Our notable Prison Law cases

We have taken successful cases for prisoners concerning all aspects of the prison system, from procedure at disciplinary hearings through to challenges to the legislation relating to life sentences. Some of our key successes are set out below.

 

Howard League & Prison Advice Service v Lord Chancellor (2017)

A successful challenge to the cuts to legal aid for prisoners. The Court of Appeal ruled that cuts to the scope of legal aid for prisoners in certain categories made in 2013 were unlawful as they made the system inherently unfair.

Noye v SSJ (2017)

A successful challenge to a ministerial decision to reject a recommendation that a prisoner should be moved to an open prison on the grounds that the decision impermissibly rejected factual findings made by the Board.

Intervention in Harkins v UK (2016)

Bhatt Murphy acting for campaign group Reprieve in an intervention before the Grand Chamber of the European Court concerning the lawfulness of an extradition to the United States when a whole life sentence is likely to be imposed on conviction.

Tara Hudson v Secretary of State for Justice

Following a letter before claim sent on behalf of Tara Hudson, a transgender prisoner, the Secretary of State for Justice commissioned a review of the policy on care and management of transgender prisoners. Ms Hudson is challenging her allocation and the policy.

Re: X [2015]

A case where a prisoner received damages when delays in calling an ambulance meant that she gave birth in her prison cell.

R (Hart) v SSJ and Governor of HMP Whitemoor (2014)

The claim challenged the imposition of child protection measures on a life sentenced prisoner, which prevented him from having contact with his daughter. It concerned the Claimant’s right to family life under Article 8 ECHR. The Administrative court found the measures were unlawful and quashed their imposition.

Vinter v UK (2013)

The Grand Chamber of the ECtHR decided that whole life tariffs where there is no prospect of release are a breach of Article 3 of the Convention.

R (Cain) v Secretary of State for Justice (2013) & R (Roberts) v Secretary of State for Justice (2013)

Both cases concerned challenges by Category A prisoners to decisions made by the Directorate of High Security Prisons regarding their categorisation and the need for an oral hearing to consider categorisation.

R (McGetrick) v Parole Board (2013)

The Court of Appeal upheld an appeal by a prisoner concerning prejudicial material submitted by the Secretary of State. The prisoner succeeded in his argument that the Board does have the power to hold an interlocutory hearing and to exclude such material in appropriate cases. The Board did not consider that such a power existed.

R (Francis) v Secretary of State for Justice (2012)

An important case concerning the rights of foreign national prisoner and release on Home Detention Curfew. The Divisional Court granted a declaration that the Justice Secretary's policy in respect of HDC for those in relation to whom deportation was being considered, Prison Service Order 4630 para.11.1. However, the Court of Appeal claim for damages for loss of a chance of bail failed where it was highly unlikely that Home Detention Curfew would have been granted in her case had the Prison Service considered the possibility correctly, as it should have done.

R (BBC) v SSJ, Babar Ahmed as an Interested Party (2012)

The refusal of permission to the BBC to film an interview with a prisoner, the interested party in the case, was unlawful and in breach of Article 10.

Vinter v UK (2012)

The European Court of Human Rights uphold the Government's power to impose whole life tariffs by a majority of 4-3.

R (NW) v SSJ (2010)

A decision to have a 15 month interval between parole reviews did not breach the rights of a prisoner and her baby located in a prison MBU.

R (O'Connell) v Parole Board (2009)

Article 5(4) does not apply to the custodial part of an extended sentence.

R (Coleman) v Governor of HMP Wayland (2009)

The Court ruled that the prison service does not have the power to destroy a prisoner's property after it has been confiscated, even where the property was not permitted in a prison.

Smith v Governor HMP Belmarsh (2009)

The failure of the Governor to refer an adjudication for a lifer to an indepdent adjudicator breached Article 6.

R (Black) v SSJ HL (2009)

The Lords rejected an argument that Article 5 applies to the first release of determinate prisoners by a majority of 4-1.

R (Brooke & others) v SSJ & Parole Board CA (2007)

We acted for one of the claimants in the above case which established that the Parole Board was not sufficiently independent of the executive.

R (Stellato) v Home Secretary HL (2007)

A successful challenge to the Secretary of State's argument that he had the power to make retrospective changes to the length of time a prisoner will spend on licence.

R (Smith) v Parole Board, HL (2005)

Successfully requiring the Parole Board to convene oral hearings when deciding whether prisoners on licence should be returned to custody.

R (Roberts) v Parole Board, HL (2005)

Seeking to establish the extent to which the authorities are entitled to withhold material from life prisoners seeking release on parole.

R (Hammond) v Home Secretary, HL (2005)

Requiring legislation to be amended to allow for life sentenced prisoners to have oral hearings when their tariffs are reset.

R (Sim) v Parole Board, CA (2004)

Successfully challenging the release and recall powers for prisoners serving extended sentences through the application of Article 5(4) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Ezeh and Conners v UK, ECtHR (2002)

Challenging the structural fairness of the prison disciplinary system and the power of prison governors to award additional days to prisoners' sentences.

R (Richards) v Home Secretary (2002)

Establishing that decisions of the European Court of Human Rights have retrospective effect.

R (Daly) v Home Secretary, HL (2001)

Establishing the correct legal test for Human Rights Act challenges in the context of prison cell searches.

V and T v NGN and others, HC (2000)

Protecting the right to privacy for young offenders after release where there is a threat to personal safety.

R v Governor of HMP Frankland ex parte Russell, DC (1998)

Requiring the drug testing procedures in prisons to be administered in a fair and open manner.