Access to Justice in Prisons

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we are challenging the lack of access to justice for women and men detained in prisons under immigration powers.

It is little known that, as well as immigration detention centres, the Home Office holds people in prisons under detention powers. At any one time there are upwards of 400 detained in such circumstances. The immigration estate is itself an opaque and under-reported phenomenon, it has been described as a ‘grey hinterland’.  But those in prisons receive even less attention and are afforded fewer rights; it is a black hinterland that they inhabit. As Nick Hardwick, the former Chief Inspector of Prisons, told Parliament, those in prisons are ‘forgotten…they’re just stuck.’  

Women and men held in prisons are not afforded the same safeguards as those in detention centres [read about our separate litigation on lack of safeguards] and nor are they permitted a mobile phone or internet access.  They face significant obstacles accessing charities, their Home Office caseworkers, and lawyers.

A lack of access to lawyers means a lack of access to justice. While hindrances to accessing justice for those in immigration detentions have been exposed (see Bar Council report), obstacles to obtaining legal advice for those in prisons are even more severe. A clear example of such discrimination is that, in detention centres, there are ‘legal aid surgeries’ where lawyers speak to detainees with a view to giving legal advice and potentially taking them on as clients. No such arrangement exists for those in prisons.

As a result, those in prisons are forced to resort to desperate measures to find a lawyer. One of our clients was only able to get in touch with us by ripping out a blank page of his Qur’an, noting writing his name and prison reference number, and asking his friend to give this to his lawyer.  

Our clients, who have secured representation against the odds, argue that the lack of access to justice for those detained in prisons under immigration powers is discriminatory and they are challenging this state of affairs through litigation.

For more details, please see press release.