Successful challenge to a prison 'Category A' review


The High Court has found that the Secretary of State for Justice’s decision to refuse to grant our client an oral hearing in his Category A review was unlawful.

Prisoners are categorised according the risk they pose, with Category A being the highest security categorisation. Category A prisoners have annual reviews of their security classification at which it is considered whether they can be safely managed in a lower security setting.  Such decisions are usually taken without an oral hearing, but the Director of High Security is obliged to grant an oral hearing prior to making a decision where fairness requires one.

In 2018 the Director of High Security decided that our client should remain a Category A prisoner and declined to grant him an oral hearing before reaching that decision. Judicial Review proceedings were issued by ITN’s William Kenyon and counsel Matthew Stanbury of Garden Court North Chambers, in which it was argued that the decision should be quashed because it was unfair on three grounds

Firstly, the Director of High Security had placed significant weight in his decision on allegations that our client’s behaviour in custody had been poor, when these allegations were disputed. Secondly, there had been differences of opinion between the Director of High Security and the prison about whether our client should be downgraded. Finally, it was argued that as our client had been in prison for 14 years and had not yet had an oral hearing, it would be in the interests of fairness to grant him one.

Following a trial on 22 October 2019, the High Court delivered its judgment on 25 October 2019 finding that, taken cumulatively, these factors meant that the decision to refuse to hold an oral hearing was unfair.

This is one of the very few cases in which the High Court has decided that fairness requires an oral hearing to take place in the context of an inmate’s Category A review.

The judgment has yet to be published by the Court.  This page will be updated in due course.


Our client has been downgraded to Category B following the oral hearing ordered by the High Court in his case.

If you or a loved one require assistance in any area of prison law, contact us today on 020 3909 8100 or use our online enquiry form to find out if we can help.

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