Enhancing Parliament's role in relation to human rights judgments - Human Rights Joint Committee Contents

Letter to the Chair of the Committee from Rt Hon Jack Straw MP, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, dated 8 November 2009


  Thank you for your letter of 13 October in which you inquire about the Government's response to the judgment in Szuluk v United Kingdom. The Government intends to make the changes to Rules and guidance necessary to implement the judgment. I have responded in more detail to your three questions as set out below.

1.  What steps does the Government propose to take to implement domestically the decision of the ECtHR in Szuluk?

2.  Specifically, does the Government propose to revise PSO 4411, Chapter 5, to make clear that correspondence between a prisoner and a medical professional should be subject to confidential handling arrangements, similar to those applicable to legal advisors, Members of Parliament, or the then Healthcare Commission? If so what way(s) does it propose to revise the PSO?

3.  Does the Government consider that any amendments to the Prison Rules,Prison Service Instructions or other Prison Service Orders are necessary to ensure compliance with Article 8 in relation to correspondence between a prisoner and his or her medical advisor? If so, what amendments does it propose to take?

  In the light of the judgment in Szuluk, the Government has put in hand work to amend Prison Rule 35A, YOI Rule 11 and Prison Service Orders 4411 Prisoner Communications and 3050 Continuity of Healthcare for Prisoners. The changes to the Rules will make provision for correspondence between prisoners and a treating medical practitioner (in cases where there is a diagnosed life threatening illness) to be subject to confidential handling arrangements, similar to those applicable to legal advisors and Members of Parliament. Guidance in PSO 4411 and PSO 3050 will support these Rule changes. We do not believe that any other Orders will need to be amended to give effect to the judgment.

  The changes to Prison Rule 35A and to YOI Rule 11 have been drafted and are currently the subject of final consultation across the National Offender Management Service and Department of Health (Offender Health). The Rule changes are subject to the negative resolution procedure and we expect to be in a position to lay them before the Christmas recess.

  I attach a copy of the Government's submissions to the Committee of Ministers as requested and will provide further updates on progress as appropriate.




1.  Just satisfaction:

    — arrangements to make the just satisfaction payment are in hand; and— I will forward information on payment of just satisfaction in due course.

2.   Other individual measures:

    — the Government intends to take the following individual measures:

    — Revising Prison Service orders to comply with the decision. Prison Service Orders are executive directions. which dictate the policies and procedures that should be followed within the prison. They are widely available on the Prison Service website, www.hmprisonservice.gov.uk. Legal advisers and policy teams are working to amend PSO 4411 Prisoner Communications Correspondence and PSO 3050 Continuity of Healthcare for Prisoners. These documents are being agreed and will be published in due course.


3.  Publication:

    — the judgment has been published in the Times Law Report on 17 June 2009 (Application No 36936/05) and in Butterworth's Medico-Legal Reports at 108 BMLR 190 (2009). The judgment is available on online legal databases including www.echr.coe.int and English databases Lexisnexis. Lawtel and Westlaw.

4.  Dissemination:

    — the judgment has been disseminated to Her Majesty's Prison Service, including all prison governors and the relevant policy groups within Government.

5.  Other general measures:

    — the Government considers no further general measures are necessary because it has reviewed all relevant existing regulations and guidance and is overseeing the amendment of the Prison Services Orders to ensure they are fully compliant with the Szuluk judgment.

6.  The Government considers that all necessary measures have been taken and the case should be closed.

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