PAS, together with the Howard League for Penal Reform, has issued judicial review proceedings against the Ministry of Justice following their decision
to remove legal aid for a small number of important parole board cases without consultation. These cases are known as ‘pre-tariff reviews’ and affect prisoners on indeterminate sentences who could be moved to open conditions following a Parole Board hearing. These cases are important because once in open conditions, prisoners can apply to do work and education in the community unsupervised.
PAS wrote to the Secretary of State for Justice raising concerns and asking him to reconsider his position. Making prisoners go through the pre-tariff review stages without representation is short sighted and will slow down the process of rehabilitation.
The proposal to remove this funding was not in the government’s original consultation, “Transforming legal aid: delivering a more credible and efficient system” issued in April 2013. The decision was announced in the government’s response to the consultation “”Transforming legal aid: Next Steps” issued on 5 September 2013. As far as we are aware, nobody, including the Parole Board, was in a position to alert the government to the risks of removing funding for this work before the decision was made.
PAS, together with the Howard League of Penal Reform, is challenging the decision to remove these cases from the scope of legal aid on the basis that the consultation process was unfair and that the decision is unreasonable. The removal of legal aid for these cases will inevitably result in unjust results for prisoners.
We have taken this step as a last resort, having done everything possible to engage with the government on this issue. We are disappointed that the Secretary of State for Justice has refused to take on board our concerns and left us with no choice but to issue judicial review proceedings. We will keep all of our followers in prison and outside duly informed of future progress in the proceedings.