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Job description and person specification

The Howard League for Penal Reform is the world’s oldest penal reform charity, with a proven record of delivering change.

Our successful campaigns have contributed to the abolition of capital punishment, an end to the ban on sending books to prisoners and a massive reduction in arrests of children. Our legal team provides expert advice and support to children and young people in prison.

The Board of Trustees upholds the best interests of the Howard League, ensuring that we achieve our charitable aims while abiding by charity law and other relevant regulations. 

The Howard League wishes to appoint a new Chair to its Board of Trustees who is experienced in organisational leadership, with excellent communication and interpersonal skills. The Chair supports and empowers the Board and Chief Executive to lead the charity so that we achieve our goals of less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.

The Chair of the Board of Trustees is a trustee, and this job description and person specification builds on and complements that of a trustee.

The chief responsibilities of the Chair will be to:

  • Provide leadership to the Board and staff of the Howard League for Penal Reform in working to fulfil the vision of the charity and the delivery of its strategy.
  • Lead the Board in developing, monitoring, and evaluating the charity’s strategy, with a view to ensuring maximum impact.
  • Lead the Board in assessing, monitoring and mitigating strategic risks to the charity.
  • Ensure the Board fulfils its duties to secure and maintain the financial health of the charity, engaging in fundraising initiatives as required.
  • Encourage and support best-practice approaches to governance, finance, and management across the charity.
  • Build and maintain strong working relationships among Board members, and between the Board, the Senior Management Team and the staff, and between the Board and other structures within the charity, including the Advisory Council, the Finance Audit and Risk Committee and any sub-committees the Board establishes.
  • Act as a spokesperson and figurehead as and when required.
  • Ensure that the Board operates effectively and efficiently, holding appraisals of individual members and of the Board as a whole.
  • Establish and build a strong, effective and a constructive working relationship with the Chief Executive, and conducting their annual appraisal.
  • Monitor performance against strategy.

Person specification

The Howard League’s values are Excellence, Learning, Integrity, Collaboration, Accountability and Courage. The Chair will be expected to demonstrate their personal alignment with these values, and an understanding of their importance in the governance of the organisation.

The Chair will:

  • Demonstrate all the personal qualities and qualifications required of a board member.
  • Be an articulate and authoritative public face for the Howard League and its mission.
  • Have strong interpersonal skills, an ability to bring out the best in individuals and in groups of people.
  • Be a consensus builder, who can support group decisionmaking on sometimes difficult and contentious issues.
  • Possess a high degree of emotional intelligence, diplomacy and influencing skills.
  • Demonstrate commitment to the values and vision of the Howard League.
  • Have in-depth knowledge of the criminal justice system.
  • Have experience of serving on an effective Board and knowledge of charity governance.
  • Have demonstrated commitment to diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism.

Time commitment

The Board Chair will serve an initial term of three years, renewable for an additional term at the discretion of the Board.

The Board has four regular meetings per year plus a Board awayday. Alongside other ad-hoc responsibilities, the time commitment is at least two days each month. Meetings may be in-person, virtual or hybrid.

The role is not remunerated but all reasonable expenses are covered.

To apply…

Please send a CV and covering letter to Fergus McNeill, Chair, Board of Trustees, at:

The current Chair and Chief Executive are available for a chat if you would like further information.

The closing date is Monday 3 June 2024, at 5pm.

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