Prisoners will be able to access legal aid for important hearings

Published: 10 Apr 2017

A ruling from the Court of Appeal today means that prisoners will still be able to access legal aid during important hearings.

The Court of Appeal has found that prisoners should have access to legal aid to pay for legal representation during pre-tariff reviews by the Parole Board, category A reviews, and decisions on placements within close supervision centres.

Legal aid for prisoners was restricted by the Criminal Legal Aid (General) (Amendment) Regulations 2013. The legal challenge was taken by the Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prisoners’ Advice Service. The Equality and Human Rights Commission provided expert legal opinion in the case.

Following the verdict, Equality and Human Rights Commission Chief Executive Rebecca Hilsenrath said:

“It’s a hallmark of a democratic legal system is that it is fair and robust for all users. Without access to legal aid, prisoners with learning difficulties and mental illness would not be able to participate effectively in important decisions about their future, placing them at a significant disadvantage. We welcome today’s judgment that will ensure our legal system continues to provide legal help during these hearings.”

Notes to editors

Pre-tariff reviews before the Parole Board are done to assess whether a prisoner is suitable for a move to an open prison.

Category A reviews decide on a prisoner’s security category status, with Category A being the highest security category a male prisoner can be held in.

Close supervision centres house prisoners considered to be most dangerous, who have usually committed very serious offences in prison and cannot be managed in an ordinary prison location.

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