Sara-Jayne Pritt is Head of Prison Law, Public Law and Crime at Swain & Co Solicitors.
Sara joined Swain & Co in 2008 and qualified as a Solicitor in April 2010, becoming an Associate in 2013. She studied Law at the University of Central Lancashire obtaining a 2:1.
She is an expert and committed Solicitor specialising in Prison and Public Law. Her work is concentrated on publicly funded clients who are detained in custody with a focus on indeterminate sentence prisoners, guiding them through their sentence and representing them at hearings before the Parole Board.
Sara has successfully handled a range of leading cases in relation to Judicial Review. These cases have significantly increased the rights of prisoners. Sara is a passionate advocate and is committed to fighting to ensure that prisoners can progress through the prison system.
Feedback on Sara's work:
'I recently instructed Sara Pritt and felt I had to drop you a line to express my thanks to her through yourself Graeme Swain, managing partner. I have wasted my time so often with mediocre solicitors who I have found on so many levels inadequate. Sara is different. She has a real talent. Not only has she clearly grasped what needed to be done she has got on and done the job. I have not found the need to chase her or remind her. She has been decisive and committed and very patient with a client who i know can be difficult.'Roberts
'Dear Sara, Just to say a big thank you for all you did for me. thank you again.'J.C.
A small selection of cases Sara has handled:
Client's human rights breached by delays of Parole Board and compensation awarded
Vijay Jagadesham, Barrister says of the case: “…Swain & Co has been at the forefront of the protection of prisoners’ rights, with the hugely significant case of R (Pennington) v The Parole Board .”
It was held that there was unexplained Parole Board delay in issuing directions and in reaching its decision in respect of a prisoner. The Parole Board ordered release. This constituted a breach of Article 5(4) entitling the Claimant to damages.
Our client was awarded damages arising out of some three months delay on the part of the Parole Board. This case established important principles of confirming that our client's human rights were breached and also the level of compensation to be paid for a breach of this nature. It was established that the domestic court must apply the principles of the Strasbourg Court. The Court should not apply domestic scales of damages based on tort law, as the HRA is not a ‘tort statute’ and generally, any award of damages should be modest, in line with the approach to quantum adopted by the Strasbourg Court.
R (on the application of Guittard) v The Secretary of State for Justice (2009) EWHC 2951
Counsel in the case comments: “Swain and Co was also responsible for bringing a judicial review which exposed the longstanding fettering of discretion by the Secretary of State for Justice in relation to his management of indeterminate sentence prisoners. That case led to a fundamental change in policy and management of such prisoners…”
In this judicial review, the Administrative Court found that the Secretary of State for Justice had acted unlawfully by failing to consider the transfer of IPP prisoners to open conditions outside of a parole review i.e. without a Parole Board review and recommendation.
The Court granted a declaration to that effect, and ordered that the Defendant decide whether the Claimant’s circumstances are sufficiently compelling or exceptional, such that he should be transferred to open conditions without a Parole Board recommendation.
At the time, our client was an IPP prisoner, whose minimum term expired on 31 December 2009. His target oral hearing date was set for February 2010. Probation and prison service personnel supported his move to open conditions since June 2009.
In August 2009, we requested that the Defendant transfer our client to open conditions immediately, outside of his parole review. The Defendant failed to respond to the request.
The Court found that the Defendant had adopted an unduly rigid and unlawful approach to the transfer of IPP prisoners to open conditions; :
“....I conclude that PSO 6010, being the only document/evidence relied on by D in this regard, does not evince a true discretion to depart, in exceptional circumstances, from the general policy of referring to the Parole Board the question of transfer of IPP prisoners from closed to open conditions. The reality is, as I find, that D has unlawfully fettered the discretion which he must have. In the alternative, there is no evidence that in practice any proper consideration is given to the exercise of the discretion, a fact amply borne out by the inadequate response in this case to the letters of 12th August 2009.”
HHJ Stewart pointed out that even though the Defendant had accepted that he had a discretion to consider the transfer of IPP prisoners to open conditions, without a Parole Board review/recommendation, no-one knew about this discretion; [23(iv)]: “That the relevant discretion actually exists is something which should be apparent not only to Defendant’s officers but also to anyone else e.g. IPP prisoners themselves and those acting for them.”
JP – Grossly post tariff IPP
Obtained re-release after he was found NG of new allegations. Positive as the PB Panel took the NG verdict on face value without applying a lower threshold test of balance of probabilities and did not impose unnecessarily restrictive licence conditions (inc a second exclusion zone) as the client had not been found G of an offence in that area.
IO – Recalled IPP
Completed wealth of OBW years ago, however, it was identified that primary area of risk was mental health, previously granted cat D, but open conditions reacted hastily in returning to closed estate as JP was to receive disappointing news and was pre-empting a negative reaction. PB directly released from closed despite JP having no support for direct release.
AH- Cat A PB review
AAH significantly post tariff lifer, detained for years on cat A, lots of SIRs but no adjudications re violence towards staff were followed through with, undoubtedly the allegations could have had an adverse impact on the PB review as likened to OPB. However, PB took a balanced approach to the SIRs and concluded that he was well aware of risk factors and had demonstrated through other incidents that risk was being well managed and there was no credence to the allegations as there was little evidence to support.
WT – recalled lifer
Lifer who had been in the community a significant period of time was recalled for missing probation appointments with a new probation area. PB took a very relaxed approach towards WT and was happy for him to be re-released to a residential address and was very critical of probation’s knee jerk reaction which led to depravation of liberty for nearly a year.
AF – terminally ill lifer
Lifer subject to handcuffing procedures when attending outside hospital for cancer treatment was successfully challenged.
MJ – elderly IPP
Elderly IPP was who was granted direct release by the PB despite the OM and OS only being supportive of open conditions was left waiting for an appropriate AP release address for over 6 months after the PB’s positive decision, JR proceedings were instigated and MJ was successfully released into the community with the door open to pursue compensation claim for depravation of liberty.
Massey – successful appeal
Successful appeal to the SCUK regarding prisoners’ Article 5 rights – the right to rehabilitate themselves.
SC – successful IPP
Sara successfully represented a post tariff IPP successful in obtaining direct release into the community without the need to be tested in open conditions.
AA – successful oral hearing
Sara represented AA at a Category A oral hearing, following which at 31 years in the high security estate, he was downgraded and received his category B status.
MH – successful IPP
Sara represented a post tariff IPP who struggled to access offending behaviour work, the Parole Board considered that the conventional and mainstream courses were not a necessity for every prisoner to demonstrate a reduction in risk as was the case for MH. MH was recommended for a progressive move to open conditions.
Recalled IPP obtains direct release from closed conditions.
Sara successfully represented AM at a parole hearing in closed conditions following a recall to custody.
IPP who failed open conditions 5 times obtains direct release.
Sara successfully represented AS at a parole hearing in closed conditions, after he was returned for the fifth occasion. AS was successful in his application for direct release.
IPP with no release address successfully obtains release.
Sara successfully represented PE at his parole hearing in closed conditions following his return to closed conditions for the second time. PE was successful in his application for direct release, despite not being eligible for a placement at approved premises, given that there was no alternative release address, the Parole Board directed his release to an approved premises as it was considered that his risk was manageable in the community.