The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) has recently made amendments to prison rule 39, which covers the confidential handling arrangements for the delivery of legally privileged material to prisoners. This was introduced by way of a negative statutory instrument which was laid before Parliament in November 2009 and came into effect on 1 January 2010 (SI 3082-2009). This clarified that the level of authorisation for the interception of such communications had been raised from governing governor of a prison to the chief operating officer of NOMS. It also made clear that there should be no distinction between legally privileged material which was delivered as correspondence or documentation (electronic or other) which was handed over during the course of a legal visits. Both should be afforded the same level of confidential handling arrangements.
NOMS is also considering whether any additional practical steps might be taken to reduce the scope for abuse of rule 39, without risk of compromise to legal privilege.