GCN's Vijay Jagadesham and Jared Ficklin are to appear in the Supreme Court in the case of Downs v Secretary of State for Justice UKSC 2014/0056, where the Court will consider procedural fairness requirements in the category A review context and, specifically, when an oral hearing should be granted for such a review.

On 24 July 2014 the Supreme Court granted Mr Downs permission to appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal in Downs v Secretary of State for Justice [2011] EWCA Civ 1422 , where the Court held that oral hearings for category A reviews would be “rare” ([5] & [6]) and that an oral hearing was not required where the Category A Review Team (‘CART’) did not require one ([45]).

The Court of Appeal held that an oral hearing had not been required in Mr Down’s case where CART had apparently read and understood two “clear, opposed” expert views from psychologists. According to the Court of Appeal, an oral hearing was not required for those views simply to be “rehearsed” ([45] & [50]). Notably, this and any other factor that would usually justify an oral hearing were considered on the sole basis of CART’s needs, without any or any adequate regard to fairness for Mr Downs.

In his grounds of appeal to the Supreme Court Mr Downs has submitted that the approach of the Court of Appeal is fundamentally at odds with the fairness standards described by the Supreme Court in Osborn v the Parole Board [2013] 3 WLR 1020, as well as being inconsistent with previous caselaw in relation to category A prisoners. He has pointed out that just as much (if not more) is at stake for the category A prisoner as a prisoner being reviewed by the Parole Board.

The case is currently pending before the Supreme Court. It was expected that the appeal would be heard with the case of Mackay v Secretary of State for Justice (UKSC 2012/0056) on 29 and 30 October 2014. However that appeal has now been conceded by the Secretary of State, so that only the Downs appeal is before the Supreme Court. It is hoped that the appeal will be listed in late 2015.

Vijay Jagadesham has represented Mr Downs since the beginning of these proceedings and will lead Jared Ficklin in the Supreme Court. They are instructed by Samina Ahmed of Tuckers solicitors