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The suspension, during lockdown, of prison visits for children: was it lawful?

Date:2 MAR 2021
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Jake Richards, 9 Gough Chambers

This article argues that the suspension on prison visits during this period and the deficiency of measures to mitigate the impact of this on family life and to protect the best interests of children (including children with disabilities) was unlawful. The approach and measures taken by the Ministry of Justice with regards to contact, and a failure to implement a policy and provide adequate provision to mitigate the loss of visits consistently, fairly, or at all, represents a breach of Article 8 and represents a failure to properly safeguard the best interests of children under the Children Act 2004. Further, the failures represent breaches of prohibitions on discrimination under Article 14 ECHR. 

This article attempts to explore the pronounced challenge to law and policy makers caused by the public health crisis. Whilst the challenge brought by COVID-19 is, in scope at least, unprecedented in modern times, the tools by which we can analyse the consequences remain basic principles of human rights law – the balance of fundamental rights such as the right to life (Article 2) with consideration of the discretion of the state and how it balances this positive duty with various other factors, such as the right to a family life (Article 8). In the context of prison visits, policy-makers have failed. 


The full article will be published in the February issue of Family Law

 

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