The Institute of
Prison Law

Certificate of Competency

in Prison Law

2024 Course fully updated by Simon Creighton, Solicitor (1991) and author: Parole Board Hearings: Law and Practice (LAG); Prisoners: Law & Practice (LAG); Simon is a Fee-Paid Tribunal Judge in the First Tier Tribunal.

Register and Pay

Any Questions?

If you have any questions please see the comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions section, and if you still have questions just send us a message via our Contact Page

Prisoner Student: How to Register & Pay

Download the Enrolment Form

Click the link above to download and register a serving prisoner on the course – then click the link below to pay the discounted course fee which is £499 plus VAT – total cost £598.80.

Register and Pay for a Prisoner: What you need to do.

Firstly we need the Prison Education OU/Distance Learning Coordinator to complete the Enrolment Form confirming the inmate has authority to complete Distance Learning and then upload this document via our Contact Page. 

Secondly if payment is to be made by someone other than the prisoner themselves they should be directed to this page and make payment using the link (yellow) below. For prisoners without outside resources, who wish to pay the course fee from their private cash, they should make an application to Prisoner Finance and direct them to this page where they can pay securely online with monies deducted from their prison account again using the yellow link below.  Any questions? Please use our Contact Page,

Click Here to Securely Pay to Register a Prisoner Student >>

Public Student: How to Register & Pay

Download the Enrolment Form

Click the link above to download the Student Enrolment Form – then click the link below to pay the course fee which is £999 plus VAT – total cost £1,198.80.

Once you have paid the course fee you will receive an email confirming payment, all you then need to do is upload the completed student Enrolment Form via our Contact Page,

You will then receive an email confirming registration of the student named on the form, along with details of when to expect the course materials.

If you have any questions please contact us via our Contact Page. 

Securely Pay to Register a Public Student >>

Starting With The Basics…

‘… under English law, a convicted prisoner, in spite of his imprisonment, retains all civil rights which are not taken away expressly or by necessary implication‘.

…And Spanning Reception To Release

Part One: Modules 1-4
Module 1


Unit 1: A short history of imprisonment – from the middles ages to the current day.

Unit 2: The Statutory and Regulatory Framework – Acts, Rules, Orders, Instructions, Frameworks.

Unit 3: The Prison Estate & Population – Public, private, male, female, young offenders.

Unit 4: Funding: How to obtain funding for Prison Law work 2024/25.

Unit 5: Overview of Prisoners’ Rights 2024/25; Broad look at Prison Regimes from reception to release.

Unit 6: Requests & Complaints Getting things done via requests and complaining when things go wrong.

Module 2


Unit 1 – Sentence Planning & OaSys A look at Risk, OMiC and OASys, POMS, COMS & Keyworkers

Unit 2 – Categorisation & Allocation How prisoners are Classified and sent to an appropriate prison – or not.

Unit 3 – Incentives and Privileges Rewarding good behaviour and sanctioning poor conduct

Unit 4 – Prison Work & Pay Who is required to work and what they get paid for it

Module 3


Unit 1: Child Prisoners & Young Offenders Basic Principles:

Unit 2: Women Prisoners Introduction – Women prisoners policy framework

Unit 3: Mother and Baby Units

Unit 4: Mental Health and the Prison Service

Unit 5: Remand/Civil/FN prisoners/Immigration Detainees

Unit 6: Equality & Discrimination

Module 4


Maintaining order, Intelligence, segregation, use of force. Application to the private sector.

Adjudications, discipline, Article 6, Procedural fairness. Independent adjudicators and new refer back power.

Part Two: Modules 5-8
Module 5


1 Offending behaviour work and courses 2024 for custody and community, and prison education and courses. 
3 Communications; Letters, visits, telephone calls, emails, voicemail and computers. Access to the media.
4 Racism, discrimination and religious rights.

Module 5


1 Offending behaviour work and courses 2024 for custody and community, and prison education and courses. 
3 Communications; Letters, visits, telephone calls, emails, voicemail and computers. Access to the media.
4 Racism, discrimination and religious rights.

Module 6


1 Release regimes, and release date calculation. Tags, HDC, temporary licence.
2 Licence. Issues re recall and re-offending whilst at risk.
3 The parole system and reconsideration mechanism.
4 Risk assessment, denial, licence and recall. Recall procedure and hearings.

Module 7


1 Life imprisonment.
2 The lifer panels. Representations, procedure and evidence.

Module 8


1 Death in custody. Prevention; ACCT (suicide and self harm). Article 2 and investigations. Disclosure and openness.
2 Inquests.
3 Actions for death, assault, false imprisonment, misfeasance, and negligence.


About The Institute

In 1998 the Institute of Prison Law (IPL) was established by Mark Leech (then Consultant to the Prison Law Department) of national prison law firm AS Law solicitors in Liverpool, and Elkan Abrahamson (managing partner of the firm), to increase the knowledge, professionalism and practice of prison law.

In 1999 IPL was accredited by the Solicitors Regulation Authority as an external course provider for Continuous Professional Development (CPD) purposes – that accreditation following scrutiny of our vision and values, and content examination of our courses,  allowed IPL to deliver Prison Law CPD training to solicitors who were then required to obtain a minimum of 16 CPD points acquired through accredited training to qualify for their annual Practising Certificate.

Between 1998 and 2006 IPL used the skills of qualified expert prison law solicitors and barristers to deliver ad hoc CPD courses on a range of prison law subjects (such as adjudications, parole, life sentences, judicial review, categorisation and allocation, juveniles, women prisoners, mother and baby units, segregation and many more) to the legal profession – as well as Prison Service staff and those from the voluntary sector working in the field of Prison Law; these one-day courses were delivered by practicing prison law expert layers at venues around England and Wales, but mainly at HM Prison Latchmere House in SW London.

In 2006 IPL used the skills of its lecturers (prison law expert solicitors and barristers renown in their field) to combine the content of all its one-day courses into one comprehensive accredited eight module distance learning course – and the Certificate of Competency in Prison Law course was born.

The Course and Accreditation

From 2006 this Certificate of Competency in Prison Law course was continually accredited, updated and delivered by the IPL, as a 48 point CPD course until, in 2014, the Law Society changed its Training Regulations and abolished all external CPD course providers, replacing the CPD system with one of continuing competency.

Since 2014, and until the present day, IPL has continued to deliver the Certificate of Competency in Prison Law course as a distance learning package, being regularly updated by the same prison law solicitors and barristers who originally wrote and devised it so maintaining its integrity. 

Under the current ‘continuing competency’ regime, solicitors are no longer required to acquire a fixed number of CPD points annually, instead they can now choose the courses they take to maintain their professional competency based on their practice scope, the course content, the reputation of the course provider, and those who update its courses; it is salient to note that a majority of those who take the course today are registered lawyers who recognise the professional quality of the content of this course, and the expertise and professionalism of the Institute behind it.

The Certificate of Competency in Prison Law has been delivered continuously since 2006, and IPL’s standards of excellence have remained the same: To further the Knowledge and Practice of Prison Law by Delivering Professional Prison Law Training Devised and Updated by Experts Renown in their Field .

The 2024/2025 course (available from April 15th 2024) has been fully updated by solicitor and first-tier tribunal Judge Simon Creighton. 

Simon was one of the expert prison lawyers who first devised, wrote and delivered the course right from the start two decades ago and his knowledge of the subject and reputation as a lawyer are second to none.

Funding The Course

The course needs to be self-funded, either by you, your employer or paid by way of a charitable grant – – search here for charities that may help with educational grants – and scroll down the charity search page to add filters for charities that meet your specific cohort – offender, veteran, disabled, young person, older person etc.

If you are already employed by a firm, or intending to seek paid employment (or an unpaid internship) with a solicitors firm or barristers chambers when you complete the course, approach them organisations asking if they are prepared to help with the course fee. Put real thought into the drafting of your application, remember these are lawyers you are approaching, they will expect to see a quality application, with appropriate exhibits containing details about you, the course you are applying for, along with its costs and benefits, and references in support of your application too, all correctly and neatly drafted; you never get a second chance to make that first impression.

Is a Legal Background Essential?

No – but undoubtedly that would help considerably as it would provide the basic foundations of legal knowledge that the course teaches, such as legal hierarchy and the distinctions between statute, secondary legislation, and administrative orders, instructions and policy frameworks for example.

The course itself assumes no prior knowledge of ‘prison law’.

How is Training Delivered?

Is it remote sessions or set lecture type sessions that you have to attend?

The course is delivered as remote Distance Learning – this means there are no set lectures or sessions you need to attend, and the course is completely self-contained.

Is there Additional Reading Material?

No – it is just the course content.

The course content is all you need – there is no additional course content or reading materials – but it is crucially important that students have internet access or access to physical copies of appropriate Acts, Rules, Prison Service Instructions, Orders and MOJ Policy Frameworks.

All course students receive one year Enhanced Membership to (you are on it now!) for members this is constantly updated, providing details of changes to prison service policies – students in custody have this access too but it needs to be accessed for them by a member of prison education on their behalf and, in any event, all prisoners have the right of access to all Prison Service instructions, orders and policy frameworks as these are mandatory publications for each prison library to contain and deliver access to as per section 4.26 Prison education and library services for adult prisons in England Policy Framework; Welsh prisons have a similar policy framework.

Also those who enrol early, that is while stock lasts, receive complimentary copies of the current editions of The Prisons Handbook, The Cell Companion and Prison Law Index.

Examinations: How do I submit exams for marking?

Examinations are submitted for marking online via our Contact Page – follow the link below for clear instructions:

Learn how to Submit Exams >>

Are the Modular Exams time restricted?


Each of the eight course Modules has an examination at the end that must be completed with a minimum pass mark of 80%; resits are available for those who fail on payment of a fee.

These examinations are not time restricted in the sense that each individual examination must be completed in a set period of time say, 30, 60 or 90 minutes for example – the only stipulation is that all eight modular examinations must be completed within 12 months of the course purchase/enrolment date.

Are Examinations Closed or Open Book?

Open book.

An open-book exam refers to an examination during which students are allowed to consult their own material or resources. Opposite to an open-book examination is a closed-book examination. A closed-book exam refers to an examination during which students are not allowed to consult their own material or resources.

A closed-book exam can be used to determine whether students have memorised certain information and whether they can reproduce and/or apply this knowledge.

An open-book exam focusses more on gaining insights: critically processing and interpreting information, finding meaning in new information, and forming well-founded opinions based on a critical approach.

Our examinations are all open book examinations – we do this because the law is constantly evolving  and so much of the law is not so much about knowing what the law is, but where to look to find it accurately and in its latest version.

This is the reason why we have chosen Open Book modular examinations.

What About Resitting Failed Examinations?

Yes, you can resit an examination in which you have failed to achieve the required 80% pass mark, on payment of a £24.99 plus VAT (£29.99) resit fee.

When we send you the result of an examination in which you have failed to reach the required 80% pass mark we will tell you how many questions you got wrong – but we will not tell you at this stage which ones you answered incorrectly; you then need to decide if you want to resit the examination you have failed.

If you decide to resit an examination you need to pay the resit fee first – and then submit your examination again.

If you do not wish to resit the examination just advise us by email, move on to the next Module and you can then complete the course – but you will NOT be eligible for the award of the Certificate of Competency in Prison Law. 

Please think carefully before deciding against a resit – once you move on to the next Module there is no going back.

Can the Course Leader give extra help?


Courses are updated by full time practicing solicitors and with so many students such assistance is simply not feasible.

The course is completely self-contained – and specifically designed that way.

Is this Course for you?

That is a matter for you; what do you wish to achieve by completing it, and what is important to you?

The change from CPD to Continuing Competency now means it is a matter for you to decide whether the course content, our expert updating, and near 20 years experience of delivering the course meet your requirements.

Will it let me Represent Clients?

Yes – in limited terms, and in the right circumstances it will.

As a starting point only practising solicitors or barristers have the absolute right to appear in court to represent their clients – this is what is known as ‘rights of audience’ – and to be clear if you are not a solicitor or barrister then this course will not confer the status of a solicitor or barrister upon you – but you can still represent clients in the right circumstances as we explain below.

While anyone can call themselves a ‘Prison Law Advisor’ and set up as either a limited company or practice as a sole trader providing prison law legal advice to private paying clients, which is all perfectly legal, the problems that may arise for non-solicitor prison law advisers working alone is in satisfying the Prison Service that they are bona fide Legal Advisers so they can visit their clients in prison and take their instructions; Prison Governors, and Directors of private prisons have a legal duty to protect the security and control of their establishments, and they may well require proof of who you are, your qualifications, how you were instructed and other information about you before they agree to allowing you to attend your client on an official visit.

Thankfully, there are easier ways to achieve this.

Successful completion of the course provides evidence of your comprehensive knowledge of prison law – and by far the best way to represent prison law clients, attend upon them in prison, take their instructions, write letters on their behalf, act for them at an internal prison adjudication and receive publicly funded payment for those services if you are not a solicitor, is to obtain employment with (or self-employed consultancy status under the auspices of) an SRA regulated solicitors firm holding a Prison Law contract with the Legal Aid Agency; and you can use the Certificate of Competency in Prison Law as evidence of your knowledge of the subject in that application process.

Working this way, under the auspices of a regulated law firm, has many benefits; it means your prison law work is subject to supervision by the firm (usually by their Prison Law Supervisor) so you know your advice is accurate, you are also likely to be covered by the firm’s professional indemnity insurance, and you should be able to take advantage of the firm’s continuing competency training – or attend one of the Institute’s four-hour Prison Law Update webinars to ensure your knowledge is up to date and your accreditation with IPL is maintained.

Payment: While as an employee of a regulated law firm you will receive a salary, working as a consultant on a self-employed basis under the auspices of the firm, means you should expect to be paid on a fee share basis – this is usually linked to the amount of money you bill for the firm each month. Dependent on experience, qualifications, the split is usually on the basis of 60% to the firm and 40% to you to begin with – but that is dependent on your negotiating skills, and while it may commence on a 60-40 basis it should be subject to regular performance reviews with the firm where an increasing percentage is passed to you, particularly if you develop a loyal client following.

It is also worth making clear that working under the auspices of a solicitors’ firm will not only provide the above advantages but it will also make arranging prison visits to see clients in custody much easier too; as these will be booked by the firm for you.

Those who are not connected to a regulated law firm, who are not solicitors or barristers and who try to book official prison visits to see a client in custody are likely to experience difficulties in proving their legitimate professional bona fides to the Prison Service – its not impossible, it can be done; one group of former prison governors set up their own prison law firm for private fee-paying clients and have been doing it successfully for years – but it’s a hurdle you will need to cross if you are not connected to a regulated law firm.

Getting the First Step on the Ladder

One way people who are not recognised lawyers (especially former prisoners who have completed the course) have forged a career in this field as non-lawyers, has been to apply for an unpaid internship at a well recognised firm of solicitors or barristers chambers.

After working there for a period of time they are then able to leverage that experience and references into a paid position (or self-employed position) either with that firm or elsewhere.


Michael Spurr. Prison Service CEO (2010-2019) now Visiting Professor London School of Economics

Imprisonment, in all cases, is a traumatic experience – my hope throughout my 36-year Prison Service career was always that, despite the trauma, prison could be a constructive one too. But things can go wrong and sometimes individuals are not treated fairly; I accept that.
In the overwhelming majority of instances these issues can be solved internally, but there are clearly occasions too where individuals may want to turn to the courts and such decisions are best made when informed by a real understanding of the law as it applies to prisons. That is why I commend this Certificate of Competency in Prison Law course, it has been studied successfully by lawyers, Prison Governors, Prison Officers and prisoners themselves. For staff it will enhance their knowledge and, in the case of prisoners, it can empower them while in prison, and provide employability skills when released too.

As prison law evolves its vital to stay up to date – students get 1 year free Enhanced Membership of the definitive prisons website

Early Bird Free Books!

While limited stock lasts, early bird students receive a free copy of The Prisons Handbook 2024 and Prison Law Index 2024 – complimentary and not part of the course!

Modular Examinations

Each module has a multiple choice examination which, on payment of a fee, you can resit if you fail.

Student Help

While we can’t help with exam questions, we can help to guide you through the course.


Success Stories

Don’t our word for how good the course is, read what those who have completed it have to say.

Emma Adams

Prison Injury Lawyer

Thoroughly Recommended

The course gave me a full and rounded knowledge of Prison Law, the modular materials were clear and easy to understand and any questions I had were quickly answered

Richard Stedman

Governing Governor

Certainly Helped Me In My Career

“Brilliant course, thoroughly enjoyed it, found it very worthwhile and has certainly helped me in my career.”

James Smith-Wilds


A thoroughly enjoyable learning experience

My Certificate of Competency in Prison Law allowed me to open my own prison law practice and see it double in size, I’m now at the Criminal Bar (kchgardensquare) and it still helps with my clients in custody.

Alan Cousins

Prison Governor

Recommended to all my colleagues

A truly excellent course, I learnt so much and I have no hesitation in recommending it to all my Governor colleagues

John Weate

Senior Partner

Recommended Without Hesitation

I am a senior solicitor with Higher Rights in Crime. In all the years of study I found this course to be one of the most worthwhile. I would recommend this course without hesitation.

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