POA Circulars

94 | 15.08.2014

Judicial Review: Overcrowding

Further to POA Circular’s 72 and 75/2014 the POA wrote on the 18th July 2014 a letter to the Secretary of State for Justice, in accordance with the pre action protocol for Judicial Review pertaining to NOMS intent to further overcrowd certain public sector prisons, in order to achieve a temporary increase in their operational capacity from 1st August 2014 and that their decision was irrational and that we had a legitimate right to be consulted.

The Secretary of State for Justice has responded to the pre-action protocol letter by a letter from Treasury Solicitors dated 1st August 2014.

In essence the Secretary of State contends that:

  1. POA did not have a legitimate expectation of consultation in relation to the substance of the decision.
  2. All other possible options for dealing with the capacity problems had been considered and implemented in so far as practicable. The move to further overcrowding was the only remaining practicable solution to the urgent capacity problems in the weeks and months after 1st August 2014 was safe. The decision was not therefore irrational.

That in essence would have been their defence against the test of legitimate expectation and irrationality.

The National Executive Committee at it’s meeting on 13th August 2014, considered the Treasury Solicitors response and decided to discontinue legal action through a Judicial Review. We were delighted that NOMS have conceded that “Once the Operational Capacities have been determined by the DDC, it is for the Governor of each prison to determine whether or not safe systems of work are in place to manage the additional population. Governors are required to engage with the POA in determining this issue”.

The NEC were always clear that it is not the POA who set operational capacities but the Employer, however they must ensure our working conditions are not unsafe or make it impossible for POA members to perform their duties.

It is absolutely clear that safe systems of work must be done and Governors at those affected prisons required to take additional prisoners due to further overcrowding are required to engage with the POA, in determining those safe systems of work.

The Executive are pleased that common sense has prevailed and stops both parties expending money on costly litigation. This is a sensible conclusion and demonstrates once again that the NEC will not allow the Health and Safety of our members or indeed those in our charge become endangered without challenge.

We now expect adequate safe systems of work at those establishments affected to be in place and engagment at local level with the POA.

Yours sincerely

General Secretary