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Different treatment for prisoners detained in hospital is lawful

27/01/10

R(EM and others) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

R(RD and PM) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal of EM and others, all convicted prisoners transferred under the Mental Health Act 1983 to psychiatric hospitals.  The Appellants contended that regulations removing their entitlement to social welfare benefits discriminated against them contrary to Article 14 ECHR because psychiatric patients who were the subject of a hospital order do receive benefits.  The Court of Appeal held that there was a relevant difference between the claimants and hospital order patient; the latter, though convicted of a criminal offence, have not been sentenced to a term of imprisonment.  Ordinary prisoners are not entitled to welfare benefits and the Secretary of State was entitled, as a matter of policy, to treat prisoners in the same way whether they happen to be detained in prison or in hospital.

The issue in R (RD and PM) was one of construction and concerned a limited sub-set of transferred prisoner, post-tariff lifers.  The Court of Appeal allowed the appellants appeal holding that, on a proper construction of the regulations, the entitlement of post-tariff lifers to income support resumes at the end of the tariff period.

The judgment is here.

Richard Gordon QC appeared for the Appellants in EM and others

Marie Demetriou appeared for the Secretary of State in EM and others

Martin Chamberlain appeared for the Secretary of State in RD and PM