No contracting out of human rights, High Court finds

22 Feb 2019

Case: LW, KT, MC & Faulder v Sodexo Limited & Secretary of State for Justice

The High Court today has handed down a pivotal judgment on the human rights obligations that the State owes to prisoners serving their sentence in a private prison.

In HMP Peterborough, run by Sodexo Ltd, the four claimants (three female and one transgender prisoner) were unlawfully strip-searched.  Sodexo conceded that the strip-searches were unlawful and admitted to there being systemic failings at the prison.  The issue remained however, as to whether the Secretary of State for Justice had failed to put adequate and effective safeguards in place to protect the Claimants against a violation of Article 3 and 8 ECHR.

The High Court accepted the Claimants arguments that Article 8 had been breached, finding not only that the failings were serious, systemic and widespread, but that the legal framework relied on by the Secretary of State that governed their relationship with Sodexo was inadequate.  The High Court also found that it was not enough for Secretary of State to rely on the identification of the problem following the breaches, particularly given the vulnerability of the prisoners and the intrusive nature of strip-searches.

This decision will have significant implications for private government contracts beyond the realms of criminal justice.

Sophie Walker was instructed by Samuel Genen of Steel and Shamash Solicitors, acting for the claimants.

https://www.bailii. org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2019/ 367.html

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