Justice for prisoners – legal aid restored

Created on November 21, 2017

Justice for prisoners – legal aid restored

In 2012 the Labour Government made severe cuts to legal aid for prisoners.  The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (Laspo) Act 2012 came into force, removing legal aid for a wide range of problems incurred by prisoners.

Since these cuts have come into force, violence and self injury have risen to record levels.  Over 300 people have lost their lives through suicide. The Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prisoners’ Advice Service began a legal challenge in 2013.  Finally, the charities’ arguments challenging these cuts were heard in January and February this year by three Court of Appeal judges.

Five Key Problems 

Even though the government back tracked and agreed that legal aid would be available for certain types of cases, such as those concerning mother and baby units, licence conditions, resettlement and segregation through an exceptional funding scheme, it fell short by leaving  five key problems for the Court of Appeal to rule on:  these were pre-tariff reviews by the parole board where the board does not have the power to direct release but advises the Secretary of State for Justice whether the prisoner is suitable for a move to open conditions; reviews of Category A prisoners categorisation; access to offending behaviour programmes and courses; disciplinary proceedings where o additional days of imprisonment or detention can be awarded and placement in close supervision centres. 

Success – legal aid restored 

After the Court of Appeal ruling in April 2017, legal aid for prisoners was restored in three key areas; pre-tariff reviews by the Parole Board, category A reviews and decisions on placing inmates in close supervision centres. 

The Ministry of Justice declared that it would challenge this decision in the supreme court but seven months later, the MOJ precipitously abandoned their battle in the Supreme Court. 

Legal Aid has been restored for some of the most vulnerable members of our society. 

Linda Macdonald

Linda Macdonald

Linda and has specialised in Criminal Defence since 1997 and is a Chartered Legal Executive Advocate, an Accredited Police Station Representative, a Commissioner of Oaths and has obtained rights of advocacy in the Magistrates’ Court.

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