QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
THE ADMINISTRATIVE COURT
London WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
|THE QUEEN ON THE APPLICATION OF LOWE|
|GOVERNOR HMP LIVERPOOL|
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Mr V Sachdeva (instructed by Treasury Solicitors, London SW1) appeared on behalf of the Defendant
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"... helps to ensure that they do not escape or abscond or threaten the control of establishments. It also means that prisoners are not held in conditions of security higher than necessary.
... The correct categorisation ... balancing security issues and the needs of the prisoner, helps prisoners to use their sentences constructively, to tackle their offending behaviour and to prepare for release."
It seems therefore that matters need to be looked at from both sides; both from the view of the State in ensuring that prisoners do not escape and do not disrupt a prison establishment, but also from the view point of the prisoner who wants to use his time in prison constructively and to prepare for his or her release.
"Prisoners must be categorised objectively according to the likelihood that they will seek to escape and the risk that they would pose should they do so."
It also provides that every prisoner must be placed in the lowest security category necessary for the needs of security and control.
"With the passage of time or changes in circumstances, prisoners may become more or less of a risk to the public and/or more or less likely to escape. Regular reviews of prisoners' security categorisation help ensure that prisoners are held in conditions of security commensurate with the risk they pose.
All prisoners, other than those serving less than 12 months, must have their security category reviewed at regular intervals, or whenever there is a significant change in their circumstances (eg attempted escape, reduction of sentence on appeal, removal of a deportation order, et cetera)."
Prisoners serving more than a four year term must be considered annually.
"The aim of the recategorisation is to use this information to establish whether there has been any clear change in the risk the prisoner poses. More specifically, staff must answer two important questions: (1), is the prisoner more or less of a risk to the public than when he was first categorised; and (2), is he now more or less likely to escape or abscond."
"Some prisoners may need to have their security category reviewed outside the normal review cycle, and often at short notice, because of a sudden change in their circumstances."
"In all cases the form RC1 must be used to record in full detail how the prisoner's circumstances have changed since his last review and why his current security category and allocation are no longer appropriate."
"... in the planning process the previous history in connection with the site, including decisions in connection with the site, are material considerations, but anybody having any power to reach a decision in connection with the site at a subsequent date has a discretion. The discretion must be exercised in accordance with their own judgment. The requirement for consistency does not mean that they must be slaves to the previous decision and are in any sense bound by it, or must therefore come to the same conclusion. Their judgment and discretion is informed but not fettered by the history."
He went on to say that because of the importance to be attached to consistency, decision makers should not depart from a previous decision without realising the importance to be attached to it and, when departure occurs, reasons for departure must be given. The judge examined those reasons, found them to be unsatisfactory and quashed the decision.
"Mr Singh relies upon the need for consistency in administrative decisions. He submits that it is unlawful to make apparently inconsistent decisions without giving a good explanation. Mr Singh describes the second decision as irrational but, upon analysis, this was another way of submitting that reasons for the grant ought to have been given He accepts that opposing views could reasonably be held on the central planning issue. It is the attack upon the absence of reasons for the grant which is the essential basis of Mr Singh's submissions."
Then the court went on to consider submissions about the absence of reasons.
"Given the substance and purpose of the legislative provisions governing parole, the most that a convicted prisoner can legitimately expect is that his case will be examined individually in the light of whatever policy the Secretary of State sees fit to adopt provided always that the adopted policy is a lawful exercise of the discretion conferred upon him by the statute."
Again, the facts of this case are somewhat different, but the point that Mr Weatherby draws out is that there is an expectation that if a policy has been issued by the Secretary of State that a person's rights will be governed and dealt with in the light of that policy.
"... I would venture to formulate the modern approach to a departmental policy document, whether published or not, in this way:
(a) The legal principle of consistency in the exercise of public law powers ... creates a presumption that in the ordinary way the Secretary of State, through his officials, will follow his own policy. This presumption corresponds with the practical purpose of such an internal policy, which is precisely to secure consistency of approach -- in this case among officers administering paragraphs 364 and 365 of the Immigration Rules (HC 395). If there is to be departure from the policy, there must be good reason for it ... I would add that the impact of such a departure in a case otherwise within this particular policy is almost certainly such as to demand that reasons be given."
"The original decision to recategorise you from B to C by HMP Lowdham Grange was flawed and you have not spent sufficient time as a category B prisoner given your length of sentence in line with PSO 0900."