Offender’s rehabilitation is delayed by legal aid restrictions
- 08 Jul
Two charities are challenging the removal of legal aid from internal prison hearings due to it being ‘inherently unfair.’
The court of appeal has been told that thousands of prisoners are being prevented from starting rehabilitation due to them being denied legal aid for parole board hearings, reports the Guardian.
Lawyers for two charities have said that the present system was “inherently unfair” and that it provides no support for inmates who are incapable of representing themselves.
The appeal, brought jointly by the Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prisoners’ Advice Service, is the latest in a series of attempts to reverse cuts that have removed more than £600m from the criminal and civil legal aid budget. Arguing that taxpayers are now having to pay to keep prisoners inside for longer than is necessary.
“Without a move to open conditions, a standard indeterminate-sentence prisoner will almost certainly never be released,” the charities’ submission to the court said.
“At the heart of parole board decisions in relation to indeterminate-sentence prisoners is the question of risk. To assist the parole board in reaching a decision on risk, expert evidence from psychiatrists or psychologists is always presented by the secretary of state. Equality of arms [equal representation] can only be secured if the prisoner can present his own independent expert report, the parole board having no power or funds to commission its own.”
Phillippa Kaufmann QC, representing the Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prisoner Advisory service, said: “This is systematic unfairness. All areas of prison law have been removed from the scope of legal aid. Many prisoners cannot access the process themselves. Prisoners live in a closed world. They can’t access outside resources. They can’t go to the Citizens Advice Bureau. The complaints systems and the ombudsman system do not provide the fairness that is lacking [in the current system].”
Outside the court, Deborah Russo, from the Prisoner Advice Service, said: “Prisoners are ending up spending more time inside, so it costs the taxpayer more. Pre-tariff prisoners cannot get legal aid and therefore can’t be represented at parole board hearings. It can hinder their progress. Life-sentence prisoners are unrepresented and get stuck in the system.”
Simon Creighton, of the law firm Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, which is representing the charities, said: “Restrictions to legal aid for prisoners are deeply unfair as there is no safety net of ‘exceptional funding’. However, they also unlikely to save costs or enhance public protection as they will result in people spending longer in prison and missing out on offending behaviour courses and rehabilitative work.”
What do you think of this? Tweet us your comments @suppsolutions
- 11 Sep
Prisons told to adjust for older inmates
Ombudsman Nigel Newcomen says prisons will have to take on "care home and even hospice" roles in future, reports the BBC. He said: "It is remarkable that the fastest growing segment of the prison...
- 31 Jul
Charities are best at reducing re-offending
A report by charity thinktank New Philanthropy Capital has found that 28% of charity projects have helped to reduce reoffending compared to 19% of private companies, reports the Guardian.The report...
- 29 Jul
It could become illegal to deny offenders legal aid
It could become illegal to deny prisoners in England and Wales legal aid so that they are able to effectively challenge the conditions they are held under, rules the court of appeal, reports the...
- 17 Mar
New supported accommodation for ex-offenders in Birmingham
Trident Reach the People Charity's new Reach House has been built to provide 24-hour supported accommodation for young offenders to help support them getting back into the community after their...
- 12 Mar
Staff working with young offenders criticised
A report by three inspection bodies has said that staff aimed at helping reduce re-offending in young offenders are "too often suspicious of each other" reports the BBC.The report, by the Care...
- 19 Sep
Family homes are needed to help offenders re-offending
A study by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, HM Inspectorate of Probation and Ofsted had found that almost one in five prisoners did not know where they would be living once they left jail, reports Inside...
- 16 Sep
Ex-offenders ‘lacking home and job'
An inspection into resettlement provision for adult prisoners had followed 80 offenders after they left prison. Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick said that it found the role of a prisoner's...
- 16 May
Offenders placed in prison for a day in a bid to cut re-offending
The Centre for Social Justice has urged the government to look to the US where this approach appears to work. The report has said that a third of people given community sentences re-offended within a...
- 30 Jan
Inspection finds offenders with learning disabilities are not being supported
The inspection looking into the treatment of offenders with learning disabilities within the criminal justice systems was conducted by HM Inspectorate of Probation, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary,...
- 08 Jan
Campaigner says the reorganisation of rehabilitation will not cut reoffending
The justice secretary, Chris Grayling, has announced big changes to the criminal justice system under the "transforming rehabilitation" agenda which plans to transfer the responsibility for the...
Support Solutions 5th National Housing Support & Social Care Conference 2014 The Social and Financial return seminar was very helpful, helped me think about our approach to bidding, negotiating for funding and keeping hold of what we have! The New Technology seminar was really an eye opener- really got me thinking about potential applications for older people. P.M - Four Housing