Our History

PAS is an independent charity founded in 1991 by organisations including Liberty, NACRO, the Prison Reform Trust, and the Howard League for Penal Reform, to deal with the increasing demand for legal advice throughout England and Wales.

Apart from PAS, no other organisation gives free, expert legal advice and representation to adult prisoners regarding Prison Law and the Prison Rules.  Find out what we do.

Our work has never been so essential, due to the drastic cuts made to Legal Aid in 2013, around 80% of prison law matters are now beyond the Legal Aid remit, and prisoners can no longer use it to access advice on any of these matters from high street solicitors.

A small charity working with a most marginalised series of vulnerable groups while they are imprisoned, we rely upon the generosity and foresight of charitable Trusts and Foundations, individuals and corporate donors.

PAS timeline: key events

 

2018

  • The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) confirms that an amending statutory instrument (SI) has been laid before parliament, extending criminal legal aid to the three areas where the court had previously ruled against the government:
  1. Pre-tariff reviews by the parole board;
  2. Category A reviews (those whose escape would be highly dangerous);
  3. Decisions regarding placement in close supervision centre.
  • As a direct result of PAS’ work – alongside the Howard League for Penal Reform – to change the law, from 21 February 2018, many thousands of prisoners across England and Wales will once again be able to make use of affordable legal representation whilst they are in prison.

 

2017

  • The Ministry of Justice writes to the Supreme Court withdrawing its application to challenge the Court of Appeal’s decision, rendering that decision final. PAS and the Howard League for Penal Reform write to the Lord Chancellor asking for immediate action to give effect to the judgment.
  • The Ministry of Justice appeals against the Court of Appeal ruling.
  • The Court of Appeal rules in favour of the Howard League for Penal Reform and Prisoners’ Advice Service (PAS), stating that the cuts to legal aid for prisoners are unlawful because they are inherently unfair.

2015

  • Court of Appeal allows PAS and Howard League for Penal Reform’s legal aid challenge
  • PAS launches new website

2014

  • Awarded Centre of Excellence status by the London Legal Support Trust
  • Shortlisted for the Liberty Human Rights “Close to Home” Award.
  • PAS and Howard League for Penal Reform seek permission for judicial reviews against cuts to legal aid for prisoners

2014 1

2014 2

2013

  • Nominated for the Una Padel Awards, run by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies

2012

  • Awarded the Longford Prize
  • PAS clients won Childcare Resettlement Leave
  • Successfully defended prisoner’s right to keep legal reference book
  • PAS receives grant from Big Lottery Fund

2012

2011

  • Won LALY award for Best Legal Aid Firm
  • Brought change in prison policy around confiscation orders
  • PAS was granted permission to challenge the Prisoners’ Earnings Act

2011

2010

  • PAS’s first case at the Supreme Court

2009

  • Community Care Caseworker post established

2007

  • Unique legal outreach at women’s prisons began.

2007

2006

  • Settled two claims for damages for racial discrimination. First time PAS has obtained damages for prisoners under the Race Relations Act

2004

  • Unique legal outreach at men’s prisons began
  • Race Discrimination Caseworker post established

2002

  • Women Prisoners’ Caseworker post established

1997

  • PAS begins to provide detailed information leaflets, and starts to distribute the Prisoners’ Legal Rights Group Bulletin

1997

1996

  • PAS legal staff wrote a key text book on prison law
  • PAS able to take volunteers due to increased space

1996

1994

  • Incentive and Earned Privileges Scheme, and Mandatory Drugs Tests introduced – results in rise in demand for advice from PAS

1993

  • PAS cases led to Prison Service allowing prisoners to see their parole reports and be given reasons for refusal
  • Simon Creighton becomes PAS’ first solicitor
  • PAS successfully applied to the Legal Services Commission for a franchise to operate a legal aid scheme, and the organisation began taking on its own litigation

1993

1991

  • Prisoners’ Advice Service founded by organisations including Liberty, NACRO, Prison Reform Trust and Howard League for Penal Reform

1991

“PAS’s Legal Advice Line is seen by myself and many others as a real lifeline as it is a way to access crucial information in a timely fashion. Without access to such a vital service many more cases of injustice would occur and go unchallenged.”