repetition of their offending.

She said: “If you think of offenders as consumers, you have to listen to your consumers. That’s what I tried to get over.

“You ask offenders themselves what will help turn their life around.

“Probation is about care and control, not simply punishment.

“And beyond that it’s about preventing re-offending.”

Mrs Munro stepped down as chief executive in May last year, aged 58, after 38 years in the probation service.

Married with two children, she says life has now become “fairly quiet”.

She said: “We’ve got chickens, I enjoy walking my dogs and cooking.

“I’m just enjoying some of the things that I’ve never had time for in a long career.”

Mrs Munro said she wanted to be a probation officer since she was 13, inspired by reading Brendan Behan’s book Borstal Boy, an account of the writer’s three years inside a borstal. She was a probation officer by the age of 22, working in Durham and Redditch before moving to Leicestershire in 1981.

“It’s one of those jobs where every day is different,” she explained. “And you have lots of contact with people.”

She became chief executive of Leicestershire and Rutland Probation Trust in 2004.

Under her leadership, the trust consistently topped the performance league tables.

She took over the London Trust in 2010, which had nearly six times more employees than in Leicestershire, and was responsible for almost a quarter of the whole Probation Service.

“I felt I could offer more,” she told The Guardian newspaper at the time.

“I’d achieved a lot in Leicestershire so I was really wanting something else. And I also thought I could do it.”

She told the Mail this week: “London needed sorting out, and I knew what a good service looked like.”

She stepped down after four years of battling to make improvements and get offenders themselves more involved in helping to prevent re-offending.

“It was a year earlier than I would have planned, but my own role changed, and it was a good time to go,” she said.