Monday, 10 April 2017

Another Grayling Defeat!

Yet again the Howard League under Frances Crook has achieved a reversal of a Chris Grayling policy, leaving only the probation TR omnishambles to sort out. This from the Guardian:-  

Cuts to legal aid for prisoners ruled unlawful

The government has lost a key court of appeal battle over access to legal aid for prisoners in a ruling that campaigners have called a groundbreaking victory. Campaigners said the ruling vindicated their concerns that the system had become “inherently unfair” after the government stopped certain categories of prisoners from receiving criminal legal aid in 2013.

The Ministry of Justice’s refusal to provide funding has been overturned in three out of five categories, reversing cuts originally introduced by the former justice secretary, Chris Grayling, four years ago. The judicial review claim was brought by the Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prisoners’ Advice Service. The Equality and Human Rights Commission intervened to support their application.

Three judges – Lady Justice Gloster, Lord Justice Patten and Lord Justice Beatson – found that the way legal aid restrictions had been operating was unlawful in three separate areas of internal prison hearings: pre-tariff reviews by the Parole Board, category-A reviews, and decisions on placing inmates in close supervision centres.

Their unanimous judgment said: “The government’s decision to remove legal aid from the five categories of decision-making that are the subject of these proceedings by the 2013 [cuts] was made because it considers that there were adequate alternative means in place to ensure prisoners can participate effectively in areas in which support has hitherto been provided by legal advice and legal representation.

“The consequence is that almost no changes have been introduced to replace the gap left by the removal of legal aid. We have concluded that, at a time when ... the evidence about prison staffing levels, the current state of prisons, and the workload of the Parole Board suggests that the system is under considerable pressure, the system has at present not got the capacity sufficiently to fill the gap in the run of cases in those three areas.”

Welcoming the decision, Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said the decision would make the public safer: “It vindicates our concerns that cuts imposed by the former lord chancellor, Chris Grayling, in 2013 presented a grave risk that prisoners would become stuck in a broken system.

“This sends a clear message that important decisions about prisoners cannot be made efficiently or fairly in the face of these cuts. We look forward to hearing from the lord chancellor with her plans to give effect to the judgment,” she said.

Deborah Russo, joint managing solicitor of the Prisoners’ Advice Service, said: “This is an unprecedented and groundbreaking legal victory in which the vulnerability of the prison population is fully recognised as a key factor in its limited ability to access justice. Common law came to the rescue of a marginalised and often forgotten sector of our society.”

The legal challenge produced major concessions from the Ministry of Justice before the case came to court in January this year. They agreed that legal aid should be available in cases involving mother-and-baby units, resettlement issues, licence conditions and segregation through an exceptional funding scheme.

But this left five areas where the withdrawal of legal aid was causing problems: pre-tariff reviews by the Parole Board on whether the prisoner is suitable for a move to open conditions; categorisation reviews of category-A high-security prisoners; access to offending behaviour programmes and courses; disciplinary proceedings where no additional days of imprisonment or detention can be awarded; and placement in close supervision centres.

The 86-page ruling found that the withdrawal of legal aid was causing inherent or systemic unfairness in three of the these five areas, and that prisoners should have access to legal aid to pay for legal representation during pre-tariff reviews by the Parole Board, reviews of category-A high-security status, and decisions on placements within close supervision centres, which deal with the most disruptive and or dangerous prisoners.

Following the verdict, the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s chief executive, Rebecca Hilsenrath, said: “A hallmark of a democratic legal system is that it is fair and robust for all users. Without access to legal aid, prisoners with learning difficulties and mental illness would not be able to participate effectively in important decisions about their future, placing them at a significant disadvantage. We welcome today’s judgment that will ensure our legal system continues to provide legal help during these hearings.”

An MoJ spokesperson said: “We note the court of appeal’s judgment on changes made to legal aid regulations – introduced in 2013 – and will consider whether to appeal.”

The department is looking at alternative ways of ensuring that the system is not unfair. Such changes may involve means other than restoring legal aid.

25 comments:

  1. Well done to the Howard League. It's a shame there was no legal challenge regarding probation and TR cos it certainly wasn't fair.

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  2. Another interesting article

    Court ruling wipes away the last remnants of Grayling's MoJ legacy

    http://www.politics.co.uk/blogs/2017/04/10/court-ruling-wipes-away-the-last-remnants-of-grayling-s-moj

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    1. Chris Grayling's time as justice secretary and lord chancellor was not a happy period for those who lived and worked in the courts, the prison estate or the probation service. Time after time he forced through policies which were illiberal, impractical and seemingly scribbled up on the back of a matchbox. Typically, they tried to achieve undesirable aims by inept means.

      Many of them, like the prisoner book ban, were unpicked by judicial reviews - legal mechanisms by which members of the public can take ministers to court. It was for this reason that Grayling later tried to effectively dismantle judicial review. What he could not try to dismantle is the concept of being sacked and replaced. When this happened to him, Michael Gove became justice secretary and lord chancellor and quickly set to work unpicking much of the damage Grayling had done.

      But there were a few bits and pieces left over and today the court of appeal tried to brush them away. It ruled this afternoon that his attempt to remove prisoners' entitlement to legal aid was unlawful because they were inherently unfair.

      Grayling's policy was a response to the usual tabloid guff about prisoners getting free legal help to challenge court decisions on food and the like. It won't surprise you to learn that it was mostly nonsense. Prisoners could indeed use legal aid for a variety of issues but it was very tightly proscribed. The eligibility test meant that they had to be earning less than £99 a week and possess less than £1,000 in savings.

      Regardless, Grayling tried to limit the range of issues they could claim legal aid on. The only areas he left standing were release reviews by parole boards, independent adjudication for extra days and tiny sliver of cases where there was a problem of calculation of prisoners sentence. In all other areas, prisoners without the funds to pay lost any access to legal advice.

      Take mothers and babies units. These are prisons which hold mothers and their children up to 18 months. There are very few of these places available so in some cases a female prisoner who gives birth must be forced to give up her child for the duration of the sentence, because there is no space for her at the specialist prison. Before Grayling's reform, they could launch a legal challenge. After it, they could not.

      The same was true for decision to isolate or segregate prisoners. They were deprived of any free legal advice on challenging their status.

      Prisoners on indeterminate sentences lost the right to judicial review in cases where parole boards barred them going to an open prison. This is a crucial step towards eventual release which offers some hope that they might eventually see the light of day and the taxpayer might be able to stop paying for them to be locked up.

      The amounts saved were miniscule - we're talking about very modest levels. But the point of Grayling's reforms were never to actually work. They were supposed to look tough. And they did that. They just happened to be completely ineffective.

      Or they used to be. Now, after fighting the case since 2013, the Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prisoners’ Advice Service have managed to get rid of it. During the legal process, the government had already conceded on four areas of concern, as it grew increasingly dismayed at the mess made by Grayling. Now it is all gone.

      There is hardly any evidence left at of Grayling's period at the Ministry of Justice anymore. A torrid period for the department has now been largely wiped from the history books.

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    2. "Michael Gove became justice secretary and lord chancellor and quickly set to work unpicking much of the damage Grayling had done." Not quite... Gove quickly set to work saying he was going to do things, but his primary focus was on leaving the EU & moving into No.10.

      And its important to note there is a painful legacy & stacks of evidence remains of Grayling's abusive rampage through the MoJ - its like the aftermath of a highspeed train crash, with debris spread far & wide and many lives devastated.

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    3. re 21 08 yday, and Jim's addition of the whole article at 6 12 am today - the last paragraph is shockingly incorrect (as commented on by 8 50) - 'there is hardly any evidence of grayling's time at the Ministry of Justice anymore. A torrid period for the department has largely been wiped from the history books.'!!! Yes, much of his policies have been removed, but the very creation of TR, splitting into NPS and CRC with all its changes and catastrophic disasters has not been touched. Even his smug core mantra has barely even got off the ground - 'released and walking the streets with £47 in their pockets' would cease as they would be MET AT THE GATES, TAKEN TO ACCOMODATION AND HELPED TO GET A JOB, WITH PERSONAL ISSUES, DRUGS ETC ADDRESSED. What a bloody sick joke. The mantra now is '£49 and a leaflet' (and no to the blog comment about Ian Lawrence coming out with it at the Justice Committee meeting, he was not the first to say it, it was mentioned by someone on this blog before that.) And where have all the staff gone..... ? Has the writer of the article not noticed that??

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    4. The answer, ml, is 'No.' No-one has noticed - including politicians, journos, etc - because no-one really gives a rat's arse. Probation-as-was was always under the radar, low key, understated, modest to the point of clinically shy. On a number of occasions this blog has highlighted the path of probation's demise, from 1992 & the CJAct which turned probation into a political plaything, through the cessation of SW training in 1995/6, NOMS in 2003, Trusts in 2007 to the implementation of TR in 2013. NAPO lost its way from 2005 on as NOMS's stranglehold tightened & Trusts were hatched, with Ledger metaphorically & literally fumbling in the dark.

      I've been out of the profession for some time now but I had chance to have conversations with some who are either still hanging on or more recently departed, and they have revealed shocking conditions in which people are working - bullying, incompetence, lying, no equipment, no management, no office, dismissals, oeople frog-marched out of offices... These are all things written about on this blog at various times, but which I've now had first-hand accounts of. It is monstrous how the privateers are behaving towards staff and clients.

      One conversation was with an ex-colleague, now a senior manager, who thinks its all just fine & dandy. They seemed well, positive, content and spoke enthusiastically about their avhievements in the CRC...

      ... Interestingly, and without fail, that same person was named by others as a "major local problem" - variously referred to as a bully, a braggard who refuses to listen, rarely in the office, blames staff for everything, a liar & a fraud.

      A gaping chasm has opened up... is that where the simple truth has gone? Everywhere I look these days there are several varieties of truth. Take the US strikes on Syria. 59 tomahawk missiles were fired, but that's the only fact people can agree on. US say 58/59 landed on target. Russia say 23/59. Etc, etc...

      So Grayling's truth is not my truth - that much I Do know!

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    5. To put minds at ease, the now-manager has no idea about this blog's existence.

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  3. I agree with anon 20:14 it's such a travesty that no one as yet hasn't made any legal challenges against TR - I'd like to be hopeful ( however I'm not holding my breath ) that the Probation review along with the JSC findings really highlights what we are all experiencing and that the CRC's are not given anymore of our hard earned tax payers money.

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    1. ”and that the CRC's are not given anymore of our hard earned tax payers money.”

      Ha! Exactly the opposite will happen, even Napo are pressing for CRCs to get more money

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    2. Anon 21:24 Unfortunately I think you maybe right, from reading the PAC Q&A it was quite clear that their only answer to this train crash was to through more money at it. I am waiting to see what happens when I make a decision to hand in my notice, I detest working for CRC's never in my career have I witnessed a lack of dignity and bordering on cruelty in the way the CRC's have treated their staff, BASTARDS.

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  4. It was heart warming to read this post, if they can rule against legal aid they can rule against TR. Maybe those that were shafted should take the gov to task for loss of careers, unfair discrimination against those that were shafted. I recall reading that there was a disproportionate number of black, female and those over 50 that were shafted, the unions knew about this and did sweat all.

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  5. Anon 20:14 unfortunately the Howard League are not exactly fans of probation. But I agree that they have done well.

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  6. 'The Howard league are not fans of Probation'!!So how come they employ an executive advisor on their team who was a former chief probation officer pre TR? I think we could do well to develop stronger links with the Howard League and get them on board.

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    1. They employ two ex chief probation officers as trustees. One from Thames Valley and another from Somerset..so can hardly be anti probation. They have previously given awards pre TR. would be good to get them on board to help drive up standards. Just a thought!

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  7. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/apr/11/bullying-and-violence-grip-out-of-control-guys-marsh-jail-dorset

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  8. Culture of bullying and fear! Also brainwashing!

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  9. Off Piste I know... but you need an update on the lunacy that is Interserve and the now fabled Interchange Model....
    The CEO, young Mr Edwards and his now infamous blog; his updates have somehow managed to conflate the abject failure of Interserve to manage one of their contracts in their core role as facility management and subsequent loss of revenue with the service credits accrued by MCRC and CMCRC which are currently running in excess of 100 thousand pound sterling. How he manages to compare the failure to clean a toilet to a satisfactory standard with the production of an ISP that has a Risk Management Plan and good sentence plan in the same breathe is bewildering at best...

    He completely ignores; or if I am being kind; he cannot compute the serious high sickness rates, coupled with PSOs/POs leaving in droves... in tandem with those clueless Directors (ACOs) Interchange Managers (SPOs) who think that by cascading an email untouched or not explained sent from on high with a single note saying "Please action". Knowing the attachment being one of those heavy duty many paged documents they want you to pick the bones out of and somehow implement... and you know what the coal face does... F9 Delete.... If you can't be bothered to even try to explain in plain English what you want then it does not deserve my attention.... Off piste again with that rant but the latest offering from Interserve is that they want the flex teams (Pods, teams, units, in old money)to sort out amongst themselves , without any management oversight, no direction, no leadership, to reallocate case which may show as failing targets or cases that are 'drifting'. They want us to meet as flex team each week without any management involvement .. review their super duper Service Level Spreadsheets which are monitored by the poor old Case Coordinators (Case Admin , again in old money - there is a theme running here) and decide who should complete the ISP which is now too close to ignore as they are failing said target. The reason that the target is failing My dear Christopher, is because the ridiculous central focused Professional Service Centres (PSCs) are allocating new case to case managers at the start of their leave. So when they return from leave they ae faced with immediate failures.... Now the PSCs will blame the IMs (SPOs - Do keep up!!) for not completing their staffing spreadsheets which show who is available and who is not... but when the IMs have gone off sick or are trying their collective best to learn how to be facility managers (lets be honest, that is what they have turned into) who is in charge? Are the lunatics now running the asylum?... When I sit down and have a good old one to one with little Tommy Aikens during one of our RAR sessions ( Reality = A good old supervision session in old money).. We both end up sharing the same comfort blanket to get through our day... Just another day in the life... interRUPT, interFERE, interGALACTICAL, interMITTENT but very little (inter)service..

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    1. It's clearly time for a blog special on the fiasco/failure/debacle/disaster that is Interserve's Cheshire and Manchester ( and Merseyside , let's not pretend that's really separate) CRC - the very embodiment of cynicism with it's institutional disdain for the real needs of it's client group and a venomous contempt for the professional and personal integrity of what remains of it's workforce

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  10. Anon 22:39 absolutely spot on - Mr E is far too removed to actually care about staff - on one on his visits to offices where he wanted to be viewed as " a listener / doer / caring " all he kept banging on about was when " everything was working effectively then it would make life easier to be a offender manager " we told him to come back when this was actually happening and that due to the failure of the Interserve model and the stresses associated with it all staff were dropping like flies or hanging in by our finger nails - I'm sure this was resonated by staff in all offices he visited - the management of Interserve are like the 3 monkey's " hear no evil , see no evil , speak no evil " - so much for their motto " every one has a voice " - well as long as your saying what they want to hear !!.

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    1. I don't know how Chris can carry on being so deceitful, its like he knows the service has failed and can't offer anything to the staff but instead of admitting it he carry's on spouting nonsense, I used to think he was okay when he worked for the trust, but he has turned out to be a right pillock. Both him and his wife are doing very well thank you out of interswereve.

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    2. Anon 22:39 I think Mr E might have it right the interchange model and interswereve can be compared to a toilet.

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    3. The good thing about a toilet is the waste is removed and the noxious smells dissipate, whereas it seems as if MOJ, PAPS & CRC directors along with many probation managers are simply swilling and regurgitating most and leaving it land where it will whilst trying to avoid splashback themselves.

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  11. Working for Interserve's Manchester CRC is fucking awful.

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    1. 00:19 Spot on.

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    2. Worst thing about it is that the gov will throw more money at them to make our working lives more unbearable.

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