Leech v Governor of Parkhurst Prison: HL 1988

The House was asked whether a disciplinary decision by a governor was amenable to judicial review.
Held: The functions of a governor adjudicating upon disciplinary charges are separate and distinct from his functions in running the prison; they are subject to the supervision of the courts in their compliance with the rules of natural justice. A governor carrying out his disciplinary functions under the English Prisons Rules 1964 ‘is not a mere servant or alter ego of the Secretary of State but a statutory officer performing statutory duties.’
The adequacy of the reach of any alternative remedy will be an important consideration in deciding whether or not it is appropriate for judicial review to be sought.
Lord Oliver of Aylmerton said that the susceptibility of a decision to the supervision of the courts must depend, in the ultimate analysis, upon the nature and consequences of the decision and not upon the personality or individual circumstances of the person called on to make the decision.
Lord Bridge of Harwich said: ‘The governor of a prison holds an office created by the Act of 1952 and exercises certain powers under rules 47 to 55 of the Rules of 1964 [the disciplinary provisions then in force] which are conferred upon him and him alone.’
Lord Bridge went on to address the reasoning in an earlier decision of the Court of Appeal, which had distinguished between prison governors and boards of visitors on the basis that governors were servants or agents of the Secretary of State: ‘A prison governor may in general terms be aptly described as the servant of the Secretary of State, but he is not acting as such when adjudicating upon a charge of a disciplinary offence. He is then exercising the independent power conferred on him by the rules. The Secretary of State has no authority to direct the governor, any more than the board of visitors, as to how to adjudicate on a particular charge or what punishment should be awarded. If a Home Office official sought to stand behind the governor at a disciplinary hearing and tell him what to do, the governor would properly send him packing.’

Lord Oliver of Aylmerton, Lord Bridge of Harwich
[1988] AC 533, [1988] UKHL 16, [1988] 1 All ER 485, [1988] 2 WLR 290
Prisons Rules 1964
England and Wales
Cited by:
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The applicants sought judicial review of the Immigration Appeal Tribunal’s refusal of leave to appeal. The court had to decide whether such a right survived section 101 of the 2001 Act.
Held: The right to have a judicial review could only be . .
CitedAl-Hasan, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department HL 16-Feb-2005
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CitedSomerville v Scottish Ministers HL 24-Oct-2007
The claimants complained of their segregation while in prison. Several preliminary questions were to be decided: whether damages might be payable for breach of a Convention Right; wheher the act of a prison governor was the act of the executive; . .
CitedRegina v Deputy Governor of Parkhurst Prison, Ex parte Hague, Weldon v Home Office HL 24-Jul-1991
The prisoner challenged the decision to place him in segregation under Prison Rule 43. Under rule 43(1) the initial power to segregate was given to ‘the governor’. The case arose from the fact that the governor of one prison had purported to . .
CitedRegina (Tucker) v Director General of the National Crime Squad CA 17-Jan-2003
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CitedErlam and Others v Rahman and Another QBD 23-Apr-2015
The petitioners had alleged that the respondent, in his or his agent’s conduct of his campaign to be elected Mayor for Tower Hamlets in London in May 2014, had engaged in corrupt and illegal practices.
Held: The election was set aside for . .
CitedWatch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Britain v Charity Commission Admn 12-Dec-2014
The respondent had instigated a statutory inquiry under the 2011 Act into the claimant’s child safeguarding practices, and policies after compaints made to it. The Society now sought judicial review of that decision, and to production orders made to . .
CitedBourgass and Another, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Justice SC 29-Jul-2015
The Court considered the procedures when a prisoner is kept in solitary confinement, otherwise described as ‘segregation’ or ‘removal from association’, and principally whether decisions to keep the appellants in segregation for substantial periods . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Administrative, Prisons, Judicial Review

Leading Case

Updated: 02 November 2021; Ref: scu.197037