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.

A small charity working with a most marginalised, challenging community of people, we rely upon the generosity and foresight of charitable Trusts and Foundations, individuals and corporate donors.

PAS timeline: key events


  • PAS closes office in March 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic.  To find out more about this period, please see our COVID response page here.


  • 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.


  • 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.


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


  • 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


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


  • 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


  • 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


  • PAS’s first case at the Supreme Court


  • Community Care Caseworker post established


  • Unique legal outreach at women’s prisons began.


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


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


  • Women Prisoners’ Caseworker post established


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


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


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


  • 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


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