The Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prisoners’ Advice Service are to appeal a High Court decision to reject their application for a judicial review of the government’s decision to cut legal aid for prisoners.
A judgment from the High Court in London yesterday dismissed an application from the two charities for permission for a judicial review of the government’s decision to place restrictions put on legal aid for prisoners, which came into effect in December.
The charities, which had submitted separate but linked judicial review applications, argued that the cuts created an unfair system and mean that vulnerable inmates would be likely to suffer injustice.
But Mr Justice Cranston and Lady Justice Rafferty ruled that, although they could understand the concerns of the two charities that the changes would result in "serious adverse affects" for prisoners, they did not consider that this constituted unlawful action.
"For the time being, the forum for advancing these concerns remains the political," the judgment said.
In response to the judgment, a joint statement from the two charities said they would take the case to the Court of Appeal.
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said the High Court had made "fundamental errors in its understanding of some of the key points".
She said: "The court completely failed to address how unfairness would not arise in particular situations where prisoners are unrepresented. These include parole board hearings where secret evidence is used against the prisoner, or other cases that turn on expert evidence that cannot be commissioned without legal representation and funding."
Deborah Russo, joint managing solicitor at the Prisoners’ Advice Service, said: "We intend to appeal against the judgment and will continue to press for these cuts to be reversed and for prisoners to be provided with adequate advice and representation to defend their legal rights."