Category Archives: Legal Aid

What Do Legal Aid Changes To Prison Law Mean?

prison-law-1Nine months after the Court of Appeal ruled government cuts to legal aid for prisoners were unlawful the Ministry of Justice has confirmed that, from 21st February 2018, criminal legal aid will be extended to the three areas identified by the Court of Appeal as failing the fairness test without legal representation – and the four areas the government conceded before the case went to trial.

The Court ruled that the high threshold required for a finding of inherent or systemic unfairness was satisfied in the case of:

Pre-tariff reviews by the parole board,

Category A reviews (those whose escape would be highly dangerous), and

Decisions regarding placement in a Close Supervision Centre (CSC)

  • Pre-tariff reviews are where an indeterminate sentence prisoner has been referred to the Parole Board by the Secretary of State for Justice before the expiry of his/her minimum term for advice on a move to open conditions.
  • Category A is the highest security category. It is defined as prisoners “whose escape would be highly dangerous to the public, or the security of the State, and for whom the aim must be to make escape impossible”. Decisions to move prisoners from conditions of high security are complex and important.
  • CSCs were introduced to deal with the most disruptive or dangerous prisoners, who pose a risk to other prisoners. The decision to place a prisoner in one of these centres, which creates a serious restriction on the prisoner at great expense to the public purse, is complex and important.

The threshold was not satisfied in relation to decisions about offending behaviour programmes and courses, and disciplinary proceedings where no additional days of imprisonment or detention can be awarded.

Before the hearing at the Court of Appeal, the government agreed that legal aid would be available for cases concerning:

Mother and baby units;


Licence conditions; and


What this means is that prisoners who require help and assistance in these seven areas of prison law can now approach any firm with a Criminal Contract and seek advice. They will have to go through the means and benefits tests like anyone else applying for legal aid funding, but they are now eligible to apply.

Do you want to study for The Certificate of Competency in Prison Law, the only comprehensive accredited distance learning Prison Law course of its kind?


Court of Appeal allows charities to challenge legal aid cuts for prisoners

Two charities have today (Tuesday 28 July) won the right to challenge legal aid cuts for prisoners after the Court of Appeal ruled there was a risk that the system could be unfair and unlawful. The Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prisoners’ Advice Service (PAS) have been inundated with requests for help from… Continue Reading

Judges warn lack of legal aid increasing burden on courts

A rise in the number of people representing themselves in person at Court of Appeal hearings is posing an “increasing problem”, a leading judge has warned. Lady Justice Black – who sits in the Court of Appeal – said the task facing judges was “infinitely more difficult” when people were not represented by lawyers. She… Continue Reading

Legal Aid Cuts Roadblock Demo

Hundreds of demonstrators have staged a roadblock outside The Royal Courts of Justice in opposition to the Government’s proposed changes to legal aid. Supporters of anti-cuts direct action group UK Uncut gathered on the Strand in central London at around midday. Many of them sat on the road and others put their bicycles in the… Continue Reading


Top Judges savage legal aid cuts

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Legal Aid Cuts Threaten ‘World Renown’ British Justice System – and riots in our jails

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RIP: Prison Law Legal Aid

By Andrew Sperling, Chair of Association of Prison Lawyers Legal aid for prisoners is under attack again and this time it may be terminal. The government’s proposals in a Consultation Paper called ‘Transforming Legal Aid’ are to remove legal aid for prisoners altogether except for parole, disciplinary hearings where additional days may be awarded or… Continue Reading

Open letter to the Prisons Ombudsman

OPEN LETTER To:     Nigel Newcomen – Prisons and Probation Ombudsman for England and Wales From: Mark Leech, Editor: The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales Ref:    Proposals to reduce prison law legal aid Date: 16th April 2013 Nigel You will be aware that the Justice Secretary has announced proposals for a savage reduction in prison… Continue Reading

Jail Legal Aid Cuts ‘Could Mean Riots’

Read Converse, the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales Prisoners are set to be prevented from claiming legal aid to pursue complaints against the prison system, the government has announced – amid claims by jail experts that it could lead to riots inside prisons. Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said taxpayers’ money was being… Continue Reading