Legal challenge against Ministry of Justice ban on prison visits during lockdown
Date: 6th August 2020
Category: Family Environment and Alternative Care
Lawyers acting on behalf of children in England who have been denied visits and video contact with an imprisoned parent have taken the first step of legal action claiming that the lack of contact breaches children’s human rights.
English prisons stopped all visits on 24th March as part of the COVID-19 lockdown measures. Some people in prison were issued with mobile phones to keep in contact with their families but video calling has only been possible in a small number of prisons.
Letters before action sent to the Ministry of Justice explained that phone contact is not meaningful for children who are too young to talk and for some disabled children.
Some children have had no visual or physical contact with their imprisoned parent for four months. The Guardian reports that this includes a 16-month-old baby and a disabled child with a shortened life expectancy.
The lawyers for the children argue that the rules on prison visits for children is not compatible with article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and are a failure to properly safeguard the best interests of children under the Children Act 2004.
In Scotland, the Scottish Prison Service has now rolled out a virtual visits schemes for the families of prisoners to see their loved one. However, Families Outside has reported that many of the families they support do not have access to a tablet, laptop, data or Wi-Fi which has made virtual visits more difficult.