Sunday, February 13, 2011

Stop, thief.

Prison law can be an interesting pursuit and object of study. It's not for everyone, I appreciate that, but it does throw up things that should worry anyone interested in little principles like fairness and justice.

Prisoners are subject to perpetual searches. Our cells, our property, our person. All available to be prodded at random. One such time is returning from workshops to the wings.

In one prison, this involves passing through metal-detectors. This means divesting one's person of metal, like watches, for the process. The watch is handed to a screw.

What happens if, having being searched, your watch is missing? Having handed it to a screw, surely there is some recourse? Think again. The Courts have held not. This is what a more colloquial writer might call "a thieves' charter".


  1. I'm curious to know when and where the courts have held this to be the case, and on what reasoning. Because from the way Ben has described this, the ruling would have collapsed as soon as a Human Rights Challenge was made (Article 6).

    Then again, I suspect this comes down more a case of evidence. For criminal conviction, there must be proof beyond reasonable doubt, and for civil claims there must be proof on the balance of probabilities (with the burden of pushing the balance on the claimant). In either case, in the absence of third party or independent evidence, there is no way in hell a prisoners word will bear out against their wardens.

  2. There is the law and everyone assumes it to be neutral or even on the side of the victim, but it ain't necessarily so.

    I have had that many experiences of trying to get justice against wrong doings of staff in certain institutions I have been in and accessed in the community and have learned that even despite evidence, anybody who you take your complaint to will most likely side with the staff against you, period.

    I have had to explain this state of affairs to many fellow service users by saying that its because they are employed by the institution, the powers that be will automatically side with them.

    It is unfair and contrary to popular belief that those using services are more likely in the event of a misdemeanor to be believed and regarded as the vulnerable party. Or a belief that maybe there is something, a mediator even that is neutral out there. Not the case.

    It is harsh in this respect out here, I can imagine it must be absolutely infuriating for those inside, I am sorry for you in there, and as always glad and grateful to be informed and reminded of the reality by your brilliant blog.

  3. Hear hear to the above.

    And we are supposedly the "oldest democracy in the world" As with our debate and reform of our CJS and prisons...........A joke.

  4. Like Tallguy I am also curious as to the authority that there is no recourse where a prisoner is the victim of a theft.

    I know of no such law, be it case or statute. Maybe you would assist?

    The only relevant statute I can think of is s.1 of the Theft Act 1968.

    SophieJ, I accept that the prison authorities may not care or be inclined to take any action. But that is very different from saying that a court has endorsed such behaviour.

  5. An inspection of court cases relating to employment, (like the recent ruling on the BA dispute which ruled the strikes unlawful) would show in whose interests the courts generally rule in favour of i.e the employers.

    A court of law is not a neutral body despite popular opinion.

    This problem makes it extremely difficult for people who have been misjudged to get a correct ruling and there are enormous numbers of such cases.

    Many places around the world are even worse, like in the USA for example.

  6. I think i will agree on what "Infamous " said on his comment. there are some people who are misjudge just to have a correct ruling. I already have that experience on my friend.


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