Clare Evans and Jade Brown, Solicitors within our Actions Against the Police team are bringing a challenge against the Secretary of State for Justice. They act on behalf of several children who have been prevented from having meaningful contact with their imprisoned parents during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On 24th March 2020, due to the COVID-19 lockdown, prisons across the UK prevented children from visiting their incarcerated parents. In most instances, they failed in putting adequate provisions in place which would ensure meaningful contact could continue, such as remote visitation.
Instead, most prisoners were simply given additional phone credit of £5 per week. It appears little to no evaluation or assessments were undertaken for those where telephone contact is not sufficient. For example, some children are simply too young to use a telephone, and others have special needs which can prevent them communicating effectively or meaningfully over a telephone. These aspects were not considered for those needing direct contact with their parent.
MW Solicitors are representing several children who appear to have suffered significant mental health consequences as a result of this mishandling.
Our Solicitors argue that the actions of the prisons have resulted in an unreasonable interference in the right to family life. This right is protected under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights ('the convention').
They also challenge the decisions made on the basis that there has been a failure to safeguard the best interests of these children. In some cases, we have also seen a breach of the laws under the Equality Act and Article 14 of the Convention. Laws which are there to protect people from the unlawful disability discrimination.
HMP Manchester (along with others) have recently resumed in-person prison visits. However, the current restrictions still mean that such visits are not possible for some of these children.
The conclusion expressed by the Human Rights (Joint Select Committee) in its report dated 29th June 2020 was that the Government's response to the pandemic, and the deficiencies in the measures to mitigate the impact of this "have put at risk the right to family life of up to an estimated 17,000 children of mothers in prison"
We Can Help
Here at MW Solicitors we have a dedicated team who are acting for the children and families who have been affected by the prison restrictions. We are keen to hear from anyone who feels they are affected by this.
Please contact us if you believe that your children have been affected by the changes to prison visitation rules during lockdown.
Please call either Clare Evans at our South Croydon office on 020 3551 8027, or Jade Brown at our Fulham office on 0203 551 8376. Alternatively you can click here to contact us to arrange a call back at your earliest convenience.
Solicitor - Civil Litigation
July saw publications such as the BBC and The Guardian cover the issue. More recently, The Guardian have published a further article highlighting one mothers particular concerns.