A new version of the prison rules came into force earlier this year. The prison rules (formally known as the ‘Prison Discipline Procedures’) govern prisoners’ behaviour in custody. A breach of the rules means that you’re hauled in front of the Prison Governor or, worse, a District Judge who can sentence you to additional days to be added to your sentence. This latest version of the rules has thrown up some interesting changes and we have highlighted the most relevant below.

  1. If prisoners request legal representation then the hearing MUST be adjourned

If during the initial hearing a prisoner requests legal advice then the matter must be adjourned. Under the old rules, the request only had to be considered by the Adjudicator.

  • Adjudication papers must be disclosed without delay

If a prisoner or their legal representative/ adviser request copies of the adjudication paperwork, the same must be provided by the prison without delay and at no cost. Previously, the rules only made provision for legal representatives to request copies of the adjudication paperwork directly, with legal advisers (ie. Those advising a prisoner but not attending any hearings) being forced to wait for the papers to be forwarded to the prisoner in question, who would then forward them to the legal adviser at the prisoner’s own expense. Neither did the old rules specify that the paperwork should be forwarded ‘without delay’. Given the tight timescales inherent in adjudications, these amendments are much appreciated.

  • The reasons for a hearing taking place in a prisoner’s absence MUST be recorded

Hearings must not be held in the absence of the prisoner concerned unless a narrow set of exceptions apply. The old rules made no provision for the recording of the reason why a hearing was proceeded within a prisoner’s absence, which in practice lead to vague justifications- such as ‘procedural reasons’– being inserted. This latest amendment will make it easier to ensure that charges are dismissed if the correct procedure has not been followed.

  • Guidance on ‘natural justice’ has been expanded

If a case remains unresolved for a prolonged period of time, Adjudicators are invited to consider whether ‘natural justice’ was being compromised. The old rules stated that this should be considered if the case is unresolved after six weeks from its beginning. The updated rules have removed this estimate and instead expanded on the meaning of ‘natural justice’.

  • The transfer of prisoners to another prison

The old rules were silent as to the appropriate course of action when a prisoner was transferred to another establishment. The new rules state explicitly that the adjudication paperwork should be sent to the new prison so that matters can continue. Provision is however also made for witnesses who have been transferred to other prisons to give evidence via video link, which is a marked change from the old rules.

WMB Law has over 10 years of experience in dealing with all aspects of prison law; from adjudications and recalls to sentence calculations and parole reviews. If you or someone you know requires assistance then please contact our office on 01952 291 100. We are also contactable by post at Kingsland House, Stafford Park 1, Telford TF3 3BD.