Prisoners fail to cut levy

Posted: 3rd July 2012

Two prisoners who took jobs outside jail have failed in their High Court claim that a levy on their wages which goes to victim support is too high.
A judge rejected ‘on all grounds’ their challenge to the lawfulness of the way the Secretary of State for Justice, Kenneth Clarke, is operating rules that govern deductions from prisoners’ pay packets.
PrisonWelcoming the judgment, the ‘delighted’ Secretary of State said: “For too long offenders have not done enough to shoulder the financial burden of their crimes, leaving the taxpayer to foot the bill for the damage they have caused.”
Mr Clarke added: “The Prisoners’ Earnings Act is the start of Government getting the balance right - forcing prisoners to take responsibility for their crimes and helping victims to recover through the funding of these vital support services.
“In the first six months, nearly £400,000 has been raised through the Prisoners’ Earnings Act for Victim Support. I am delighted that this ruling means that offenders will continue to contribute to make amends for their crimes.”
Under the Prisoners’ Earnings Act 1996, prisoners engaged in ‘enhanced wages work’ outside prison have 40% of their earnings, where they exceed £20, paid to victim support.
Lawyers representing two inmates, S and KF, argued that the levy was ‘disproportionate’ and said that there was ‘widespread concern’ about a measure which might undermine prisoners’ rehabilitation and act as ‘a disincentive to work’.
Mr Justice Sales was asked to declare that Prison Service instructions issued by Mr Clarke last year, which gave effect to the levy, were ‘incompatible’ with the European Convention on Human Rights.
However, after examining the arguments on each side, the judge announced that he was dismissing the challenges to the relevant prison instructions on all grounds.
The decision will mainly affect inmates of open prisons but also some Category C prisoners who are allowed to work in the community on day release under contracts of employment.
Rates of pay from outside employers are higher than those for work performed in prison.