Appointed Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform in 1986, Frances Crook was responsible for research programmes and campaigns to raise public concern about the penal system, until her retirement last year.
The charity has campaigned to reduce child arrests, reduce the over-use of custody and improve conditions in prison. Under her direction the number of staff and turnover of the charity have grown twenty-fold. The charity provides legal advice to children and young adults in custody and has taken a number of successful judicial reviews that have improved the treatment of young people in custody and on release.
She writes articles for the national media and frequently does interviews on radio and television news.
Frances Crook was the campaigns co-coordinator at Amnesty International’s British Section from 1980 to 1985. After taking a Medieval and Modern History degree at Liverpool University she qualified as a teacher, working in secondary schools in Liverpool and London until 1980.
She was twice elected as a Labour Councillor for East Finchley on Barnet Council, serving from 1982 to 1990. She has been a school governor and chaired various local community organisations. She was a Governor of Greenwich University for six years and chaired the Staff and General Committee, retiring in 2002.
In 2005 to 2008 she was appointed by the Secretary of State for Education to serve on the Board of the School Food Trust, the non-departmental public body charged with overseeing the implementation of national standards for school food to every school in England and Wales. From 2009 to 2011 she was an NHS Non-Executive Director of Barnet Primary Care Trust responsible for the provision of hospital and primary health care.
Frances Crook was awarded the Freedom of the City of London in 1997. She was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s New Years Honours list 2010. She was awarded honorary doctorates in law from the University of Liverpool in 2016 and Leeds Beckett University in 2018.
She is a Senior Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics and a Senior Visiting Fellow at the Department of Criminology at Leicester University.