Date: 9th December 2020
The Managing Director of this firm, Mr Sasha Sidhu regularly undertakes legal visits with clients to advise on their cases. This includes at HMP Belmarsh where a number of the clients are awaiting trial on very serious cases.
During this pandemic, on a number of occasions Mr Sidhu was prevented from conducting conferences with his clients for not wearing a face covering. Notwithstanding him being exempt due to medical reasons under the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings in a Relevant Place) (England) Regulations 2020 (‘the Coronavirus Regulations’).
In response to this perceived impropriety our firm lodged a Pre-Action Protocol Letter before claim on the Secretary of State for Justice and HMP Belmarsh. It was our contention that this letter before action should result in the institution correcting matters and avoiding the institution of litigation in the form of an application for judicial review.
Within 7 days, HMP Belmarsh confirmed that they would accede and would permit Mr Sidhu to conduct in-prison legal visits, in the absence of wearing a face covering, in a safe manner.
As a result of our actions, communications have been issued via HMPPS GOLD Command to all establishments reminding them of the exemptions contained in the Coronavirus Regulations and clarifying their applicability to official visits.
A satisfactory result all round.