The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (Laspo) Act 2012 cut legal aid for prisoners in five legal matters, three of which are anticipated to have legal aid restored following a Judicial Review against the cuts. The Ministry of Justice began an application to appeal the judgment made following the Judicial Review, however, they have recently pulled out of the proceedings.
Charities Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prisoners Advice Service brought a Judicial Review against the Ministry of Justice’s Laspo Act 2012 which cut legal aid for five categories of prison law.
In April of this year, the court ruled in favour of the Judicial Review, deeming the cuts to be unlawful since no alternative means were put in place to allow prisoners to access legal advice and representation in the absence of legal aid. The proceedings anticipate the restoration of legal aid to three categories, these include: pre-tariff reviews by the Parole Board, category-A reviews and decisions on placing inmates in close supervision centres. It is still not clear yet when or to what extent legal aid will be restored in these areas of prison law.
The Judicial Review was successfully challenged and approved by judges Lady Justice Gloster, Lord Justice Patten and Lord Justice Beatson. They concluded that the lack of prison staff and an increased workload for the Parole Board has meant that no alternative system has been put in place to replace legal aid for prisoners.
Abigail Fogg, Prison Law Director at Duncan Lewis states:
“The cuts to legal aid has hit the most vulnerable prisoners who are most at risk of being lost in the system. The legal aid cuts meant that prisoners cannot get advice on key points throughout their sentence where legal advice and support would have helped them to progress and rehabilitate. This has had a significant impact on prisoners serving IPP and life sentences as they can only access legal advice when they are post tariff and often when it is too late. Tragically, this has led to many prisoners stagnating and slipping through the net. Ironically, this has increased costs to the public as prisoners are serving longer sentences and sadly this chaos has led to significant increases in mental health problems, suicide and self-harm incidents. Duncan Lewis Solicitors has many active Judicial Review matters challenging the failure to progress and support the rehabilitation of prisoners.”
The Ministry of Justice’s report into incidents within prisons shows a sharp rise in violence and self-harm, with more than 27,000 incidents recorded from 2016 to 2017, a 25% increase from the previous year.
With the hope that the restoration of legal aid for prisoners will go ahead without hindrance, it can be assumed that conditions will improve for prison staff, the Parole Board and prisoners once changes can be put in place.
Duncan Lewis Prison Law Solicitors
Duncan Lewis has been recognised in Legal 500 2017 Edition for its specialism in Civil Liberties & Human Rights, meaning our Prison Law solicitors are adept in all matters relating to pre-tariff reviews, category-A reviews and decisions relating to inmate transfers.
As the leading firm for Legal Aid solicitors, our solicitors are able to advise you on both private and publicly funded prison law matters, including appeals to convictions and sentencing, ROTL applications, HDC applications and appeals, independent adjudication and parole reviews for IPP prisoners and lifers.
Our solicitors conduct all stages of each matter from initial pre action correspondence to filing, conducting and settling claims.
If you require expert advice on a prison law matter, call Duncan Lewis Solicitors on 0333 772 0409