The following PIN (prisoners infromation notice) as just been issued by the prison service (Nov 2103) and gives some guideance, but as we have said before it ALWAYS make sense to check with a real legally qualified expert
“Changes to Legal Aid
On 2 December 2013 criminal legal aid for prison law will be changing. This note explains what issues may still be given criminal legal aid.
Please note: These changes to criminal legal aid do not affect whether you can get civil legal aid. Civil legal aid is a different type of legal aid and includes legal aid to bring a judicial review.
Which cases might be given criminal legal aid?
ü If you are serving a fixed-term sentence or a Detention and Training Order, and you think your release date has been calculated incorrectly AND the prison/YOI’s internal complaints system has not solved the issue for you;
ü If you are serving an indeterminate sentence, and you think that the date for your referral to the Parole Board has been calculated incorrectly AND the prison/YOI’s internal complaints system has not solved the issue for you;
ü Cases before the Parole Board IF the Board are considering whether to direct your release (this does not include a recommendation about a transfer or a return to open conditions).
ü Disciplinary cases that involve a criminal charge, which means that you will have a hearing before the Independent Adjudicator; and
ü Disciplinary cases where your Adjudicating Governor has decided your case being heard by him/her meets certain conditions that mean you can have a lawyer present.
Which cases will not receive criminal legal aid?
All other case types will not receive criminal legal aid. This includes all cases related to your ‘treatment’ in prison or young offender institution (e.g. living conditions, treatment by staff, communications and visits) and most cases related to your sentence. There are no exceptions; these rules are the same for all prisoners/young offenders.
When will the changes come into effect?
The new rules will come into effect on 2 December 2013. If you make an application for criminal legal aid for a prison law matter before then, the new rules will not apply to you.
For your application to count as being made before 2 December, you must do the following.
If your application relates to your treatment in prison or the young offender institution:
a) your lawyer must sign and date the application form before 2December 2013 and the form must be received by the Legal Aid Agency by 5:00pm on 2 January 2014
b) you must make your application for criminal legal aid over the telephone to your lawyer before 2December 2013. Your lawyer must then sign and date the application form and it must be received by the Legal Aid Agency within 30 days of the date you made the telephone call.
If your application relates to any other issue:
a) you must sign and date the application form before 2December 2013
b) you must make your application for criminal legal aid over the telephone to your lawyer before 2December 2013. You must then sign and date the application form and it must be received by your lawyer within 30 days of the date you made the telephone call.
What happens if a case isn’t eligible for criminal legal aid?
If you have a treatment or sentence issue that is not eligible for criminal legal aid, you should use the prison/YOI complaints procedure.
You can do this by:
- Speaking to a member of staff to see if the issue can be dealt with informally.
This might include a Medical Officer or Chaplain. You can also speak to a member of the local Independent Monitoring Board (you can do this at any stage).
- If this does not address the issue satisfactorily, fill in a complaint form (COMP 1).
This can be found on your wing. Put it in the brightly coloured box marked ‘Complaints’. If you find it too difficult to write your complaint, you can say it out loud for a member of staff to write down. When you are given the response to your complaint, staff should help you if you do not understand the reply.
If your complaint is about a very serious or sensitive issue, and you don’t want the prison officers on your wing to know about it, you can use the confidential access complaint form (COMP 2). This allows you to write directly to the Governor of the prison, Deputy Director of Custody, or Chair of the Independent Monitoring Board instead. COMP 2 forms are pink and can be found on your wing or in your residential area, with an envelope to put the form in before it goes in the ‘Complaints’ box.
- If the issue has not been satisfactorily resolved in the response to your COMP 1 complaint, you can appeal by filling in an appeal form (COMP 1A).
Your complaint will then be looked at again by someone at a higher level. This step does not apply to a confidential access complaint (COMP 2) because it has already been seen by senior staff. To appeal a COMP 2 response, go straight to step 4 below.
- If the COMP 1A or COMP 2 response still doesn’t address the issue satisfactorily, you can take your complaint to the independent Prisons and Probation Ombudsman.
You can find out more about how to do this by reading the How to complain to the Ombudsman posters and leaflets, which are displayed in prison libraries, reception and on prisoner notice boards.
More detailed information about making a complaint (and an easy read leaflet called ‘Information for Prisoners: Making Complaints’) can be found in PSI 02/2012 (Prisoner Complaints), which is available in the prison library, or you can talk to a member of staff. Young offenders can ask for extra help from advocates in their YOI.
Please note: If you are a Category A prisoner and you have a categorisation issue, you should follow the process described in PSI 08/2013 (The Review of Security Category – Category A / Restricted Status Prisoners) instead of using the complaints system. PSI 08/2013 is available in the Prison Library.
For Parole Board cases and disciplinary cases that are no longer eligible for criminal legal aid, the process will be the same as before. You will be able to make representations at an oral hearing (or written representations if your case does not have an oral hearing), but the difference is that you will not be given criminal legal aid to get advice from a lawyer or to have a lawyer represent you.
If you have enough money, you can of course pay for legal advice (and legal representation, if it is allowed at your hearing) yourself. If you don’t know what will happen at a disciplinary hearing, you can ask a member of staff to print out a leaflet for you called Prisoner adjudication information sheet and prisoner’s statement. Adjustments will be made at the hearings to make sure you understand the process and the outcome, and you should tell someone if you do not understand something.”