Prisoner book ban: Grayling wasted £72,000 of taxpayers’ money on legal costs

The government spent £72,000 in legal fees fighting to keep its prisoner book ban, it has emerged.

Mr Justice Collins, who judged the ban on prisoners receiving books from friends and family to be unlawful last month, found justice secretary Chris Grayling's approach to have been "absurd" and "strange".

Now the full cost to taxpayers of his bid to defend the policy has emerged, prompting anger from campaigners.

Shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter said the amount of public cash wasted was "staggering".

"Perhaps he should focus on the bad decision-making in his own department rather than rush to waste public money in this way," he said.

The judge found Grayling's claim that prisoners could order books on Amazon was "somewhat misleading" because they are limited to spending as little as £4 a week.

The MoJ has confirmed it does not intend to appeal the judgement.

But ministers are in no hurry to change the rules for the incentives and earned privileges scheme.

Prisons minister Andrew Selous said earlier this week: "We need to await the terms of the court order before we can decide how best to fulfil the ruling of the court.

"The judgment in this case was surprising, as there was never a specific ban on books. The restrictions on parcels have been in existence across most of the prison estate for many years and for very good reasons. Prisoners have access to the same library service as the rest of us, and can buy books through the prison shop."

That suggests the Howard League for Penal Reform faces a tough fight in its latest call for restrictions on prisoners to be relaxed further so they can receive underwear and other essentials.

Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns, said: "It is highly regrettable that taxpayers' money was used to try to defend such a misguided policy.

"It is good to see that wise heads at the MoJ have prevailed in deciding to accept the court's judgment rather than fritter more money away on an appeal.