Prison Law lawyers | Swain & Co Solicitors

Prison Law

Success in landmark cases

Free Legal Aid available

Our prison law experts are at the forefront of developments in this area of law and regularly challenge the Ministry of Justice and other authorities.

As prison law lawyers, we are committed to defending and promoting prisoner’s rights throughout their sentences.

We are at the forefront of challenging the Secretary of State for Justice when prisons make unreasonable decisions. Similarly we are national leaders in helping prisoners prepare for and present their case to the Parole Board.

We have offices around the country which means that we can represent our prisoner clients wherever they happen to be based. If you have friends or family in need of prison law advice then please get in touch with us today.

“Swain & Co are members of the Association of Prison Lawyers and regularly contribute articles to prison law and prisoner’s rights. We have won landmark cases for our clients and for the benefits of all prisoners.”

Some of the areas which we deal with are as follows:

FREE LEGAL AID is available for most prisoners.  We have specialist legal aid contracts in prison law (Portsmouth/Havant, London & Liverpool) and Criminal Defence (in our Portsmouth/Havant Office).

Our prison law teams are experienced in providing expert representation for prisoners, for parole, adjudications, re-categorisation, recall and other areas.

We regularly contribute articles to prison law publications including Converse and Inside Time.

We aim to provide a comprehensive service for prisoners. This extends beyond pure prison law and includes advice and representation in respect of compensation claims (for medical mistakes and personal injury) as well as housing, mental health and community care.

Claims against the prison

We have a large prison law department that deals with all aspects of prison law. In addition, we also provide specialist advice to prisoners from all over the country in connection with claims against the prison, the Parole Board and the Probation Service, all of whom owe a duty of care to prisoners and to those who may have recently been released from prison.

At Swain & Co., we advise in connection with negligence claims against the prison by prisoners who have been assaulted by other prisoners. We also represent prisoners in bringing a claim for assault by prison officers who have acted beyond their power.

Claims against the prison may, in exceptional circumstances, involve a claim for false imprisonment. In other circumstances where prison officers have deliberately abused their powers, it may be possible to bring a claim for misfeasance in public office (i.e. where the prison officer intentionally or recklessly acted in such a way so as to maliciously cause harm to the individual prisoner).

We also provide advice and assistance in connection with claims under the Data Protection Act 1998. The prison and all Government bodies must comply with legislation relating to confidential information. Failure to do so means that the prisoner may bring proceedings for compensation subject to the prisoner being able to prove that an injury more than “mere distress” had been caused.

At Swain & Co., we provide specialist advice to released prisoners from all areas of the country for false imprisonment arising, for example, from an error in calculating the release date leading to the prisoner spending extra weeks and sometimes months in prison. Such claims must be brought within six years of the date the false imprisonment commenced.

In other circumstances, additional months may have been spent in prison which had been caused by a delay in the Ministry of Justice and/or the Parole Board in dealing with the Parole Board hearing. In such cases, it is possible to bring a claim for unlawful detention under the Human Rights Act. It is essential to contact a solicitor immediately because these claims must be brought within 12 months of the Parole Board’s decision to release the claimant.

Prisoners are also owed a duty of care by the prison to ensure that their living accommodation and place of work is safe. If injury is caused by the fault of the prison, then it may be possible to bring a personal injury claim against the prison involved. These claims must be brought within three years of the date of the accident.

Prison Law News

Why psychopaths are different?

Swain & Co’s prison law experts follow research in relation to psychiatric illness and a recent imaging study finds that psychopathic inmates have deficits in a key empathy circuit in the brain. Their brains are different and this opens up the possibility of treating this part of the brain.

Scientific American Mind reports that, Jean Decety, a psychologist at the University of Chicago, and his colleagues used functional MRI to scan the brains of 121 male prison inmates while they looked at photos of a painful moment, such as a foot stepping on a nail or a finger being smashed in a drawer. The inmates were instructed to imagine the scenario happening to themselves or to another person, a perspective-switching techniques that easily elicits empathy in most people.

Inmates who scored the highest on a standard psychopathy test showed a normal response in pain perception and brain centres for emotion when imagining the pain for themselves. Yet when asked to imagine the scenario happening to others, their brains did not show typical connectivity between the amygdal, an area important for fear and emotional processing, and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, a region vital for emotion regulation, empathy and morality. Some results even indicated that pleasure regions might have become active instead.

Swain & Co’s Prison lawyers argue that cognitive therapy should be tried and developed. Research may eventually allow a scan to show whether there is a change in the way the brain of some0ne responds. This could be crucial to assessing risk for parole.

Unexplained injuries in prison 

A prison in Norwich had been experiencing a period of unexplained injuries in its discharge wing. It has recently come to light that the cause of these injuries is suspected to be an internal fight club being run by inmates. A fight club has been set up for prisoners to pay off outstanding debts and to enforce authority within their ranks. Fight clubs are organised violence, where multiple persons attend a known venue at a known time to become involved in fights.

In Norwich there have been unexplained injuries in the prison as well as prisoners refusing to leave their cells. These factors point towards the use of intimidation by other inmates. This has resulted in tobacco and other goods being handed over to the leading and intimidating inmates. It is also believed that inmates are being pressured in to taking part in organised fights for entertainment and to pay off outstanding debts. Inmates are betting on the outcome of fights between fellow prisoners to make financial gains. The prisoners involved in these fights are categorised as low risk offenders and are serving sentences for less than 12 months. Similar accusations have been made in the past when materials were found within cells to make the gloves and bindings needed for fights, but this was not properly investigated.

The use of fight clubs is not unusual. They are known to exist in prisons all over the world especially in America. In Canada and America fight clubs have been known to exist and be encouraged by the guards who are meant to be looking out for inmates’ safety. The guards forced inmates into situations where they would fight, be this by riling the inmates up or putting rival gang members in the same room, and place bets on the outcome of the fight. Some of these fights ended in death. However, in the UK it has been reported that the prison guards played no part in the organised fights.


Portsmouth Prison Lawyers Worried by Warning Over Trend for Bigger Jails

Swain & Co’s prison lawyers are concern about the Chief Inspector of Prisons announcement that the Government plans to build bigger jails to hold more than 1000 inmates. These larger prisons are being built due to moves by the Government to save costs.

The move to larger jails has reportedly changed the culture inside the prisons. There has been an increase in fighting in some prisons with inmates organising fight clubs to pay off debts and allow other prisoners to bet on the outcome. The change in prison culture has also made rehabilitating inmates harder. With these changes the Chief Inspector of Prisons says there are increased risks that the number of assaults and suicide will increase if bigger prisons are built by the Government.

Currently there are over 20 prisons that hold more than 1000 inmates. This number is to increase if the Government’s policy of building bigger prisons continues. Swain & Co Solicitors offer leading prison law help and advice. If you, or a loved one, need advice on any aspects of prison law, then contact our prison law team who can provide help all other the country. Please do not hesitate to contact our prison law team 0800 0351 999, or simply visit our website


Disappointing news for prisoners as Court of Appeal backs whole life terms

The Court of Appeal has upheld judges’ rights to impose whole life tariffs for “exceptionally” serious offences.

The ruling follows the European Court of Human Rights judgment that whole life tariffs were unlawful, as they did not offer the possibility of review.

However, in the latest Court of Appeal ruling, the panel of five judges highlighted the fact that a whole life term could be reviewed at the discretion of the justice secretary, if the prisoner had shown exceptional progress.

They therefore concluded that the ECHR was wrong in assuming that a whole life tariff did not give offenders the possibility of being eligible for a parole review.

This was undoubtedly bad news for Ian McLoughlin, whose 40 year life term was increased to a whole life tariff by the Court of Appeal.

The court also dismissed an appeal by murderer Lee Newell that his whole life order was “manifestly excessive”.

Speaking after the ruling, Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas said, “….the law of England and Wales … does provide to an offender ‘hope’ or the ‘possibility’ of release in exceptional circumstances which render the just punishment originally imposed no longer justifiable”.

He also added that some crimes were “so heinous” they could only be dealt with by whole life terms and that this was compatible with the ECHR ruling.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve added that, in the case of Mr McLoughlin, the seriousness of the case was “exceptionally high” and the Strasbourg ruling had not done anything “which prevented our courts from handing down whole-life terms in the most serious cases”.

It will be interesting to see how this will affect the sentences handed out to Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, who were convicted in December last year of killing Fusilier Rigby in Woolwich, South-East London.    The judge in the case suspended passing sentence on them until after the Court of Appeal ruling.

Whatever the outcome, it remains clear that the UK government refuses to be dictated to by Brussels.


Criticism over banning sending books to prison

Chris Grayling has come under fire from prison campaigners and high profile authors for the regulations introduced in November 2013 which prevent prisoners having books sent in to them.

The new rules mean that prisoners can no longer receive packages from the outside world which contain certain items such as underwear, magazines and books. Despite heavy criticism Grayling has defended this decision on the basis that offenders need incentives to behave well and should engage in their own rehabilitation. Another element which is apparently relevant is that the restrictions are supposed to tackle the problem of contraband being smuggled into prisons.

Generally the new prison regulations are very unpopular and an online petition against the measures has gained 13,000 signatures. The director of the Prison Reform Trust has said, “Banning prisoners from receiving books in prison is just one of a number of mean and petty rules introduced by the justice secretary which add to the stress and strain of imprisonment while doing nothing to promote rehabilitation.” Others have stressed that education is a key way to ensure rehabilitation and that reading a broad spectrum of books can help facilitate this.

Grayling and those close to him are insisting though that prisoners still have access to the prison library and that they are seeking to change the culture in prisons so that privileges are earned and not a given.

Specialist Staff

Prison Law