The Ministry of Justice is to begin a search for a new top civil servant following today’s announcement that Sir Richard Heaton will conclude his service later this summer when his five-year tenure as permanent secretary comes to an end. His departure, after nearly 30 years in the civil service, had been widely predicted following the effective dismissal of the Cabinet secretary in the Johnson administration’s ‘war on Whitehall’. 

Richard Heaton

Richard Heaton

In an announcement today, the Ministry of Justice said Sir Richard 'has steered the department through a number of changes, including projects to improve prison safety and security, modernise courts and tribunals, and bring all offender management under the National Probation Service'. 

Robert Buckland, the lord chancellor, said:  'Sir Richard is an exceptional civil servant, with the strongest of reputations across government and the legal sector. He has carried out many roles in government with distinction; I am personally grateful to him for welcoming me into the department as minister of state and then lord chancellor and secretary of state, for helping me deliver the government’s priorities, and also for steering the department through Covid-19.'

Sir Richard, a barriser, began his career in government in 1991, when he joined the Home Office as a legal adviser.

In a statement he said: 'I’m pleased with our recent record of securing investment in the fabric of our justice system. We have steered the probation service towards a stable and positive future. We have helped our prisons emerge from a difficult period, and we have carefully mitigated the potential impact of Covid-19 on our services and on the men, women and children in our care.

'But what I am most proud of is the way in which people from every part of the department and its partner organisations work together to get things done. Our values in the Ministry of Justice shape us, and our brilliant hard-working people do their very best to live by them and to serve ministers and the public.'