Art in Chambers:
London 1936 by Wolf Suschitzky
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Court of Appeal reverses award of HRA damages to prisoner whose Parole Review was delayed
In R(Sturnham) v Parole Board & Secretary of State for Justice  EWHC 938 (Admin) Mr Justice Mitting ordered that the Secretary of State for Justice pay damages to the prisoner claimant in accordance with section 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA), in the sum of £300, on account of the distress and frustration caused to the prisoner by a 6 month delay in his being provided with a parole review, such delay having violated his Article 5(4) ECHR right to a ‘speedy’ review of his detention.
This was the first time such an award of damages had been made by the High Court in circumstances to prisoner (a) who would not have been released at the delayed parole review and (b) who had not suffered any physical injury as a consequence of the delay.
Unchallenged the decision plainly would have had significant consequences for future damages awards in HRA claims brought by prisoners against either the Secretary of State or the Parole Board in circumstances where a parole review was delayed.
The Secretary of State successfully appealed against the award of damages. The appeal was heard on the 23 February 2012. Laws LJ, giving the lead judgment, allowed the appeal against the award of damages, and held, following analysis of both domestic and Strasbourg case law, that awards of damages under the HRA are not recoverable for anxiety and distress and the prisoner had received “just satisfaction” in the declaration granted by the court alone and an award of damages was not necessary.
Simon Murray acted for the Secretary of State, instructed by the Treasury Solicitor.Hugh Southey QC and Philip Rule appeared for the prisoner and David Manknell appeared for the Parole Board.