HMYOI Ashfield punished children unlawfully and breached Article 6 ECHR, High Court rules

Phillippa Kaufmann QC and Caoilfhionn Gallagher, instructed by the Howard League for Penal Reform, acted for seven boys imprisoned at the SERCO-run prison. In a judgment handed down today (Thursday 7 March 2013) Mrs. Justice Nicola Davies ruled that HMYOI Ashfield had violated the right to a fair trial protected by Article 6 ECHR. Staff failed to provide essential documents to prisoners or their legal representatives in advance of adjudication hearings, even when inmates faced the possibility of additional days' imprisonment. She criticised the prison for its "wholly inadequate system" for disclosing case papers and found that senior staff had a "woeful absence of knowledge" of their legal duties.


The seven boys were removed from association and kept in isolation after the incident. Two of them were placed in the segregation unit but five of them were subjected to an informal local 'shadow segregation' scheme, which SERCO operated at Ashfield. This scheme was referred to by SERCO as 'restriction on the wing' and involved the boys being confined to their cells for 23½ hours a day. The High Court has ruled that this scheme was unlawful. It was "segregation by another name, outwith the provisions of YOI Rule 49 and its critical safeguards."


A blanket ban from the gym was also imposed upon all the boys, for a two week period. The court has also found that this was a punitive measure, in breach of the YOI Rules and unlawful.


Read more: The Howard League's press release is available here: Coverage of the challenge is available here: BBC, ITV The Guardian


These seven children were also awarded additional days' imprisonment (90 days in total) by the Independent Adjudicator arising from the same incident. However his findings of guilt and the award of additional days were quashed by the High Court (Mr. Justice Singh) in May 2012. Caoilfhionn Gallagher represented the boys in their challenge against the Independent Adjudicator. She has also recently succeeded in having a guilty finding and additional days quashed for an eighth boy who was not part of the original claim. More background on the Howard League's challenge to the additional days is available here.

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