Right to see category A reports – case significance

Our client was a Category A life sentence prisoner, whose status was under review to determine if he should be moved to a lower security category.

At that time, the reports written for these reviews were not disclosed to prisoners or their lawyers, and they only received a ‘gist’ of the reports. This made submitting representations to such reviews in part an act of guesswork. We submitted to the court that this system was counter to the part of the Data Protection Act 1998, relating to paper-based records which came into force in 2001.

The judge hearing the case was sympathetic to the application, particularly when he saw the reports for our client’s review, which we had not been able to see. The ‘gist’ said the reports agreed that Mr Lord should remain Category A, but in fact three out of six said this, two concluded he should be Category B and one did not express a view.

It was ordered that all future reports written for Category A reviews must be disclosed to prisoners and their legal representatives.