Contacting the media

Prisoners are not generally allowed to telephone the media from cardphones and must make an application for permission to do so to the governor. The High Court has held that, in exceptional cases, it would be wrong for such a request to be refused but that in most cases a written letter from the prisoner to the press would be sufficient.

Letters sent to the media can be stopped if they contain information about past criminal offences (or of others offences), identify members of staff or are sent in return for payment. Serious comment on the criminal justice system is allowed.

It used to be policy for journalists visiting prisons to be asked to sign an undertaking stating that any material obtained would not be used for publication or professional purposes. The House of Lords ruled that it was unlawful for this to be applied as a blanket policy.

Visits from journalists can now be permitted on application to the prison governor. The visits will normally be allowed if the prisoner wishes to discuss a matter relating to their conviction or sentence, but may be more difficult to obtain in other circumstances. A refusal to allow a journalist to visit may potentially breach Article 10 of the Convention.

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