In common with other areas of prison law, the key challenges to the prison disciplinary system have involved issues of procedural fairness. The challenges were initially intended to ensure fairness within the constraint of the hearings being conducted by prison administrators with little scope for legal representation. In 2002 the European Court of Human Rights confirmed that charges where prisoners can have days added to their sentence engages Article 6 necessitating radical changes to the disciplinary system. Now, cases involving loss of liberty as a punishment are heard by district judges, whilst governors adjudicate charges where only the lesser punishments can be imposed.
2013 Legal aid changes
Legal aid removed for adjudications before governors by SI/2790/2013
2011 Garland v SSJ  EWCA Civ 1335
The prison rules require charges to be laid within 48 hours of the discovery of an offence (absent exceptional circumstances) but do not impose a duty to charge earlier within that period.
2011 Change to Prison Rules
Rule 53A amended by SI/1663/2011 to allow referral of cases to IAs where “necessary and expedient” – this allows the referral of lifers’ cases where additional days cannot be awarded to deal with the consequences of the Smith case (see below).
2009 Smith v Governor of Belmarsh  EWHC 109
The High Court finds that the failure to refer a lifer's case to an independent adjudicator did breach Article 6, but declines to quash the finding of guilt.
2008 Haase and independent prosecutors
The case of Haase  EWCA Civ decides that there is no requirement under Article 6 for independent prosecutors to present adjudication cases against prisoners.
2005 In R (Greenfield) v Home Secretary  UKHL 14
The House of Lords
confirms that normally if disciplinary proceedings breach Article 6, a declaration to that effect will consititute sufficient remedy rather than an award of damages
2005 The Prison Rules are amended
To remove the Home Secretary’s powers to review decisions of independent adjudicators Prison Rules (Amendment) 2005
2005 Tangney v Governor of Elmley and another  EWCA Civ
Confirms that in exceptional circumstances Article 6 may require lifers’ cases to be referred to independent adjudicators even though added days cannot be imposed as punishment Tangney v Governor of Elmley and another 2005
Grand Chamber confirms Ezeh and Connors v UK decision (2004) 39 EHRR 1 Ezeh and Connors v UK 2004
2002 Ezeh and Connors v UK  35 EHRR 28
The ECtHR overturns the above judgement and decides that Article 6 of the Convention requires legal representation and an impartial tribunal where the punishment adds time to the sentence Ezeh and Connors v UK 2002
2002 Home Secretary remits all added days imposed as punishment by governors since October 2000
(the coming into force of the HRA)
2002 The Prison Rules are amended to provide for hearings by independent adjudicators (district judges)
Where added days are a possible punishment Prison (Amendment) Rules 2002
2001 R(Carroll, Greenfield and Al Hasan) v Home Secretary  1 WLR 545
Court of Appeal decides that disciplinary charges involving added days punishment do not engage Article 6 – so no right to legal representation or impartial tribunal
2000 Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) comes into force
Allows for domestic challenges alleging breaches of Article 6
1999 Changes to the Prison Rules
the offence of ‘in any way offends against good order and discipline’ removed Prison Rules 1999
1998 R v Home Secretary ex parte Wynter (1998) The Times, 2 June
(R v Governor of HM Prison Swaleside ex parte Wynter 1998
EWHC Admin 535) The confirmation certificate in mandatory drug test cases held to be admissible in evidence although hearsay
1995 First publication of the Prison Discipline Manual
1992 The Criminal Justice Act 1991 comes into force
Removes BoVs’ role in hearing charges. ‘Loss of remission’ as punishment replaced with ‘added days’.
1991 Prison Disturbances: April 1990 (the ‘Woolf report’ – Cm 1456,1991)
Makes another recommendation that BoVs should not hear disciplinary charges
1988 Leech v Deputy Governor Parkhurst Prison  1 AC 533
House of Lords decide that governors’ adjudications can be challenged in judicial review proceedings
1987 Hone and McCarton v Maze Prison BoV  AC 379
House of Lords decides no right to legal representation either under principles of natural justice or Article 6 of the Convention
1985 Report of the Committee on the Prison Disciplinary System ('Prior Committee' report - Cmnd.9641-I)
Recommends end of BoVs' role in prison discipline
1984 Campbell and Fell v UK  7 EHRR 165, Series A No 48
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) decides that hearings by BoVs may require legal representation under Article 6 of the Convention where punishments involve long periods of loss of remission Campbell and Fell v UK 1985
1984 R v Home Secretary ex parte Tarrant  1 All ER 799
The Divisional Court decides that Governors have a discretion to allow legal representation in certain circumstances. Also confirmed that guilt in disciplinary hearings had to be proved to the criminal standard.
1979 R v BoV of Hull Prison ex p St Germain (No 1)  QB 425
The House of Lords decides that adjudications by BoVs can be judicially reviewed
1979 Second St Germain case ( 3 All ER 545)
The Court of Appeal confirmed that prisoners could not be found guilty on the basis of contested hearsay evidence, and that the prisoner had a right to call and cross examine witnesses
1976 Riots at HMP Hull
Massive punishments of loss of remission imposed by Board of Visitors (BoVs) - leads to St Germain litigation