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Criminal Justice

Prison book ban ruled unlawful by High Court

The High Court has declared that the Government’s ban on sending books to prisoners in England and Wales is unlawful.  The ban on sending books into prison was brought in in November 2013, as part of the Incentives and Earned Privileges (IEP) scheme, which stated that prisoners are not allowed to receive parcels unless they have “exceptional circumstances” such as a medical condition.  The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has said that the thinking behind the changes was to crack down on the amount of drugs getting into prison.


Prisoners had argued that books sent to them in parcels could contribute to rehabilitation.  A judicial review of the rule was brought by prisoner Barbara Gordon-Jones, a life sentence prisoners at HMP Send, near Woking in Surrey.


Mr Justice Collins ruled that there was “no good reason in the light of the importance of books for prisoners to restrict beyond what is required by volumetric control and reasonable measures relating to frequency of parcels and security considerations.”  There is no specific ban on  books in the IEP but the severity of the restrictions could clearly prevent acquisition and possession.   Whilst Mr Justice Collins acknowledged that in some prisons there is good access to a well-stocked prison library, he also recognised that this is by no means the case for all prisoners and commented that “to refer to them as a privilege is strange”.


The restriction was declared unlawful by Mr Justice Collins because the policy’s effect was contrary to what Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, said he intended.