How to complain about your treatment in prison, and where to turn next.
Our specialist Civil Liberties lawyers at Saunders have brought a range of successful civil claims for compensation on behalf of prisoners who have been mistreated, injured or discriminated against in prison. We can also help you to challenge ongoing mistreatment or unlawful decisions through a judicial review application to court.
Should a prisoner find themselves in such a situation, their first port of call should be the prison’s internal complaints system. Often, we cannot help until the individual has tried making a prison complaint themselves.
Making a Complaint About a Prison: The 3 Stages
There are three stages to making a complaint:
- COMP1 complaint forms should be available to all prisoners on the wing. Submit the COMP1 in the locked boxes provided on the wing. Complaints should be made no more than 3 months after the incident. Prisoners should get a reply within 5 working days, although if the complaint is complex a full response may take longer.
- If the response is unsatisfactory or no response is received after 5 working days, the COMP1A complaint appeal form can be submitted. The deadline to submit the COMP1A is one week from the complaint outcome. The person complaining must clearly state why they did not find the response satisfactory, and it will then be reviewed by someone at management level.
- If the response is still unsatisfactory, the prisoner can pursue the appeal to an independent body. They can complain to the prison’s Independent Monitoring Board (‘IMB’), and a local volunteer should help to get the complaint resolved. They can also complain to the Prison and Probations Ombudsman (‘PPO’), who is completely separate from the prison. Unfortunately, the PPO is not always able to deal with complaints quickly.
Although the complaints system can help to get some issues resolved, it is not always suited to dealing with more serious and/or urgent issues. Legal aid is not available to cover the first two stages of the complaints process, but you may be able to get legal aid to make a complaint to the PPO or go straight to a claim for compensation, depending on the seriousness of your complaint. If your complaint is urgent and ongoing, you could get legal aid to threaten to take the prison to court, without having to make a complaint to the PPO first.
At Saunders Law, we offer expert legal assistance and advice on such matters. If you are concerned about how you or a loved one is being treated in prison, you should seek legal advice as quickly as possible. If a serious breach is about to happen, it might be possible to bring a preventative legal challenge. If one has occurred, legal action may secure real accountability and sometimes compensation. Such actions can also help prevent similar human rights abuses in the future. We have particular experience in representing children and young people and other vulnerable people in prison, and making sure that their voices are heard.
Complaints that have resulted in successful civil claims for damages for our clients include:
- Bringing claims under the Equality Act when our clients have been discriminated against based on grounds such as sex, race, disability or sexual orientation. Examples include prisoners being denied wheelchairs or other aids, and being racially abused.
- Bringing claims for damages for assault, misfeasance in public office and/or false imprisonment. Examples include unlawful strip searches of female prisoners, attacks on vulnerable young prisoners by prison officers and failures to release prisoners on time.
- Bringing claims for damages under the Human Rights Act, often alongside other claims. The rights most commonly relied on are the right to life, prohibition of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment, the right to liberty, the right to a fair trial, and the right to respect for private life.
There are also a range of issues that we may be able to help you challenge by threatening to apply for judicial review, and, if necessary, taking the prison to court. Examples are hugely varied, but include the following:
- If the prison is failing to provide a disabled or ill prisoner with the necessary help and they are suffering as a result
- If a prisoner is being kept in segregation without good reason
- If the prison has applied unfair or unnecessary restrictions on a prisoner and they are suffering as a result
Saunders Law - Protecting & Enforcing Our Clients' Rights
The more serious the outcome (or potential outcome, if the issue is ongoing), the more likely we are to be able to help you under legal aid. For a free, no-obligation, initial discussion of whether we may be able to help, please contact us today.
We are ranked as a leading firm in The Legal 500 for Civil Liberties and Human Rights, and Administrative and Public Law, and in Chambers & Partners for Police Law: Mainly Claimant.
Please note that we are not able to represent prisoners in prison law matters such as adjudications or parole reviews.