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Wednesday, 17 May 2017

What’s been happening at the parole board? Ans the worst figures on record!

Last week (28 February 2017) the National Audit Office published its report on an investigation into the backlog of outstanding cases at the parole board.
The parole board has been in a mess for some time and last year (January 2016) Nick Hardwick, previously a much respected Chief Inspector of Prisons, was appointed its chair to try to unravel it. The graphic below from the NAO shows the extent of the backlog:

What is the parole board?

The parole board is an independent body which risk assesses prisoners to decide whether they can safely be released into the community. 115 staff plan and co-ordinate the activities of 215 independent parole board members. The decisions they make are obviously critical both to prisoners and their families and to victims and their families. Making safe parole decisions equally obviously has a significant impact on the numbers in prison.

Why is there such a backlog?

The parole board has had a backlog for many years but the situation was aggravated when the Board had to increase the number of oral hearings it must carry out following the Supreme Court’s Osborn, Booth and Reilly judgment in October 2013 (the Osborn ruling). This ruling followed appeals to the Court from three prisoners, each of whom had been refused oral hearings. It broadened the circumstances in which the law requires the Board to hold an oral hearing, with fairness to the prisoner being the overriding factor. The Board can no longer refuse to carry out an oral hearing because it considers that the hearing is unlikely to make a difference or in order to save time, trouble or expense. The number of outstanding cases increased by more than 140% following the Osborn ruling.
Another graphic from the NAO report shows the impact of the backlog:
In addition to the heartache and stress caused to prisoners spending longer in custody than they should, the parole board has paid out over £1 million since 2011 in compensation claims as a result of delayed hearings.

Tackling the backlog

As you can see from yet another graphic below (the NAO is rather good at them), the parole board has been working hard to try to tackle the backlog by introducing new governance and performance management arrangements as well as recruiting 104 new members:



The situation is aggravated by the ongoing debacle of the IPP situation – prisoners on indeterminate sentences of imprisonment for public protection. Despite being abolished in 2012, 2t December 2016, there were 3,081 prisoners on IPP beyond their tariff expiry date. IPP prisoners can only be released if the Board considers that they are no longer a risk to the public, even if they have reached the end of their tariff. IPP prisoners have on average made up around half of the cases waiting more than 90 days for a hearing. Of the 3,683 IPP prisoners still in custody in December 2016, 84% (3,081) were beyond their tariff expiry date. Of these, 48% had been in prison five or more years beyond their tariff and 11% were eight years or more beyond their tariff.
In July 2016, the Board announced its intention to reduce the number of IPP prisoners in prison to 1,500 by 2020 which seems to me to be a rather pathetic target.

Worst figures on record

At the end of last month (27 April 2017) the Ministry of Justice and Office of National Statistics published the latest Safety in Custody Statistics Bulletin, covering deaths in prison custody up to March 2017 and assaults and self-harm to December 2016.
The key findings continue to be shocking, although there is a slight downward dip in the number of assaults in the last quarter:


The number and rate of deaths for the most recent year (up to March 2017) are the second highest recorded. Deaths in the most recent quarter are down from the 12 months ending December 2016 but are still the fourth highest on record.


The number of self-harm incidents and those requiring hospital attendance are both the highest recorded. In the most recent quarter, from October to December 2016, self-harm levels were the highest on record, with 10,246 incidents of self-harm and 734 incidents requiring hospital attendance.


The most recent quarter saw a decrease in all types of assaults compared to the three-month period from July to September 2016, when all types of assaults were at their highest levels on record. Total assaults fell by 4% across this period while prisoner-on-prisoner and assaults on staff fell by 5%. This is the first quarter that total assaults have decreased since October to December 2014, but should be considered with caution due to potential seasonal effects.


The speed at which prison safety has deteriorated is a cause for major concern with the annual numbers of deaths, suicides, incidents of self-harm and assaults all the highest on record.
It is this situation which led to parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights to call on the next government to introduce legislation setting a minimum ration of prison officers to prisoners in every establishment.
We shall to wait until after the election to see whether the new government acts on this recommendations


First thing first what about the IPP Prisoners Mental Health and sentence right NOW?

Petition Image by

Friday, 12 May 2017

Eighteen prisoners have killed themselves at the jail in Milton Keynes. Bereaved families bring case against government over prisoner suicides and legal action against Liz Truss

Action for Prisoners' Families logo

Action for Prisoners' and Offenders' Families
Part of Family Lives

April 2017


Relatives of prisoners at HMP Woodhill who have taken their own lives are to bring a legal challenge against the institution’s governor and the justice secretary Liz Truss for allegedly failing to introduce basic safety measures. Eighteen prisoners have killed themselves at the jail in Milton Keynes since early 2013, despite repeated recommendations and guidance from coroners’ reports and official bodies that investigate deaths in custody.
Deaths in custody reached a record high in England and Wales last year. In 2016, there were 119 self-inflicted deaths; the previous year there were 89.
Read the full story on the Guardian website.

"They've saved me and I can't thank them enough"- Inside Time special report

With a single punch, a promising young life was brought to an end. Now, with the help of the victim’s family, the man who killed their son is building a new life.

Read their stories on Inside Time

Failing complaints system allows discrimination against prisoners to go unchecked, finds report Only one in 100 prisoners who made an allegation of discrimination against prison staff had their case upheld by the prison. By contrast, three in four staff (76%) reports of alleged discrimination by a prisoner were upheld, an in-depth research report by the Zahid Mubarek Trust and the Prison Reform Trust reveals.
The report finds that the system for handling discrimination complaints in prisons is neither fair nor impartial, does not have the confidence of prisoners, and is failing to provide prisons with the opportunity to learn and provide more equitable treatment. As prisons struggle to cope with increasing violence and fewer officers, equality has slipped down the priority list.

Find out more from the Prison Reform Trust

Yearly checks needed for people within the criminal justice system who experience mental health problems, say NICE
Up to 90% of people in prison are thought to have some form of mental health problem. And a report by the Ministry of Justice found nearly 200 suicides occurred in UK prisons last year.
New final guidance from NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) aims to address the gaps in how mental health is diagnosed and treated within the criminal justice system.
The guidance says everyone working in the criminal justice system should work more closely together to provide the best care possible. Ad-hoc mental health checks need to be carried out when an offender experiences a major life event, such as a difficult court case or transfer to a different custodial setting, the guidance says.
Read more on the NICE website

Prisoner legal aid cuts appeal succeeds

A Court of Appeal ruling over cuts to legal aid for prisoners in England and Wales has been hailed as a "ground-breaking victory".

The Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prisoners' Advice Service challenged the removal in 2013 of certain categories of prison law from the scope of criminal legal aid. They said removing legal aid from some of the most vulnerable people in society was unfair. Three judges ruled in their favour.

Lord Justice Beatson, sitting with Lady Justice Gloster and Lord Justice Patten, said they had focused on "vulnerable prisoners, such as those with learning disabilities and mental illness".

Get the full story on the BBC website

Why the old Holloway Prison should become a new women's building

In the words of one inmate, at the time of the Holloway prison's closure: "Wouldn't it be a good place to provide housing for women who have lost everything through coming to prison? Who are leaving and trying to piece their life back together but usually have nowhere to go. And wouldn't it be a good idea to build a women's centre to support women to move forward?"

Read more from Nandini Archer


Hidden Sentence training
Hidden Sentence raises awareness of the issues faced by prisoners' families and is suitable for all professionals who will come into contact with prisoners' families.

Learn more at the APOF website.


Women's Networking Forum- working with women in the criminal justice system - 27th April 2017, London

What if we rethought parole?16th May 2017, London

Tackling multiple disadvantage: 2nd national summit  – 8th/9th May 2017, Milton Keynes

Image by the InsideTimes

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

‘Prison Law Free Help & Advice , Olliers Solicitors

Olliers Solicitors’ has a Face book site run on a voluntary basis to help provide general information, education and communication concerning issues affecting prisoners, their rights and entitlements, their privileges, and on all aspects of prison life, including prisoner progression, sentence planning, discipline, recall, parole, category reviews. This list is not exhaustive.

Olliers Solicitors authorise the administrators to offer legal advice and assistance to members on these topics, including advice and assistance in relation to appeals against conviction and sentence and to promote and encourage communication between prisoners loved ones and families.

Olliers Solicitors are not responsible for any legal advice and assistance offered and relied upon by anyone other than an official administrator. Furthermore, Olliers Solicitors are not responsible for any personal opinion expressed or material posted by any single individual member. The administrators do their best together with Olliers

We will always try to respond at the earliest opportunity and we are only too happy to help when we are able to. However, please respect that this is not always possible out of office hours. In the event that you do not receive a response please feel free to remind us but this is a service provided on a voluntary basis.The Olliers Prison Law Team.
We Need To Talk To And About Kevin
Kevin is serving a  sentence at a prison in the South of England.  He is on the autistic spectrum and has significant learning disabilities.  He has a parole hearing coming up next month.  The hearing will be over two years late.
Kevin was convicted of an serious offence over seventeen years ago.  He has a ‘tariff’ (minimum term) of fifteen years which ended over two years ago.  At that point he was entitled to try to persuade the Parole Board that they should release him on licence.
Kevin does not understand what parole means.  Until he met a lawyer, he believed that he needed to complete the Maths and English courses he was doing in prison, then give his certificates to the judge who sentenced him.  At that point he would be released to his old flat.
Over two years ago he received some paperwork he did not understand. Someone at the prison suggested that he talk to a lawyer.  He was fortunate to find one who regularly visited the prison he was in.  She read the paperwork he had been given.  She discovered that he had spent ten years at the same establishment, most of the time alone in his cell and had not come to the attention of staff. It was obvious to her within minutes of meeting Kevin that he had learning difficulties. No formal assessments had been carried out and he had not completed any of the interventions that would be expected of a prisoner serving a life sentence.
The lawyer explained to Kevin that the paperwork he had been given was a set of directions made by the Parole Board for his case and that there would be an oral hearing at the prison. She told him what a ‘minimum term’ meant and tried to explain how a parole hearing worked.  Kevin did not understand many of the words his lawyer used but he put his trust in her. She set about the laborious task of trying to get a meaningful parole hearing for him.
There are quite a lot of people like Kevin in prison.  Some of them do not have a lawyer.  Some have lawyers who do not approach their cases like Kevin’s lawyer.  That might be because they do not have the expertise they need.  It might be because the swingeing legal aid cuts imposed in 2013 act as a huge disincentive to spend the kind of time that these cases need.
In the criminal and family courts, there has been some recognition that steps need to be taken to safeguard the rights and interests of vulnerable witnesses and defendants.  This development has not yet been mirrored in the closed world of prisons and parole.
What responsibility does the Parole Board and Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service have towards people like Kevin?  What would it take for Kevin to have a fair parole hearing?
The National Autistic Society’s annual conference, Care and Treatment of Offenders with a Learning and/or Developmental Disability  takes place this week.  I will be co-presenting a session with Yvette Bates from HMP Dovegate tomorrow morning at which we will be exploring the issues I have described here.
In the second part of this article I will set out what we might do to ensure we talk to as well as about Kevin.
Andrew Sperling is a Consultant Solicitor-Advocate with Olliers Solicitors.  He worked at the Parole Board on governance and stakeholder projects between 2014 and 2015. ‘Kevin’ is a real person with a different name.


 Face book site, Free Advice

 Web site

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Is the Board making it easier for IPP prisoners?

Together we  make change
Postdate you may remember my invite  by Nick Hardwick and Martin Jones. In hand  25000 plus signatures  and   hundreds of your letters you sent to me via  and this was  tabled  and on the  1st November 2016 Parole Board Rules  came into force. "Your voice matters, you matter, keep us informed be heard . These rules empowered the Parole Board to release prisoners serving a sentence of Imprisonment for Public Protection on the papers without lengthy delays and more .... . You can read further on those changes tabled in the  blog Archive on right side of page.

Hine Solicitors firm   Quoted  Inside times

That  they have  secured the release of an IPP prisoner on the papers. Our client had spent a significant period in the community before being recalled after being charged with an offence of common assault. He was convicted of the common assault and recalled to custody. We managed to secure his release without the need for an Oral Hearing.
This rule change has the potential to allow those IPP prisoners who remain in custody the ability to obtain their release without having to endure the lengthy delays currently being experienced in obtaining an Oral Hearing. Given the number of hearings being conducted by the Parole Board, prisoners are waiting several months for their hearing to be listed.
What about Open Conditions?
Following the above rule change, the Parole Board Management committee have agreed two further policy changes to assist IPP prisoners to progress through the prison system. One of those changes is the ability to recommend a transfer to open conditions for those serving an IPP sentence on the papers without the need for an Oral Hearing.
What does this mean for IPP Prisoners?
Previously the power available to the Parole Board in relation to Open Conditions was limited. Whilst under the Board’s previous policy such prisoners could be recommended for open conditions at Member Case Assessment (MCA), such recommendations would only take place in exceptional circumstances and would require the approval of the Parole Board Chair. In the vast majority of cases any application for Open Conditions would be determined following oral evidence at an Oral Hearing.
The Parole Board, as they did with the ability to grant release on the papers, continue to offer IPP prisoners a route to progression which aims to limit the possibility for delay. The ability to progress prisoners to open conditions on the papers will further reduce the number of cases being heard by the Parole Board at Oral Hearings speeding up the process for everyone subject to Parole.
As a result, if the Panel considering your case at the MCA stage feel that your risk is manageable in less stringent conditions, they can make a recommendation for open conditions. You must remember that the Board can only provide a recommendation which the Secretary of State will need to ratify. Should this be done then you will ultimately be transferred to open conditions without the need to wait a lengthy period for an Oral Hearing.
Will I always get a hearing?
In addition to the above change, the Parole Board will no longer automatically send IPP recall cases to an Oral Hearing. Previously all IPP prisoners subject to recall would automatically be granted an Oral Hearing, no matter the circumstances. The only circumstances in which a hearing would not be granted would be where the prisoner specifically opted out of the Parole process.
Panel members will now have the ability to decide whether it is necessary to have an Oral Hearing or whether a negative decision should be made on the papers. A negative decision at the paper stage will result in the review concluding at which point the Secretary of State will then consider the issues in the case before setting the next review. The length of the next review will be dependent on the circumstances of the case and what needs to be achieved to reduce risk prior to the next review.
This change is an important one. Prisoners without support for a progressive move from their Offender Manager or Offender Supervisor will need to ensure that representations are submitted should they seek a progressive move. Without a positive application by the prisoner there is now the possibility that the Board will issue a negative decision on the papers.
We often deal with cases where prisoners have no support from the professionals in their case but because of oral arguments at the hearing, the Board issue a positive decision. Obtaining of an Oral Hearing is now even more important than it was before for those IPP prisoners subject to recall.
Do these rule changes apply to Lifers?
Unfortunately, these changes only apply to IPP prisoners. There is no provision for a progressive move on the papers for Life sentence prisoners; the Parole Board have no power to direct release or to recommend open conditions without oral evidence being taken. In addition, such prisoners remain entitled to an Oral Hearing unless they specifically request to not have one. As a result, life sentence prisoners subject to recall will automatically be granted an Oral Hearing for the Board to consider their case.
” A prisoner could wait several months to appear before the Board to give evidence only to have their application for release refused “
Should I seek Open Conditions on the Papers?
Given the nature of the change, it is highly likely that the Parole Board will only recommend progressive moves to prisoners who have the support of their Offender Manager and Offender Supervisor. Prisoners may find themselves in a situation where they seek release into the community but the professionals in the case feel that Open Conditions are more appropriate. In these circumstances, careful consideration should be given to the application being made to the Board.
A prisoner could wait several months to appear before the Board to give evidence only to have their application for release refused. The Board at the hearing could recommend open conditions which was potentially something they would have done back at MCA stage given the support of the professionals.
In these circumstances a prisoner would have lost out on a significant period waiting for the hearing to take place which could have been spent progressing in open conditions, had they have originally made an application for open conditions on the papers. Expert advice should be taken before making your application before the Board, taking into account the prospects of your application being successful and the practicalities of securing an Oral Hearing.
What can we do to help you?
We would encourage all IPP prisoners approaching the commencement of their reviews to contact us. Once we have taken your instructions we can draft and submit representations on your behalf to ensure your application has the best chance of success. We can consider your options and ensure you understand the impacts of these new changes; ensuring that any delays in obtaining a decision are kept to a minimum.
Any changes for determinate sentence recalls?
There have also been changes to the way in which the Parole Board deal with the recall of determinate sentence prisoners. The Parole Board recently ran a pilot which meant that prisoners subject to recall with less than 24 weeks remaining on their sentence would not be granted an Oral Hearing. Again, this was an attempt at reducing the number of hearings faced by the Board. This change has now been put on hold and as a result the current guidance for the Board is that cases where the prisoner has less than 12 weeks remaining on licence following recall will not be given an Oral Hearing.
This is not a blanket ban and should a prisoner have less than 12 weeks remaining on licence, arguments can still be made that an Oral Hearing be granted. The prisoner will need to show exceptional circumstances when seeking an Oral Hearing. Assistance from a specialist prison law lawyer can assist in making sure that such cases are considered carefully by the Parole Board.
Should you require any assistance with a Prison Law issue please contact our Prison Law department at Hine Solicitors on 01865 518971 or FREEPOST – RTHU – LEKE – HAZR Hine Solicitors, Seymour House, 285
Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 7JF.



Jez In my opinion the changes made are only nips and tucks around the edges. They do nothing to stem the real misery being suffered by the people that are behind a locked door with no end date on their incarceration. The test for release MUST be changed. As s it stands if they don't get on with their probation officer they are stuck. Torture is alive and well in her majesty's prison service. Human Rights in this country are only for those deemed worthy by her majesty's government. That's telling people they are less than human and that is torture!!
That's the biggest hurdle anyone can have with an ipp. That's why its even more important that the test for release is changed. That will than make a difference which will significantly help people who are innocent.
11 yrs next month into it an it's only now things have started to look up for my son they have finally started to help him an get things moving like placing him on courses an giving him work but it has taken 10 yrs for his so called probation to pick up his file in her office an then has the cheek to tell him to ask me NOT to fone her is she for real if she'd done her job in the 1st place I wouldn't need to b on her case same as the so called solicitor .
Umm Babes it's so draining all this like it's make me mad how they treat our ipps.... It's very unfair.... But we will see what parole say I doubt he will get paper review now... 💔💔💔..but got to wait September for his oral hearing.... So far away I just don't think he will be home this year I just lost hope in this system...Just how they make lies up to justify that he is a risk which in fact he isn't.. ...the shit that they have come out with made, me so mad upset and drained all in one...... How can theses ppl sleep at night knowing they are keeping a man inside when on his recall he was, found not guilty..... They are full of bull shit it really is, low what they said just one day it will be over but until then I will be his, rock... 100% right it's all twisted the whole system is a joke.And his brother... Just to justify keeping him inside as they don't have nothing else to keep him in this is why they have done it... But it's ok as the solicitors that I found for him are very good he gonna do a video link to talk bout his doisser and the lies they put in it..... But one day it will be over with.
Robinson I myself experienced this inhumane sentence and wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy, however every nightmare ends which brings a beautiful future with fresh beginnings. Just hang on in there it will sure be worth it!
Ginge To prove your not a risk in a system that is full of high risks, staffing issues,cutbacks,being locked in a cell for countless hours.... who decides how long a risk lasts for anyway? I find the whole thing a twisted horror tale almost like the brother grim them selfs wrote out laws.
i think parole boards should be called pre-crime units, and their members
BodenJustice Sub-Committee. Update. Parliament was prorogued on 27 April 2017 and formally dissolved on 3 May. The effect of the dissolution of Parliament is that all committees cease to exist, unless and until they are reappointed at the start of the new Parliament following the general election. House of Lords committees are likely to be reappointed in late June or early July 2017.


Saturday, 6 May 2017

May 2017 My name is Dominic Hewitt and I am trapped in a system that has no end to my suffering because of IPP. Six-years over tariff, where does it end?


Dominic Hewitt HMP Chelmsford

 I feel broken.
No justice here for me, no help, no one cares enough. I am one of 8,000 lost souls. I pray to my maker to help me in my suffering and show me that there is light at the end of this journey. Six-years of my life ‘lost at sea’, no positivity, a distraught feeling has taken over my wellbeing. The sentence handed down was three-years and seven-months – I have now served ten-years.
Adrian G – HMP Leyhill
 Level playing field?
I am British born and bred, serving a 13-year sentence on which I will be released at the halfway point, to serve the remainder on license under Probation. I was informed that the time on license is part of my sentence. My question is, why do foreign nationals (who may have committed the exact same crime as me) get returned to their countries, with no license conditions, at the halfway point of their sentence? I have witnessed foreign national IPP’s and lifers sent home once they reach their tariff, while UK-born prisoners are left to rot in the system. I feel that British prisoners are being discriminated against for having been born here. Where is the equality?
Mr MD – HMP Buckley Hall
 Outrageous damage
I’d like to highlight my own plight, and that of the many prisoners I have met over the years. The injustice I have experienced and witnessed has been done by "prison-based psychologists". The damage they cause is outrageous. I have seen some of my friends take their own lives when they have lost all hope. Why are we inflicted with these charlatans?
Tom SW – HMP Northumberland
 Begging for rehabilitation
I have been here for 8-months and I have yet to see one person in authority who is here to rehabilitate me or even talk to me about why I am here and what they can do to help. It has actually got to the point where I am chasing my OMU worker. I have submitted 7 apps and never had a single reply. I hear all those toffs in Parliament saying that prison is to punish and rehabilitate – I’m getting the punishment bit, but where the hell is my rehabilitation?
James L – HMP HighpointStop 
 fiddling around the edges
Recently, The Sun on Sunday published an exclusive interview with Justice Secretary, Liz Truss, in which she drones on about reoffending, violence, lack of staff, etc… and her plan to combat this? ‘English and maths lessons to help offenders find work on release…’ I’ve got news for Ms Truss, basic English and maths do not get you a job, and nor does learning basic computer skills. She should know this, as should anybody with a bit of common sense.
Mr C – HMP Bure
 Give and take
The trouble with prisons of late, or at least one of the problems, is some unconsidered political decisions have been made by all involved. The ‘new measures’ from Justice Minister Liz Truss do not seem to be any better. Poor ideas, very poorly thought out. The smoking ban has caused a lot of stress and anger. Decisions affecting thousands of prisoners should be very carefully considered, as should their implementation. Perhaps it is time to start giving a little bit, instead of taking, taking, taking for years on end.
Samuel M – HMP Wandsworth Victorian values
The mailbag, ‘Give me shelter’ (March issue) rang a bell with me as I too was released to live on the streets on license. Even though part of my license was for NOMS/Probation to know where I sleep every night. They didn’t care. I lived on the streets for 3 months before being recalled to prison for apparently ‘not staying at a suitable address’, even though they knew I was sleeping in a shop-doorway a few doors away from Twickenham police station. For some reason, they allowed me to sleep rough for 3 months before recalling me. There is even a section on the license that says the released prisoner must have ‘a suitable address that is approved by Probation’. What is the point of that claptrap? When will the system grasp the nettle, and admit that homelessness leads to reoffending? This needs to be properly addressed by those in power. It is 2017 and we are still operating like the Victorians.


Cuts to legal aid for people in prison ruled unlawful by Court of Appeal “Common law came to the rescue of a marginalised and often forgotten sector of our society.”Deborah Russo, Prisoners’ Advice Service

“Evidence about prison staffing levels, the current state of prisons, and the workload of the Parole Board suggests that the system is under considerable pressure.” Lord Justice Beatson delivering judgement
Government cuts to legal aid for prisoners, instigated by Chris Grayling in 2013 when he was Justice Secretary, were ruled unlawful because they are inherently unfair, the Court of Appeal ruled last month. The judgement came as a result of a challenge brought by the Prisoners’ Advice Service (PAS) and the Howard League for Penal Reform.
The ruling is an important step forward in making sure that people in prison move through the system more safely and more efficiently. Since cuts to legal aid for prisoners came into force in December 2013, violence and self-injury in prisons have risen to record levels and more prisoners than ever before have called the Howard League and PAS to seek help. Calls to the two charities’ advice lines have increased by almost 50 per cent since the cuts were imposed.
The legal challenge by the Howard League and PAS began in 2013. At that time, prisoners were completely shut out from any possibility of getting legal aid for a wide range of problems. In the time between then and the cases coming before the Court of Appeal in January and February this year, the government conceded on four areas of concern. This left five key problems for the Court of Appeal to consider and, in three of the five, judges found the cuts to be inherently unfair.
“This decision will make the public safer. It vindicates our concerns that cuts imposed by the former Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling, in 2013 presented a grave risk that prisoners would become stuck in a broken system,” said Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, adding, “This sends a clear message that important decisions about prisoners cannot be made efficiently or fairly in the face of these cuts. We look forward to hearing from the Lord Chancellor with her plans to give effect to the judgment.”
Court of Appeal rules Government’s policy of legal aid cuts for prisoners ‘Unlawful’
Ministers insist they are not obliged immediately to act on the ruling following the ‘unprecedented and groundbreaking’ judgment
In R (Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prisoners’ Advice Service) v the Lord Chancellor, the Court of Appeal considered five areas of prison law where the Ministry of Justice removed criminal legal aid eligibility in December 2013.
The court ruled that the high threshold required for a finding of inherent or systemic unfairness was satisfied in the case of pre-tariff reviews by the parole board, Category A reviews (those whose escape would be highly dangerous), and decisions regarding placement in close supervision centres.
The threshold was not satisfied in relation to decisions about offending behaviour programmes and courses, and disciplinary proceedings where no additional days of imprisonment or detention can be awarded.
Following the judgment, a spokesperson for the ministry said: “We note the Court of Appeal’s judgment on changes made to legal aid regulations – introduced in 2013 – and will consider whether to appeal.”
Eligibility for criminal legal aid in certain prison law matters was removed in December 2013. Deborah Russo, joint managing solicitor of the Prisoners’ Advice Service, said the ruling was an “unprecedented and groundbreaking legal victory in which the vulnerability of the prison population is fully recognised as a key factor in its limited ability to access justice”.
She added: “Common law came to the rescue of a marginalised and often forgotten sector of our society.”
According to the Howard League for Penal Reform, almost 300 people have taken their own lives since cuts to legal aid for prisoners were introduced. Calls to the Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prisoners’ Advice Service have increased by nearly 50%.
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League, said: “This decision will make the public safer. It vindicates our concerns that cuts imposed by the former Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling, in 2013 presented a grave risk that prisoners would become stuck in a broken system. This sends a clear message that important decisions about prisoners cannot be made efficiently or fairly in the face of these cuts.”
However, the ministry stressed that the judgment does not mean the government must immediately reinstate legal aid in the three areas where the threshold for inherent or systemic unfairness was satisfied, noting that this is one option.
Cuts were political
Workload increased dramatically after legal aid cuts Prisoners Advice Service tells Inside Time
Since 2013 when Chris Grayling brought in the cuts we saw a stark increase in the number of prisoners approaching us with telephone calls; increasing almost 50% in the last year alone to 25,000. Our workload increased massively. Because of the fact that legal aid was not available it made telephone calls longer because, instead of small queries, it was quite complicated issues. Because of mental health issues in prison it would mean, more often than not, we’d have to intervene by contacting governors urgently to ensure prisoners’ well being is looked after and respected. It had a huge impact on our capacity to take cases because we deal with so many pro bono cases now.
It could be that some prisoners are serving longer in prison because of the cuts.
Mainly in the case of pre-tariff prisoners who might not have assistance which is quite crucial so that they can look forwards to a move to open conditions. Because of the cuts and lack of representation it could affect the length of time they end up serving post-tariff.
“It would cost more to keep them in prison longer so it was not an economical decision, it was a political one”
The judgement says that in the three areas of pre-tariff reviews, category ‘A’ reviews and placement if CSC (Close supervision) units the cuts are inherently unfair particularly if prisoners have mental health issues Legal Aid will have to be reinstated.
 Now we are at the stage where we will have to negotiate with the Government as to the extent of the Legal Aid which will have to be reinstated. We will do our best to ensure it is as comprehensive as possible.Deborah Russo – Deborah Russo is joint managing solicitor at the Prisoners Advice
Everyone deserves justice
Cuts that form the focus of the judgment “just the tip of the iceberg”
Many prisoners were affected by the legal aid cuts. The Howard League works for less crime, safer communities and few people in prison. Individuals being able to achieve justice is central to achieving these objectives. The Howard League decided to bring the case in our own name, along with PAS, because the removal of legal aid was wrong. It shifted the use of law away from what it is meant to be: something that is available to everyone to achieve justice. We also run a legal service for children and young people under 21, many of whom were directly affected by the cuts.
We run a free and confidential legal advice line for people under the age of 21. Our legal workload increased by around 50 per cent since the cuts came in. But it was not just that the number of calls increased: the amount of additional work we did for free went up because there was simply nobody else who could afford to do it. Many other lawyers such as the brilliant lawyers who represented us, Bhatt Murphy, in the legal aid community also stepped in. One of the nicest things about the judgment is the annex which sets out all the lawyers that provided statements of support for the case, many of whom represented clients for free due to the cuts.
Large numbers of prisoners are serving longer in prison because of the cuts. The cuts that form the focus of the judgment are just the tip of the iceberg. Our lawyer, Simon Creighton, has calculated that through the litigation around 85 per cent of the original cuts have been either declared unlawful or conceded. The issues, which range from pre-tariff reviews to licence conditions, all touch on liberty in one way or another.
The Howard League would like to see the Lord Chancellor accept the Court of Appeal’s ruling and bring these areas back into the scope of legal aid. It is possible the government will appeal the ruling, but I would hope that the Government takes heed of the careful and thoughtful judgment and does the right thing.– Dr Laura Janes is the Legal Director and solicitor at the Howard League for Penal Reform.
The F Word
“Prisoners want and are entitled to fair hearings”
Four years is a long time. Chris Grayling’s Ministry of Justice announced sweeping cuts to legal aid in April 2013 in a document called Transforming Legal Aid. Grayling’s idea of transformation differed from most.
He ignored several thousand consultation responses which pointed out the risks and unfairness of his proposals. Legal aid was removed from a raft of areas, leaving courts overwhelmed by unrepresented prisoners and arguably denying many people on low or no incomes from access to justice.
 Grayling declared himself ideologically opposed to legal aid for prisoners and promised that the prisons complaints system would do just as good a job.
The Prisoners Advice Service and the Howard League began their challenge to the legal aid cuts in the autumn of 2013. The wheels of justice can be painfully slow. This case has taken a huge amount of persistence on the part of the two charities and their lawyers. It is not an easy task to persuade a Court that government policy is unlawful. The High Court refused permission for the challenge in 2014, the Court of Appeal overturned this decision in 2015 (allowing the challenge to proceed to a full hearing) and the case was heard at the start of 2017.
What did the case decide?
The Court of Appeal were persuaded that there was ‘inherent and systemic unfairness’ in the decision to remove legal aid for all prisoners in 3 categories of cases – pre-tariff reviews by the Parole Board, category A reviews, and decisions to place prisoners in Close Supervision Centres.
The key reason for this finding was that the Court was not satisfied that there were alternative means in place to ensure prisoners could participate effectively in these decision-making processes, particularly for vulnerable prisoners including those with learning difficulties or mental health problems.
Does this mean that prisoners can now get legal aid in these areas?
At the moment, the answer to that is no. At the time of writing this article, the Ministry of Justice has not confirmed whether or not they will appeal. If they do decide to appeal, it is likely to drag the case out for at least another year. I suspect that they will not appeal against the decision but I am afraid this does not mean that they will take prompt steps to restore legal aid in these areas.
The Ministry’s response to the judgment was not encouraging. They appear to have latched on to comments in the Court of Appeal’s judgment recognising that “there may be safeguards other than legal aid”.
Do not expect any announcement any time soon. The political world is obsessed with Brexit and now with another General Election. Politics will soon go into purdah – a period in which no new policy is decided, a kind of political hibernation. This will end when a new government is appointed. New governments usually mean new ministerial appointments, even if the same government is elected. A department which is traditionally slow to implement change is likely to be even more tortoise-like in these circumstances. Restoring legal aid to prisoners is unlikely to be high on the agenda, even with a Court of Appeal judgment declaring a policy to be unlawful.
The quickest, fairest and probably cheapest option would be to make a simple change to legal aid regulations. One alternative to this would be to shunt these areas into the world of ‘exceptional funding’. Legal aid practitioners are familiar with what exceptional funding means. The clue is in the name. There is a long-winded, labyrinthine process which puts many people off from applying for it. Legal aid practitioners have already had to find ways of absorbing a nearly 10% cut in the payment rates for their work.
It is asking a lot to expect them to spend valuable time for which they will be paid nothing in the hope that a small amount of funding will be granted for them to take on a relatively complex case. The Ministry are likely to be attracted by an option which puts the onus on the prisoner to show why they are exceptional – for example that they cannot read, understand basic concepts or have a communication disability. The irony of expecting such prisoners to complete a lengthy form applying for exceptional funding should be obvious to anyone.
Long grass
Another alternative would be The Long Grass Response. This is the process by which the Ministry of Justice announces that it is exploring options, consulting stakeholders and piloting alternatives. They might think about trying to tap into the largesse of well-meaning charities or pro bono groups which develop to fill gaps in need. Such organisations should give some thought to what they are getting into if they are approached to fill this gap.
 Providing meaningful assistance to prisoners for pre-tariff, category A and CSC reviews is not easy. It requires the development of expertise. Good advocates will need to understand the legal and procedural framework for the different types of decision-making. They will need to have methods of communicating effectively with prisoners in closed prisons, many of whom may have mental health or learning difficulties. Their clients may be challenging and might not agree with them. They may need to commission expert reports. Psychologists and psychiatrists do not often work for free.
Organisations who are approached to fill this unfairness gap may also want to reflect upon whether their desire to support prisoners or to provide learning experience for students or budding lawyers might cloud their judgment. The Ministry has demonstrated an eagerness to take advantage of such groups. In the Court of Appeal case, they argued that the Prisoners Advice Service – one of their opponents in the case – could cure any unfairness by providing free advice and help to prisoners who could not get legal aid.
Presenting a case well is a skill. You need to know how to analyse evidence, to question witnesses, to apply the law, to appreciate which are good arguments to make and which are pointless or counter-productive. Good prison lawyers have spent years learning and perfecting these skills. That is why prisoners instruct them.Andrew Sperling – Andrew Sperling is a Consultant Solicitor-Advocate with Olliers Solicitors. He is a former Chair of the Association of Prison Lawyers and was commissioned to work on projects for the Parole Board between 2014 and 2015.
System could not ensure fairness
But may be some time before legal aid restored
The Court of Appeal’s judgment on the availability of legal aid for prisoners was given on 10 April 2017. Simon Creighton of Bhatt Murphy Solicitors acted for the two charities who brought the case and explains what the case was about and what this decision will mean in practice.
What was the case about?
In December 2013, the Government limited legal aid for prisoners to a very small category of cases. These were parole reviews when the Parole Board has the power to direct release, adjudications before the Independent Adjudicator or where a governor has allowed representation under the Tarrant criteria and sentence calculation cases.
The Howard League and PAS argued that by removing legal aid for all other areas, prisoners would run the risk of unfairness when important decisions were made that could affect their liberty or their fundamental rights. The areas they specifically challenged were: (1) Parole hearings where the Parole Board is advising on open conditions (or ‘pre-tariff reviews’); (2) Category A reviews; (3) Segregation and CSC decisions; (4) Mother and Baby unit cases; (5) Resettlement cases; (6) Licence conditions; (7) All governors’ adjudications; (8) Sentence planning.
What did the Court decide?
Before the case even reached a hearing, the Government accepted that some form of legal aid should be available for a number of these areas. They agreed that those areas which have the potential to engage rights under the Human Rights Act, such as the right to a private and family life, should have legal aid available. This meant that a form of legal aid called ‘exceptional case funding’ was extended to cover cases concerning segregation, Mother and Baby units, resettlement and licence conditions. Exceptional case funding is not automatic and an individual application has to be made showing how your rights have been infringed and why legal representation is necessary to ensure you are treated fairly.
“Access to legal advice for prisoners makes prisons fairer, safer and better at rehabilitating prisoners. This was first recognised in the Woolf Report a quarter of a century ago and this judgment underlines that it is still true today.”
At the hearing, the judges decided that the decision to remove legal aid combined with the deterioration in prison conditions meant that the system could not ensure fairness for prisoners when important decisions are made about them. The Court was particularly concerned that prisoners who are vulnerable, including children, those with mental health problems or those who cannot read or write could not participate properly in decision making.
They said that removing legal aid for parole cases, CSC cases and category A reviews was unlawful. However, they said that the prison system could deal fairly with sentence planning cases and governors’ adjudications without legal aid.
Does this mean that legal aid will now be restored?
It is still too early to know what the final outcome will be. The Government might try and appeal the decision. If they do not appeal, legal aid will still only be available once they amend the current law. If you need advice on one of the areas where the Court has said that removing legal aid was unlawful or where the Government accepted that exceptional case funding should be available, it is worth contacting a solicitor but it might still be some time before it is clear whether legal aid will actually be restored.Simon Creighton – Simon Creighton is a partner at Bhatt Murphy Solicitors


Focus Retriever



Vulnerable adults acquire  appreciate specialist adult,s when attending court, police stations, and solicitors .

Everyone deserves justicePrisoners could NOT participate effectively in these decision-making processes, particularly vulnerable prisoners including those with learning difficulties or mental healthproblems.

Law of England and Wales that full short in courts and police stations
Is a  a wide definition is applied to meet the standard of vulnerable adult. Section 59 of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Ac
A vulnerable adult is described as a person aged 18 years or over, who is in receipt of or may by reason of mental or hidden disability, age or illness.
A person is a vulnerable adult if, having attained the age of 18, s/he is in residential accommodation,or
  1. is in sheltered housing,
  2. receives domiciliary care,
  3. receives any form of health care,
  4. is detained in lawful custody,
  5. by virtue of an order of a court, is under supervision per Criminal Justice Act 2003 sections regarding community sentences;
  6. receives a welfare service of a prescribed description,
  7. receives any service or participates in any activity provided specifically for persons who has particular needs because of his age, has any form of disability or has a prescribed physical or mental problem. (Dyslexia, dyscalculia and dyspraxia are excluded disabilities),
  8. has payments made to him/her or to an accepted representative in pursuance of arrangements under Health and Social Care Act 2012, and/or
  9. requires assistance in the conduct of own affairs. continued

The new service to replace the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) will be Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS)

The effective abolition of NOMS, (christened Nightmare on Marsham Street in its early days due to the confusion it created) – follows the Prison Safety and Reform White Paper published last November. From 1st April 2017 Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) will have full responsibility for the operational management of people in custody and the community, including strengthening security in prisons, tackling extremism and building intelligence about criminal gangs. The paper outlined an overhaul of the prisons estate with the forthcoming Prison and Courts Bill due to make rehabilitation for people in prison a key duty of prisons for the first time ever. There will be new leadership and promotion programmes for prison and probation officers to “further professionalise and build pride” in the service and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) will be taking on responsibility for overall future policy direction, setting standards, scrutinising prison performance and commissioning services.
  • New service will be responsible for rolling out government’s reform programme
  • New leadership programme and new promotion opportunities for staff
  • New role of Director with specific responsibility for women across the whole system
“Creating HMPPS will bring clarity to managing our prisons and probation services while further professionalising staff and building pride in their work,” said Justice Secretary Liz Truss. “Our prison and probation officers do a vital job and they deserve to work in a world-class organisation which supports them in reforming offenders and keeping the public safe,” she added. CEO of the new service Michael Spurr was cautiously optimistic about his new role. “There is a great deal to do,” he said, “but I am confident that with the additional resources the government are providing, we can transform the system and deliver the high quality of service the public deserve.”
No chance of succeeding, the POA’s primary role is to create recidivists, more prisons, more screws, more power. Until this vile organization is outlawed, classed a threat to the public and national security, prisons will remain Hate Factories, churning out dehumanized recidivists to keep POA members employed. No screw wants to see rehabilitation succeed and prisons close. There will never be pride in working in HM Hate Factories/Human Warehouses, prisons are staffed with no-hopers, the dross end of the dole queue. Until penal policy is independent of self-serving, demagogic, parasitic politicians, and any organization with vested interests in recidivism, prisons will continue to fail the public, and serve the parasite that feeds off the less fortunate in society.
Chris Grayling's only concern was to see justice done quickly: justice delayed is justice denied. By giving prison gove…
This guy is spot on, the POA are an organisation whose methodology is nowadays sophisticated but remains collusive and subversive with the sole purpose of undermining any government or management initiative which will reduce the requirement for so many people to be incarcerated. they are a scurge on our society. inside times news paper.
I find this extremely worrying, as a potential employer will already know I have a conviction before they even meet me. Regardless if the conviction in no way affects my ability to work in said position and regardless of how long ago my conviction was, with no other offences?
 Everyone can make mistakes, how would you like it if one of your kids got into trouble on a night……