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Recent Prison Law Test Case highlights the Importance of Scientific Evidence (10 July 2018)

Date: 10/07/2018
Duncan Lewis, Legal News Solicitors, Recent Prison Law Test Case highlights the Importance of Scientific Evidence

A recent adjudication involving a prisoner accused of smoking ‘spice’ has stressed the importance of scientific evidence and expertise in prison law cases.

Following the accusation that our client, a prisoner had been smoking the synthetic cannabinoid ‘spice’, Duncan Lewis requested that confirming tests be carried out. The result showed that 8ng/ml of ‘spice’ was found in the prisoner’s system; something the prisoner insisted was attributed to secondary inhalation from other inmates. The prison expert-recommended cut off point for cannabis is 15ng/ml and 5ng/ml for synthetic cannabinoids and the Judge was minded to automatically give a guilty verdict. Duncan Lewis Solicitors argued that this evidence could not be relied upon and sought for the matter to be adjourned for further expert advice to be considered.

Duncan Lewis Solicitors instructed independent experts who advised that the levels for synthetic cannabis could not be relied upon and there had not been enough research to be able to make a clear ‘cut off level’. There has been significant research into the way the body responds to cannabis but there has been virtually no research into synthetic cannabis. There are over 400 types of synthetic cannaboids and very little is currently known about how it affects consumers. The report concluded that it was reasonable to conclude that the prisoner’s 8ng/ml could be a result of second hand inhalation.

Following this, the Judge adjourned for a second time to allow the prison to respond. The prison consulted the leading expert which concurred that the 5 ng/ml cut off point was correct, however the report was deemed inconclusive and demonstrated to the Judge that due to the limited scientific information available on this subject it was ultimately a moot point. The Judge was ultimately forced to dismiss the charges as the burden of proof (beyond reasonable doubt) had not been met.

The Judge stated this was a test case and left it open for the prison to consider whether they wanted to challenge it with a Judicial Review.

This outcome highlights the importance of scientific evidence in cases, demonstrating that a scientific insight can corroborate statements made in court and refute challenging arguments. It demonstrates the need for prisoners to be legally represented at adjudications in prisons.

Author, Abigail Fogg, Director of Prison Law at Duncan Lewis Solicitors has considerable experience representing prisoners before the Parole Board and Independent Adjudications and has acted in complex cases involving prisoners with life and Imprisonment for Personal Protection sentences who are significantly over tariff often with mental health or personality disorders.

For expert advice on all prison law matters, call Abigail on 020 7275 2862, or email her on abigailf@duncanlewis.com.

Duncan Lewis Prison Law Solicitors

Duncan Lewis has been accredited in the Legal 500 2017 Edition for its specialist services in Civil Liberties & Human Rights matters. Our Prison Law solicitors have expertise in matters relating to pre-tariff reviews, category A reviews and decisions involving inmate placements in the Care and Separation Unit. As the leading firm for provision of Legal Aid, Duncan Lewis’ solicitors can advise you on private and publicly funded prison law matters, including appeals to convictions and sentencing, HDC applications and appeals, independent adjudication and parole reviews for IPP prisoners and lifers.

If you require legal advice on a prison law matter, call Duncan Lewis Solicitors on 0333 772 0409.

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