HMP Wandsworth criticised by High Court for unlawful detention of Hickman & Rose client

22 Mar 2024

HMP Wandsworth and its Governor have been severely criticised by a High Court Judge after a Hickman & Rose client was unlawfully detained in custody 23 hours after he should have been released.

In a scathing judgment Mr Justice Pepperall described “a lamentable series of failings in the way in which the prison service deal with the release of prisoners and its apparent contempt for court orders.”

The judgment, on an application for a writ of habeas corpus, concerns the case of a Hickman & Rose client who should have been released immediately once sentenced at Westminster Magistrates’ Court at 11:41 on Tuesday 16 January 2024. However, this did not happen until the following day, and only after Hickman & Rose’s Bartholomew Dalton made repeated representations to the prison and successfully obtained a writ of habeas corpus from the High Court in the early hours of the morning on his client’s behalf.

This is the second time in two years that Wandsworth prison has been heavily criticised by the High Court for failing to properly release a prisoner. R (Niagui) v. Governor of HM Prison Wandsworth [2022] EWHC 2911 (Admin) concerned a prisoner who was acquitted at court on a Friday, but not released from prison until the following Monday.

Mr Justice Pepperall referenced the Niagui case in his judgment, writing: “The claim to have learnt the lesson that it is for the prison service to justify continued detention rather than the prisoner to prove a right to release rings hollow.

The judgment describes Bartholomew’s repeated, but ignored, attempts to alert HMP Wandsworth as to the urgency of their legal obligation to release his client. Commenting on this, Mr Justice Pepperall wrote “it is worrying to see the dismissive way in which a solicitor’s representations were dealt with by the officers and duty governor at the prison.

The judge went on to describe as “extraordinary” the fact that “a solicitor’s insistence that a prisoner was being unlawfully detained and that, absent his immediate release, an out-of-hours habeas corpus application would be made to a High Court Judge does not appear to have met the threshold of seriousness to trouble the duty governor.”

The prison was also severely criticised for repeated failures to comply with court orders, including the writ for habeas corpus, during the proceedings. The judge concluded that all of this “evidence[d] an unacceptably lax and disrespectful attitude to compliance with court orders” by the prison.

Bartholomew and Kate O’Raghallaigh, of Doughty Street Chambers, were both praised by the judge in his closing comments: “Finally, I commend Mr Dalton and Ms O’Raghallaigh for their energetic pursuit of Mr Kim’s release right through the night and early hours of 16/17 January 2024. It is critically important to the rule of law that those who are unlawfully detained should have the benefit of such dedicated professional representation and of emergency access to the court.”

Hickman & Rose continue to act on behalf of its client in relation to obtaining compensation for his unlawful detention.



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