Regina v Secretary of State for the Home Department, Ex Parte Pierson: HL 24 Jul 1997

The Home Secretary may not later extend the tariff for a lifer, after it had been set by an earlier Home Secretary, merely to satisfy needs of retribution and deterrence: ‘A power conferred by Parliament in general terms is not to be taken to authorise the doing of acts by the donee of the power which adversely affect the legal rights of the citizen or the basic principles on which the law of the United Kingdom is based unless the statute conferring the power makes it clear that such was the intention of Parliament.’ Parliament legislates against the background of the principle of legality. There is a presumption that Parliament does not intend to interfere with the exercise of fundamental rights. It will be understood to do so only if it does so expressly: ‘Where wide powers of decision-making are conferred by statute, it is presumed that Parliament implicitly requires the decision to be made in accordance with the rules of natural justice: Bennion on Statutory Interpretation, p 737. However widely the power is expressed in the statute, it does not authorise that power to be exercised otherwise than in accordance with fair procedures.’
Lord Steyn spoke of the principle of finality in sentencing: ‘That brings me to the question whether any legal consequences flow from the characterisation of the Home Secretary’s function as involving a decision on punishment. It is a general principle of the common law that a lawful sentence pronounced by a judge may not retrospectively be increased.’
Lord Hope of Craighead: ‘The minimum standard of fairness does not permit a person to be punished twice for the same offence. Nor does it permit a person, once he has been told what his punishment is to be, to be given in substitution for it a more severe punishment.’
Lord Browne-Wilkinson said: ‘A power enacted by Parliament in general terms is not to be taken to authorise the doing of acts by the donee of the power which adversely affect the legal rights of the citizen or the basic principles on which the law of the United Kingdom is based unless the statute conferring the power makes it clear that such was the intention of Parliament.’

Lord Browne-Wilkinson, Lord Steyn
Times 28-Jul-1997, Gazette 01-Oct-1997, [1997] UKHL 37, [1998] AC 539, [1997] 3 All ER 577, [1997] 3 WLR 492
House of Lords, Bailii
Criminal Justice Act 1967 6(1)
England and Wales
CitedRegina v Secretary of State Home Department, ex parte Leech (No 2) CA 20-May-1993
Prison rules were ultra vires in so far as they provided for reading letters between prisoners and their legal advisers. Every citizen has a right of unimpeded access to the court. A prisoner’s unimpeded access to a solicitor for the purpose of . .
Appeal fromRegina v Secretary of State for the Home Department Ex Parte Pierson CA 8-Dec-1995
The courts’ control over the exercise by the Home Secretary of his discretion on lifers was limited to procedural fairness. It was not irrational to refuse any reduction of a lifer’s minimum sentence after aggravation involving the prisoner. . .
At First InstanceRegina v Secretary of State for Home Department Ex Parte Pierson QBD 14-Nov-1995
The Home Secretary does not have the power to increase a mandatory lifer’s base sentence for retribution purposes. His powers to revise minimum life sentence are not absolute; and must be used fairly. . .

Cited by:
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A prison policy requiring prisoners not to be present when their property was searched and their mail was examined was unlawful. The policy had been introduced after failures in search procedures where officers had been intimidated by the presence . .
CitedRegina (X) v Chief Constable of West Midlands Police QBD 23-Jan-2004
The claimant, a social worker, had been accused of two offences of indecency with children, but the complainants had failed to identify him. The respondent later disclosed those allegations when called upon to provide an enhanced criminal record . .
CitedFlynn, Meek, Nicol and McMurray v Her Majesty’s Advocate PC 18-Mar-2004
PC (High Court of Justiciary) The applicants had each been convicted of murder, and complained that the transitional provisions for determining how long should be served under the life sentences infringed their . .
CitedB (A Minor) v Director of Public Prosecutions HL 23-Feb-2000
Prosecution to prove absence of genuine belief
To convict a defendant under the 1960 Act, the prosecution had the burden of proving the absence of a genuine belief in the defendant’s mind that the victim was 14 or over. The Act itself said nothing about any mental element, so the assumption must . .
CitedRegina v Secretary of State for the Home Department, Ex Parte Hindley HL 30-Mar-2000
The prisoner, sentenced to life imprisonment with a whole life tariff for the murders of children, now appealed against the imposition of the whole life tarriff.
Held: The appeal failed. It was possible for a Home Secretary to set a whole life . .
CitedRoberts v Parole Board HL 7-Jul-2005
Balancing Rights of Prisoner and Society
The appellant had been convicted of the murder of three police officers in 1966. His tariff of thirty years had now long expired. He complained that material put before the Parole Board reviewing has case had not been disclosed to him.
Held: . .
CitedRegina v Secretary of State for The Home Department Ex Parte Simms HL 8-Jul-1999
Ban on Prisoners talking to Journalists unlawful
The two prisoners, serving life sentences for murder, had had their appeals rejected. They continued to protest innocence, and sought to bring their campaigns to public attention through the press, having oral interviews with journalists without . .
CitedJackson and others v Attorney General HL 13-Oct-2005
The applicant sought to challenge the 2004 Hunting Act, saying that it had been passed under the provisions of the 1949 Parliament Act which was itself an unlawful extension of the powers given by the 1911 Parliament Act to allow the House of . .
CitedHolme v Liverpool City Justices and Another Admn 6-Dec-2004
The defendant had been convicted of dangerous driving. The victim’s mother complained of the leniency of the sentence, and the magistrates purported to re-open the sentencing under section 142, saying they had been unaware of the very serious nature . .
CitedReclaiming Motion In Petition of Scott Davidson for Judicial Review of A Decision To Continue To Detain the Prisoner In Inhuman and Degrading Prison C SCS 18-Dec-2001
A prisoner sought an order for his removal from a prison found to have a regime which breached his human rights. The Crown replied that an order could not be made under s21 of the 1947 Act.
Held: The prisoner had followed through his rights to . .
CitedWatkins v Home Office and others HL 29-Mar-2006
The claimant complained of misfeasance in public office by the prisons for having opened and read protected correspondence whilst he was in prison. The respondent argued that he had suffered no loss. The judge had found that bad faith was . .
CitedA, K, M, Q and G v HM Treasury Admn 24-Apr-2008
The applicants were suspected of terrorist associations. Their bank accounts and similar had been frozen. They challenged the Order in Council under which the orders had been made without an opportunity for parliamentary challenge or approval.
CitedMisick, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Admn 1-May-2009
The former premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands sought to challenge the constitutionality of the 2009 order which was to allow suspension of parts of the Constitution and imposing a direct administration, on a final report on alleged corruption. . .
CitedHM Treasury v Ahmed and Others SC 27-Jan-2010
The claimants objected to orders made freezing their assets under the 2006 Order, after being included in the Consolidated List of suspected members of terrorist organisations.
Held: The orders could not stand. Such orders were made by the . .
CitedZagorski and Baze, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and Others Admn 29-Nov-2010
The claimants, in the US awaiting execution for murders, challenged the permitting by the defendant for export of the chemical Sodium Thipental which would be used for their execution. The respondent said that its use in general anaesthesia practice . .
CitedForsyth, Regina v, Regina v Mabey SC 23-Feb-2011
The defendants were to face trial on charges of making funds available to Iraq in breach of the 2000 Order. They said that the 2000 Order was ultra vires and ineffective, not having been made ‘forthwith’ after the UN resolution it was based upon, . .
CitedBank Mellat v Her Majesty’s Treasury (No 1) SC 19-Jun-2013
Closed Material before Supreme Court
Under the 2009 order, the appellant Bank had been effectively shut down as to its operations within the UK. It sought to use the appeal procedure, and now objected to the use of closed material procedure. The Supreme Court asked itself whether it . .
CitedModaresi, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Health SC 24-Jul-2013
The Court was asked: ‘As: (i) a public body with obligations in public law and (ii) a public authority under the Human Rights Act 1998 can the Secretary of State for Health ‘the S/S’ lawfully refuse to refer a patient’s case to the First-tier Mental . .
CitedEvans and Another, Regina (on The Application of) v Attorney General SC 26-Mar-2015
The Attorney General appealed against a decision for the release under the Act and Regulations of letters from HRH The Prince of Wales to various ministers and government departments.
Held: The appeal failed (Majority). The A-G had not been . .
CitedMiller and Dos Santos v The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and Others QBD 13-Nov-2016
Article 50 Notice Requires Parliament’s Authority
The applicant challenged a decision by the respondent that he could use Crown prerogative powers to issue a notice under section 50 TUE to initiate the United Kingdom leaving the EU following the referendum under the 2015 Act.
Held: Once the . .
CitedWelsh Ministers v PJ SC 17-Dec-2018
A patient detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA) may be released from compulsory detention in hospital subject to a community treatment order. The question arising on this appeal is whether a patient’s responsible clinician (may impose . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Criminal Sentencing

Leading Case

Updated: 31 December 2021; Ref: scu.135028