The need to safeguard the independence of public service watchdogs has, by necessity, exercised Anne Owers ever since she was appointed to the job of chief inspector of prisons two and half years ago. Both of her high-profile predecessors, Sir Stephen Tumim and Sir David Ramsbotham, found themselves in open clashes with the home secretary of the day. For Owers, halfway through her five-year term, it has proved a less turbulent time - if only because the current home secretary, David Blunkett, has not tried to stop her doing her job.

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