Further Equality Act challenge to PAVA in prisons

A Deighton Pierce Glynn client has returned to court to challenge the Justice Secretary’s decision to equip prison officers with PAVA spray before safeguards were in place and action was taken to comply with the Equality Duty.

Our client instructed this firm to challenge the original decision to roll out chemical restraint in Autumn 2018. Following a decision by the Justice Secretary to authorise deployment of PAVA in all male prisons at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in Spring 2020, the Equality and Human Rights Commission funded our client to bring this challenge back to court.

The Judicial Review application has now been withdrawn after an agreement was reached between the parties. This means the Ministry of Justice implementing or committing to introduce a number of measures to monitor PAVA. In particular, to collect and publish information capable of capturing any emerging discrimination in the drawing or discharge of PAVA against disabled and minoritised people in prison. The implementation of these commitments will be closely monitored by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

“The challenges that the Claimant has brought against the weaponisation of prison officers have repeatedly exposed the limits of what is known about discriminatory use of force across prisons. The Public Sector Equality Duty requires a full, conscious and informed confronting of the potential discriminatory impact of PAVA spray and consideration of how those impacts can be mitigated. It is startling that the Ministry of Justice apparently does not hold central information to answer even basic questions such as how many people incarcerated in prisons are disabled. More public reporting on PAVA will assist people at risk, and those representing them, to scrutinise every use of PAVA, to be informed about their rights and to call the Prison Service to account where patterns of discrimination emerge.” 

  Clare Hayes, the solicitor who acted for the Claimant.


Nick Armstrong and Jessica Jones of Matrix Chambers were Counsel instructed on behalf of the Claimant.

More information about the challenge can be found on EHRC website here as well as the Statutory Guidance on PAVA and summary of current equalities data that were disclosed during the proceedings.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission and Deighton Pierce Glynn are available to respond to requests should anyone affected by PAVA wish to access other materials from this litigation.

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