HMP Stoke Heath Adjudications
Nottingham crime solicitor and prison law representative Louise Wright recently attended HMP Stoke Heath to represent one client several at an adjudication hearing, but ended up representing nearly everybody facing an adjudication that day.
Adjudications can have a serious impact upon each prisoner if proved. There is a risk that additional days will be added onto existing sentences, delaying release.
New Clients at HMP Stoke Heath
Although it is desirable to have advance notice of such hearing to allow preparation in advance, on this day Louise found herself dealing with back to back charges, all being challenged by the prisoners involved. The allegations spanned a range of alleged offences including:
- barricading of cells
- failing Mandatory Drugs Testing (MDT)
One prisoner faced 7 separate charges. Another one was said to have disobeyed a lawful order by refusing to attend for an MDT. The latter offence is particularly serious if proved as there is a starting point of 34 additional days to any existing sentence.
Random Drug Tests Must be Random
This prisoner had been subject to a MDT less than 4 weeks prior to the charge date. There was a concern that the prisoner was being subjected to ‘specific targeting’ in breach of the Prison Service Instructions (PSI). In order to explore this aspect of the case Louise requested a copy of the data relating to the random selection process, and requested the attendance of the MDT co-ordinator to deal with these key issues in evidence.
Louise had previously prepared a similar case, and was able to rely on her knowledge and argument here to successfully argue on the client’s behalf that the Prison Service was unable to prove that the MDT request was lawful. ‘Randomness’ is an essential prerequisite prior to submission to a random MDT. The charge was dismissed.
Procedural Irregularities Lead to Dismissal
A different prisoner had attended the MDT Suite but had been unable to provide a sample for testing. After 3 hours in the suite, he requested to be returned to his cell. As a result he was placed on report which could have resulted in a potential sentence of 42 additional days.
Louise took full instructions on the entire process from his collection from his cell to the point in which he was placed on report. As a result, she identified that there had been a breach of standing orders as her client had not been offered food and drink at specific and relevant times throughout the procedure. The Reporting Officer was questioned on this point and as a result a successful submission of no case to answer was made, based on this breach of procedure. The case was dismissed.
Louise had further successes throughout the day when numerous charges were dismissed for either breaches of procedure or because of gaps in the evidence given by officers.
Prison Officer Don’t Know Procedures
Her day highlighted the fact that many prison officers simply do not know procedure and the effect that this can have on whether a case can be proved. Unfortunately, without experienced legal representation it may be difficult for prisoners to identify relevant issues and put forward successful defences.
It will be clear to all clients that meet Louise that she is a fervent and passionate supporter of prisoner’s right’s. Each case she deals with is prepared meticulously. The starting point is always whether the prison service has behaved lawfully and within the rules.
Contact Louise Wright
If you or a family member need Louise’s help at HMP Stoke Heath or any other prison or Young Offenders Institution then please telephone her on 0115 9599550, write to her at 111 Carrington Street, Nottingham, NG1 7FE or email her here.