AS TO THE ADMISSIBILITY OF
Application No. 18187/91
against the United Kingdom
The European Commission of Human Rights (Second Chamber) sitting
in private on 10 February 1993, the following members being present:
MM. S. TRECHSEL, President of the Second Chamber
H. G. SCHERMERS
Sir Basil HALL
Mrs. G. H. THUNE
MM. F. MARTINEZ
Mr. K. ROGGE, Secretary to the Second Chamber
Having regard to Article 25 of the Convention for the Protection
of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms;
Having regard to the application introduced on 12 March 1991 by
C.W. against the United Kingdom and registered on 14 May 1991 under
file No. 18187/91;
Having regard to
- the report provided for in Rule 47 of the Rules of Procedure of
- the observations submitted by the respondent Government on
2 July 1992 and the observations in reply submitted by the
applicant on 10 October 1992;
Decides as follows:
The applicant is a British citizen. He was born in 1957. He is
currently detained at H.M. Prison Albany.
The facts, as submitted by the parties and as apparent from the
documents enclosed with the application may be summarised as follows.
On 20 February 1991 the applicant was sentenced to three years'
imprisonment for common assault. He had pleaded guilty to this offence
The applicant was transferred from H.M. Prison Norwich to H.M.
Prison Blundeston in March 1991.
At Blundeston there is a policy that prisoners should spend
13 weeks after induction in a workshop, unless medical reasons prevent
it. At his reception before the Prison Works Committee the applicant
was told that he would be expected to work in the print shop. The
applicant says that he stated that he would not work in the print shop
because his Vegan beliefs prevented him from working with animal tested
products (i.e. dyes).
On 13 March 1991, the applicant refused to go to work in the
print shop. He was charged with the disciplinary offence of disobeying
a lawful order contrary to rule 47 para. 19 of the Prison Rules. The
charge was dealt with on 19 March 1991 and a penalty of 2 days' loss
of remission imposed.
On 19 March 1991 the applicant was again charged with refusing
to obey an order to go to work. The penalty of stoppage of £ 1 of his
wages was imposed on 22 March 1991.
A further charge attracted the penalty of a £ 2 wage stoppage on
17 April 1991.
The Government state that in the above disciplinary proceedings,
the applicant made no mention of his Vegan beliefs. In a statement
read out on 19 March 1991, the applicant is recorded as saying:
"I will not try to pull the wool over your eyes with a load of
garbage in this matter. I will state clearly the reason why I
did refuse work in the print shop ...
I am not a person to work inside. I would rather lose all the
remission that I got than to be forced to work inside a factory
The applicant however submitted an internal complaint on 14 March
1991 about being required to work in the print shop. He protested that
he did not consider inside work suitable and that also his belief as
a Vegan prohibited working with products that are unnecessarily tested
on animals. By reply dated 19 March 1991 he was informed of the
relevant policy. In addition it was suggested to him that he submit
a change of labour form for the purposes of getting on a fresh-air
party. He was informed that when he had completed his 13 weeks in a
workshop and when he had reached the top of the relevant waiting list,
his application would be considered. It appears that the applicant did
not submit a change of labour form. The applicant submitted a further
complaint on 27 March 1991. By reply dated 16 April 1991 he was
informed that until he submitted a change of labour form an application
for outside work would not be considered. The applicant submitted
another complaint on 24 April 1991. By reply dated 30 April 1991 the
applicant was reminded of the relevant policy and told that since he
was in solitary confinement his complaint relating to workshops was
From 18 April 1991, the applicant had been placed in segregation
under rule 43 of the Prison Rules, after which he was not under an
obligation to work in the print shop. The Government state that he was
removed from association as a result of his conduct in making threats
to staff and to foment a riot. Before his transfer to another prison,
he was convicted of further disciplinary offences, including 2 assaults
on prison officers and setting fire to his cell.
On 6 September 1991, the applicant was transferred to another
On 11 February 1992, the applicant wrote to the Home Secretary,
who by reply of 1 May 1992 stated that he was satisfied after detailed
enquires that the dyes used are of organic or synthetic pigments and
that they are not tested on animals.
By letter dated 29 March 1991, the Vegan Society informed the
applicant that although the majority of printing dyes are synthetic
they will have been tested on animals at some stage.
The applicant applied for leave to appeal against his sentence.
He was refused leave to appeal by a single judge of the Court of
Appeal. After this refusal he applied to the Full Court of Appeal.
His application was rejected on 13 November 1991.
The applicant complains of the policy at H.M. Prison Blundeston
whereby he was required to work in the prison print shop. He also
complains of the loss of remission and the fines imposed on him for his
refusal to work in the print shop.
He also complains about his sentence, that his application for
leave to appeal was hampered by the prison authorities in that he has
not been permitted phone calls or appropriate forms and in that he has
been denied access to the prison legal aid officer and that visits by
his solicitor have been stopped.
PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE COMMISSION
The application was introduced on 12 March 1991 and registered
on 14 May 1991.
On 2 April 1992, the Commission decided to communicate the
application to the respondent Government and to ask for written
observations on the admissibility and merits of the application insofar
as it concerned Article 9 of the Convention.
The Government's observations were submitted on 7 July 1992 after
one extension in the time-limit and the applicant's observations in
reply were submitted on 10 October 1992 also after one extension in
1. The applicant complains that he was obliged to work in the print
shop and punished for failing to do so despite his Vegan beliefs.
The Government submit that the applicant has failed to exhaust
domestic remedies in respect of his complaint since he did not complain
to the Board of Visitors. The Commission notes however that the Board
of Visitors has only the power to make recommendations to the Governor.
It finds therefore that this avenue of redress does not constitute a
remedy which is adequate or sufficient for the purposes of Article 26
(Art. 26) of the Convention.
The Commission has therefore examined the applicant's complaints
under Article 9 (Art. 9) of the Convention, which provides:
"1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience
and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion
or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others
and in public or in private, to manifest his religion or belief,
in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
2. Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs shall be
subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are
necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public
safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or
for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others."
The Commission recalls that the applicant refused to work in the
print shop because as a Vegan he wished to avoid contact with animal
products or products which had been tested on animals. The Commission
notes that the Government do not contest that Veganism is capable of
concerning "conscience" or "belief" within the meaning of Article 9
(Art. 9) of the Convention. The Commission's case-law establishes that
this provision protects the sphere of private, personal beliefs and the
acts which are intimately linked to these attitudes (see e.g. No.
10358/83, Dec. 15.12.83, D.R. 37, p. 142). The Commission finds that
the Vegan convictions with regard to animal products fall within the
scope of Article 9 para. 1 (Art. 9-1) of the Convention.
The Government allege however that the applicant's Vegan beliefs
were not the primary reason for his refusal, rather his desire to work
outdoors; they refer in this respect to the records of the disciplinary
proceedings, in particular, the prepared statement which he made in
those proceedings and in which he made no reference to his Vegan
beliefs. The Commission notes however that the applicant had expressly
invoked the requirements of his Vegan beliefs in written complaints to
the prison authorities before and contemporaneously with the
disciplinary proceedings. The Commission therefore finds that a motive
of his refusal, though apparently not the only motive, was his Vegan
The Government further deny, in any event, that the dyes in the
workshop had been manufactured out of animal products or tested on
animals. The applicant, in support of his objection, has only provided
a letter from the Vegan Society informing him that most dyes used had
been tested on animals at some stage.
However, even assuming that the above facts disclose an
interference with the applicant's rights under Article 9 (Art. 9) of
the Convention, the Commission finds such interference to be justified
under the second paragraph of that provision for the reasons set out
Concerning the requirements of the second paragraph of Article
9 (Art. 9) of the Convention, the Commission finds that the
interference was "prescribed by law" in that any requirement to work
is contained in the Prison Rules and pursued the aim of preserving good
order in the prison.
The Government submit that it is necessary to have a system of
allocation of work which is perceived to be fair and without
favouritism and that as a result prisoners inevitably do not enjoy free
choice of employment. The Commission recalls that all prisoners were
generally required to work in the print shop for a period of 13 weeks
after which time other employment was available. It notes the factual
conflict as to the nature and extent of the connection between the dyes
and animals, the fact that it was only one of the applicant's reasons
for refusing the work and also the relatively minor nature of the
penalties imposed on the applicant for refusing to comply with the
normal work regime.
In these circumstances, the Commission finds that the principle
of proportionality has not been infringed and to the extent that there
has been an interference, the interference is justified under paragraph
2 of Article 9 (Art. 9-2) of the Convention.
It follows that this complaint is manifestly ill-founded within
the meaning of Article 27 para. 2 (Art. 27-2) of the Convention.
2. The applicant also complains of a number of other matters,
including the length of his sentence, and of alleged obstruction by the
prison authorities in the conduct of his appeal, in particular in the
restriction of phone calls, access to the prison legal aid officer and
visits from his solicitor.
As regards the length of his sentence, the Commission notes that
the applicant was sentenced to a period of 3 years imprisonment for
assault. It finds nothing in the facts of the case to indicate that
this in any way discloses a violation of any of the provisions of the
Convention. It follows that this complaint is manifestly ill-founded
with the meaning of Article 27 para. 2 (art. 27-2) of the Convention.
As regards the applicant's complaints that he was obstructed in
his appeal, the Commission is not required to decide whether or not the
facts alleged by the applicant disclose any appearance of a violation
of this provision as, under Article 26 (Art. 26) of the Convention, it
may only deal with a matter after all domestic remedies have been
exhausted according to the generally recognised rules of international
The Commission notes that the applicant did not complain of these
matters to the Secretary of State. Moreover, an examination of the
case as it has been submitted does not disclose the existence of any
special circumstances which might have absolved the applicant,
according to the generally recognised rules of international law, from
raising his complaint in the proceedings referred to.
It follows that the applicant has not complied with the condition
as to the exhaustion of domestic remedies and his complaints must in
this respect be rejected under Article 27 para. 3 (Art. 27-3) of the
For these reasons the Commission unanimously
DECLARES THE APPLICATION INADMISSIBLE.
Secretary to the Second Chamber President of the Second Chamber
(K. ROGGE) (S. TRECHSEL)