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COVID-19 letter before claim: Update from the Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prison Reform Trust

On Tuesday 28 April 2020 the government’s lawyers responded to our letter before claim threatening judicial review proceedings. The challenge centred on the Secretary of State for Justice’s failure to release people from prison despite the government’s announcement of 4 April 2020 that this was required in response to Covid-19.

The letter is very detailed and demonstrates that serious thought and consideration has been given to answering our concerns. In the lead-up to the response a large amount of information that was not previously in the public domain has been made publicly accessible, as we had requested.

This includes:

The letter brings together the totality of action that the government says it is taking, which includes the continuation of some releases alongside other measures being taken in prisons, and provides some clarification as to its current plans. While it is not a complete answer to our concerns, the information provided to us means that it will not be necessary for us to proceed to a judicial review at this time. We will continue to correspond with the Secretary of State about our concerns.

It is a real concern that two charities had to threaten legal action to receive this information. For prisoners and their families, openness and transparency is critical. For that reason, we have asked that the Secretary of State permits us to make his letter, along with the additional information that we have been provided with, publicly available.

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