On 7 September 2023, in R (Ellis) v Secretary of State for Justice [2023] EWHC 2230 (Admin) the Administrative Court allowed a judicial review challenge to a prison security officer’s decision that a prisoner studying for a Master’s degree qualification had breached an agreement for the use of a Chromebook computer. The prison had consequently removed its use for a period of time.

The Court found that the conclusion that the claimant had breached the compact permitting specified use of the Chromebook was not sustainable. It misunderstood the evidence of the course director who had explained the relevance of the work found on the computer. It was reached without further reference either to that witness or to the claimant, and cast apparently unwarranted aspersions. The decision was (a) unsustainable as a logical conclusion on the basis of the evidence, and (b) was procedurally unfair.

The defendant’s conclusion that the work was not within the scope of the Chromebook compact, even if it was in line with his subject area, even understanding that he was conducting a research-led degree, and particularly in light of the further evidence from the course director, could not be justified on the basis of the evidence.

The Court quashed the decision of 6 April 2022. That ‘black mark’ was to be removed from the record.

The Court also found that the regulations for student loan funding legitimately differentiate between prisoners and other students, and that overall there was not a breach of the claimant’s right to education under the European Convention on Human Rights 1950.

No5’s Philip Rule KC was instructed by Mladen Kesar and Louise Edginton, of Kesar and Co Solicitors, on behalf of the claimant.