Last updated:2023-09-18
Prisoners’ legal aid cuts to be challenged in Court of Appeal
The Prisoners’ Advice Service (PAS) and the Howard League for Penal Reform will be challenging the cuts to legal aid for prisoners before the Court of Appeal in January. They have launched a crowdfunding appeal to raise the necessary £25,000 to pay for the costs of the case (see link below).
Both charities say that the loss of legal aid has increased the pressure on their services as prisoners have nowhere to turn for help. ‘In the three years since the cuts to legal aid, conditions in prisons have deteriorated sharply and we have been overwhelmed by pleas for help,’ said Dr Laura Janes, legal director at the Howard League for Penal Reform. According to Janes, ‘the number of calls to the Howard League and the Prisoners’ Advice Service has increased by almost 50 per cent’. The Howard League’s advice line for children and young people has also seen a 45 per cent rise in enquiries and PAS believes the cuts have contributed to record levels of self-harm, violence and suicides in prisons.
In the High Court in March 2014, the charities were unsuccessful in their attempt to have the cuts, which were introduced from December 2013, declared illegal ([2014] EWHC 709 (Admin)). They were successful in overturning this decision in the Court of Appeal in July last year ([2015] EWCA Civ 819).
Janes, who is also vice-chair of LAG, argued that, until it was cut, legal aid helped ‘prisoners challenge a whole range of serious issues that affect their sentence progression and long-term prospects’ and that the hearing in January ‘is the last and best hope for prisoners to be allowed equal access to justice’.