British jails have been inhumane, violent and degrading for years. Now other countries are noticing

The prisons are “inhumane and degrading”, in the words of a court in Amsterdam, as it refused an extradition request. The judges were referring not to a Russian penal colony, but to HMP Liverpool halting the extradition of a fugitive wanted in the UK on drug-smuggling charges. The cause of this damning judgment is the appalling conditions in prisons such as Walton (Liverpool), Bedford and Birmingham.

The Daily Mail may have been outraged by the judgment, but it didn’t surprise me. I have been arguing similar extradition cases regarding prison conditions in other countries – and often winning – in the UK courts for years. It was only a matter of time before European countries looked at our Dickensian prison system and asked the same difficult questions.

It was the stinging criticism of HMP Liverpool by the chief inspector of prisons that pushed the Dutch court to refuse extradition. It was the worst prison they had inspected – filthy, squalid and with little control over the violence that ruled it. The situation is so serious that the justice committee has discussed the issue in parliament. There is a list of matters that need to be resolved but little progress has been made; violence persists and guards have threatened to strike....

Click here to read the article in full on the Guradian's website, first published on Thursday 16 May 2019.

Ben Keith is a barrister specialising in Extradition, Immigration, Serious Fraud, Human Rights and Public law. He has extensive experience of appellate proceedings before the Administrative and Divisional Courts, as well as applications and appeals to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and United Nations. He has significant expertise in the challenge of INTERPOL Red Notices. He is ranked in Chambers and Partners and Legal 500 in the top tiers.