Britain’s leading ex-offender expert on prisons

“The sanest, best-informed, commentator on prison issues”
Phil Wheatley, CEO; HM Prison Service
“I consider myself very lucky as Director General to have had you around, I consider you not only as a colleague but also as a friend”
Sir Martin Narey, Director General HM Prison Service
“Focused, tenacious, committed, Mark’s experiences have given him answers to those questions other experts can only guess at”
Baroness Scotland QC, Attorney-General for England & Wales


Mark Leech was born in Manchester in October 1957.

At the age of eight, on the death of his mother, Mark was taken into ‘Care’ where he suffered serious sexual abuse in what became known as the Cheshire Child Care Homes Scandal for which officials were later jailed; the abuse created in Mark an angry young man with a deep-rooted distrust of authority.

Like many Care-leavers he later became involved in crime serving 14 years in a prison career that was characterised by rooftop protests and over 40 successful legal battles against the prison authorities fought in every legal arena from the County Court all the way to the House of Lords, changing British prison law in the process.

Mark’s disruptive behaviour saw him transferred to 62 of Britain’s prisons, from Inverness in the north of Scotland to Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight. A two-week protest on the roof of Long Lartin maximum security prison saw him spend 11 months on The Ghost Train, moved at monthly intervals to segregation units around the country until, in 1988 he landed at Grendon Underwood prison in Buckinghamshire – it was destined to change his life.

“Of all the prisons I went to” Mark was later to write, “Grendon was the hardest prison of all, because there I was forced to confront not the prison authorities, but to confront myself – it was two years of a painfully searching self-scrutiny and what I found was not a pleasant sight.”

Grendon prison he was later to describe as “the prison that took my head off and screwed it back on the right way around.”

At Grendon Mark discovered a talent for writing, and while still in prison he became the first Prisons Correspondent for The Guardian newspaper, for whom he still writes today, Mark also wrote three award-winning plays – “The Facts Speak For Themselves“, Directed by Ned Chaillet was a 90-minute court-room drama for BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Night Theatre that won him the BBC Radio Drama Award.

Mark’s exposure of HIV infection inside Glenochil prison in central Scotland won him the National Union of Journalists Award for the best feature by a non-health specialist.

Mark was released from prison in March 1995 and has since risen to become the country’s foremost ex-offender expert on the policy and practice of the penal system..


Mark is the founder and former Chief Executive of the award-winning national charity for people with convictions UNLOCK, he is the Managing Editor of The Prisons Handbook, the definitive 1,600 page annual reference book on the penal system of England and Wales, and the Editor of Converse; the largest circulation national monthly prisons newspaper – edited and published 100% by reformed offenders.

His latest work, ’The Cell Companion’ – everyone’s guide to serving and surviving a prison sentence in England and Wales – sold out within weeks and a new edition is to be published in September 2019.

Mark is the Director of The Institute of Prison Law, whose acclaimed Certificate of Competency in Prison Law has been studied by over a thousand lawyers, prison staff and prisoners too since it was first created in 2006.

Mark is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and a member of the National Union of Journalists.

In 2018 Mark’s investigation “Grenfell Prisons” into fire safety, revealed how every prison inspected by the Fire Regulator in 2017/2018 had failed every inspection – a fact that had not previously been made public. [full investigation]

A welcome by-product of his August 2017 investigation into the Prisons Inspectorate, published in The Independent and revealing how the vast majority of the Prison Inspectorate‘s recommendations were being routinely ignored by prisons, was an Urgent Notification Protocol that was signed between the Ministry of Justice and the Inspectorate four months after his exposé ensuring public accountability for failing prisons by the Justice Secretary for the first time.

Today Mark lives with his civil partner and their two children among the beautiful mountains of Northern Thailand. Outside of work his interests are in aviation – Mark is a qualified helicopter pilot and instructor..

Read Mark’s recent articles.

21st Annual Edition: Published August 2019
1,600 pages – the most comprehensive edition ever!



Follow Mark on social media below.

Media Contact: Andy Simpson +44 (0)7836 717021  Email andy@prisons.org.uk