Making a claim for property lost in prison

When a person is sent to prison, it is usual for them to want to take certain items with them, whether these are items for comfort or pleasure, whatever the reason may be, those items should be safe and secure within the prison.

There may be occasions where a prisoner’s possessions are lost through no fault of their own; a claim will need to be logged in order to receive financial compensation for the replacement of such items.

How to make a claim for lost property?

The first step to follow would be an initial application sent to the prison Governor containing all the details of how the property cam to be lost, a list (if more than one item is missing) of the lost property with as much detail as possible just in case the property has been misplaced or confused with another item within the prison.

The application will need to include where the item was purchased, and when it was purchased, the value of each item, and where possible, id you still hold the receipt to the property, include this as supporting evidence with the application form.

Any compensation payable is based on the value of the property at the time the property was lost, and not eh replacement value. So if the lost item was such that the value increases regularly or with age, such increase in price would not be compensated for.

Appealing a decision by the prison Governor

If, following the initial application, the prison Governor refuses compensation for a lost item, and the person is not satisfied, they may appeal such a decision via the complaints system.

There are three stages to the complaints system, and the full process should not take longer than 6 weeks in total, by which time the Complainant will receive a decision.

The Prison and Probation Ombudsman

Having followed both the initial application to the prison Governor, and the prison complaints procedure, the complainant is still not satisfied with the outcome of the lost property, they can make a further application for compensation to the Prison and Probation Service Ombudsman.

This application will be made in confidence to the ombudsman, who will review each case on their individual circumstances.

If the Ombudsman makes any recommendation to the prison Governor on the complainant’s behalf and in their favour, the prison is still under no obligations to follow or act upon these.

However, it is common for a prison to carefully consider and act upon the majority of recommendations received by the Ombudsman, as such involvement is usually a significant indication that legal action may follow.

Receiving a payment for a successful claim

Where a person is successful with a claim for lost property, any compensation will most commonly be paid into the prisoner’s personal account that is held in their name.

The possibility of legal action

In the majority of cases regarding a prisoner’s lost property, the claim would be settled before the need for any legal proceedings. However, situations do arise where this is the last resort.

In most cases the value of the claim will fall below the level for which legal aid may be granted to fund the case.

If the complainant is not eligible for legal aid, then they may begin their own proceedings in the County Court.

Starting proceedings

The Complainant will need to get a claim form from the County Court along with an exemption form and leaflet explaining how to fill in the forms.

There are certain points to remember when filling in the form:

  • The defendant in the case will be the Secretary of State for Justice and not the prison Governor

  • The address of the prison service for the purpose of a claim against the prison will be that of the Treasury solicitor.

  • The claim will be for negligence

  • The complainant may need to seek legal advice if they need to attend a court hearing, and for advice on ensuring the prison Governor is also in attendance at the court hearing.

This action is usually a last resort and should not be considered lightly.