1 November 2006
In the first settlement of its kind, the Prison Service
has been forced to transfer
a prisoner to a prison closer to the family home
in order to allow his wife, who suffers from a range of serious health problems
, to visit him. The Prison Service agreed to this transfer two days before the issue was to be heard in the High Court and have also agreed to pay all of the wife’s legal costs.
Mrs C has been married to Mr C for over 26 years and, since his imprisonment in 2002, has tried to visit him weekly at the various prisons in South East England to which he has been transferred. She considers this to be important as Mr C also suffers from a range of serious health problems, which cause him considerable pain, anxiety and depression and she believes that these visits improve Mr C’s mood.
Mrs C suffers from a range of serious and long-standing health problems, including chronic renal failure, renal stone disease, chronic pylonephritis, hypertension, gout, back and leg pain, bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome and depression. These various health problems make it extremely difficult to travel long distances from the family home in Croydon, South London to visit her husband.
Despite this, the Prison Service transferred Mr C from HMP Wandsworth to HMP Parkhurst, a prison establishment on the Isle of Wight in April 2006. It is almost impossible for Mrs C to visit her husband using public transport. Even on the occasions when other family members are able to take her by car, it is a 12-hour round trip and the travel causes her considerable pain and leaves her exhausted.
Mrs C’s GP, treating hospital doctor and an independent medical expert instructed by this firm, all confirmed that the need for Mrs C to travel long distances to visit her husband were adversely affecting her health. They all considered that it would be beneficial to Mrs C’s health if her husband was moved to a prison close to the family home. In addition, Mr C’s treating doctors also confirm that it would be beneficial for his health if he was moved to a prison closer to the family home that made it easier for his wife to visit him.
Leigh Day & Co issued judicial review proceedings in early May 2006 against the Secretary of State for the Home Department (the Home Secretary) in relation to the refusal of the Prison Service to transfer her husband to a prison establishment closer to the family home in Croydon, South London.
It was argued that the Secretary of State for the Home Department has failed to properly consider allocating Mr C to a prison closer to the family home and that that this failure breaches Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to respect for private and family life).
It was also argued that the failure to transfer Mr C to a prison closer to the family home amounted to disability discrimination on the basis that the Prison Service’s practices in relation to the allocation of prisoners to prison establishments made it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled persons to make use of the service and had failed in its duty to take reasonable steps to change these practices.
In late May 2006 a Judge in the Administrative Court considered the matter and granted permission for the judicial review challenge to proceed to a full hearing. The full hearing of Mrs C’s challenge was due to take place on 2nd November 2006.
Two days before the hearing, the Prison Service agreed to settle the matter by transferring Mr C back to HMP Wandsworth. They have also agreed to pay Mrs C’s legal costs
For further information, please contact Sean Humber
of the Human Rights Department on 020 7650 1200.
Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.