THE FACTS

The facts of the case as submitted by the applicant may be summarised
as follows:

The applicant is a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies, born in
1923 and at the time of his application was detained in prison at
Parkhurst, Isle of Wight. He was convicted of robbery with violence in
March 1965 and sentenced to fifteen years' imprisonment. He is
represented by Mr. W., a solicitor practising in R.. The applicant was
granted legal aid by the Commission.

He originally made submissions to the Commission alleging that he had
been wrongly convicted, but has since stated that this matter is
already being taken up with the authorities and for the present he only
wishes to proceed with his later complaint that he was refused
permission to consult a solicitor with a view to bringing proceedings
for defamation against a prison officer.

The complaint arises out of disturbances at the prison on the evening
of 24 October 1969. The applicant states that, because he was employed
as an electrician in the prison, he did not take exercise with the
other prisoners and so had little social contact with them. He
therefore had no prior knowledge that a number of prisoners were going
to demonstrate in the association rooms on the day of the disturbances
and, when a general uproar broke out, he was taken completely by
surprise.

The applicant spend the whole period of the demonstration with prison
officers, whom he names, and two officers stated that he had taken no
part in it. On 25 October 1969 he wrote to his Member of Parliament
telling him that he was not involved in the night's events but that he
feared it would spoil his chances of obtaining the examination and
other facilities which his Member of Parliament was urging on his
behalf. He was told by the prison authorities that this letter could
not leave the prison.

On 26 October the applicant was removed to a separate wing of the
prison which was being used to house those prisoners said to be
involved in the disturbances. He was not charged for several days, but
was told by prison officers that he was in serious trouble and he was
kept in solitary confinement without any books, tools, etc. He asked
the Governor, the Deputy Governor, various assistant Governors and the
medical officer, of what he was accused, but no one would tell him. He
wrote again on 1 November 1969 to his Member of Parliament, and also
on 4 November 1969 to the Chief Constable, but both letters were
stopped. On 29 October he made a statement to the police and named
eight prisoners and two prison officers whom he thought could confirm
that he had taken no part in the demonstration.

On 30 October, however, he was charged by a Chief Inspector of Police
with assaulting an unnamed prison officer. The applicant was shocked
and burst into tears. The Chief Inspector then said that he was
completely satisfied that the applicant had not taken part in the
disturbances and that he would recommend to the Governor that the
applicant be taken back to his cell in the main prison on the same day.
He was not in fact taken back until 7 November, when he was informed
by the Deputy Governor that he had been completely cleared of any
involvement in the disturbances.

The applicant was subsequently shown, by solicitors acting for other
prisoners, a statement by a prison officer alleging that the applicant
had wielded a steel chair at the barricade on the night of the
disturbances. The applicant now complains that, although he was
eventually cleared of any complicity in these events, his prison record
will show that he was suspected of being involved in a riot at the
prison. In addition to the humiliation and mental strain he has
suffered, this has affected his prospects of early release on parole
and has caused him to be deprived of certain privileges.

In this connection, the applicant states that during the five years he
has been in prison, most of his spare time has been spent in studying
radio and television servicing, electronics, mathematics, etc. He has
passed eight examinations in these subjects, of which six with
distinction and two with credit. He was attempting to obtain permission
to attend an examination centre at a technical college in November
1969, and also to be transferred from Parkhurst Prison to a semi-open
prison where he could continue his technical education. This would have
improved his prospects of release on parole.

His Member of Parliament had been pressing the Home Secretary on both
matters and, at the time of the disturbances, had informed him that the
first request had been granted and the second also subject to the
agreement of the prison authorities concerned. Both requests, however,
were subsequently refused.

The applicant contends that the statement of the prison officer, which
was obviously false or grossly mistaken, was clearly defamatory. It
deprived him of opportunities for which he had been working hard, gave
him two weeks of terror in solitary confinement on the ground of
unspecified crimes and at one time drove him seriously to contemplate
suicide. He states that he now has no prospects of parole for several
years and expects to serve two extra years of his sentence. All this
results from the police officer's statement.

On 20 March 1970 the applicant petitioned the Home Secretary that he
be allowed to consult a solicitor of his own choice to obtain advice
as to whether the statement of the prison officer was actionable in
civil law. This petition was refused on 6 April.

The applicant alleges that this refusal to allow him access to a
solicitor constitutes a violation of Article 6 (1) of the Convention.
He submits that as a prisoner he is answerable to the law and the law
should afford him some protection. He contends that he has the same
civil rights as any free man and should be allowed to consult a
solicitor about his rights. He also alleges a violation of Article 13
of the Convention.

PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE COMMISSION

The proceedings before the Commission may be summarised as follows:

The application was examined on 21 July 1970, in accordance with Rule
45, 1 of the Commission's Rules of Procedure, by a group of three
members of the Commission, and in accordance with Rule 45, 3 (b), the
application was communicated on 28 July 1970 to the respondent
Government, which were invited to submit their observations in writing
on the admissibility of the application before 22 September 1970. At
the request of the Government, this time-limit was extended to 8
October 1970. The Government submitted their written observations on
1 October 1970, and these were communicated to the applicant on 9
October 1970.

The time-limit of 2 November 1970, fixed for the submission of the
applicant's written observations in reply was subsequently extended to
8 January 1971, following the confirmation by the Commission's
Secretary of the appointment of Mr. W. on 9 December 1970 as the
applicant's legal representative. At the request of the applicant's
lawyer on 18 December 1970, this time-limit was again extended to 20
January 1971. The applicant's observations were submitted under cover
of his lawyer's letter dated 15 January 1970.

The Commission began its consideration of the parties' observations in
its session of February 1971, but adjourned until its session beginning
on 20 March 1971 its decision on the application's admissibility.

SUBMISSIONS OF THE PARTIES

The submissions of the parties may be summarised as follows:

I. AS TO THE FACTS

1. The respondent Government do not dispute the facts as they were
presented by the applicant but submit further details. A detailed
account of the events in October 1969 at Parkhurst Prison is also given
by the respondent Government.

The applicant's letters to his Member of Parliament were stopped
because the applicant failed to raise the matter through the authorised
channels beforehand. This was also the reason for the stopping of his
letter to the Chief Constable.

Further, it was as a result of more detailed enquiries by the police
that the disciplinary charge against the applicant was dropped and he
was returned to the cell which he had occupied before the disturbances.
However, it is submitted that the prison officer, by reporting in good
faith on the applicant's activities, was doing no more than his duty.

The applicant petitioned the Home Secretary twice. On 7 February 1970
he requested a transfer to another prison on the ground that he was not
allowed to spend as much time out of his cell as he had done formerly.
The reason for this restriction was that, as a result of the
disturbances on 24 October 1969, it had been considered necessary to
restrict the evening and weekend association periods of all prisoners
at Parkhurst. Since the applicant was in the same position as all the
other prisoners in the prison in this respect, he was informed that the
Home Secretary was not prepared to take any action on his request.

The applicant again petitioned the Home Secretary on 20 March 1970,
asking for a transfer and saying that he was suffering from nervousness
and from nightmares about the disturbances of 24 October 1969. He also
said that he was in fear of reprisals by prison staff and false
accusations as a result of his alleged participation in these
disturbances. He added that he thought that the allegation originally
made against him by the prison officer had been recorded in his prison
record and that this had prevented his being recommended for parole
after his application had been considered in December 1969. He asked
permission to consult a solicitor with a view to bringing a civil
action for libel in respect of the original statement against him by
the prison officer. As an alternative he requested an independent
examination of his record by a magistrate whom he named and he would
then be satisfied with an assurance that the prison officer's statement
was not part of his record and with an apology for the alleged libel.
The report from the Governor on this petition indicated that entries
in the applicant's record showed that he had been charged under the
Prison Rules with gross personal violence against an officer but that
the charge had not been proceeded with;  that these facts were not
mentioned in the dossier submitted to the local parole board when his
application for parole was considered and that there was no reason to
suppose that they had had any influence on the decision not to
recommend that his case be submitted to the Parole Board. The Governor
also reported that the applicant had not made any complaints of
nightmares or nervousness to the prison medical officer.

So far as concerned the applicant's complaint against the officer who
had wrongly identified him as one of his assailants, the Secretary of
State took into account the fact that it is among the duties of prison
officers to report promptly on acts of indiscipline and that, in the
present case, there was nothing to suggest that the initial
identification of the applicant by the injured officer was not made by
the latter in good faith and in the course of his duty. It was clear,
that, as soon as he was able to do so, the officer had properly and
promptly reported his subsequent doubts about the identity of his
assailant. There thus appeared to be no grounds, on a reasonable and
objective view of all the facts, on which the applicant could sustain
proceedings for libel against the officer. Accordingly, the applicant
was notified on 6 April 1970 that the Home Secretary was not prepared
to grant his request for transfer and that he could find no grounds for
taking any action in regard to the other matters raised in the
applicant's petition.

As to the refusal of permission for the applicant to attend an
examination in November 1969, the Government submit that this was due
to the fact that, at that time, the allegations against the applicant
were still under investigation.

2. The applicant first submits in reply that the wording of the
Government's observations with regard to the events at Parkhurst is
misleading and he has attempted a clarification on several points. He
states that he made a full voluntary statement to the police on 28
October 1969, a copy of which was attached to his observations. Prison
Officer L.. complained that the applicant had actually assaulted him
and he did not simply state that he thought that the applicant had
assaulted him. The applicant was never notified that he was charged
under Rule 47 (2) of the Prison Rules 1964, nor had information of such
a charge been given to a visiting committee of board of visitors as
required by Rule 52 of the Prison Rules. Further, he was interviewed
on two occasions on 28 and 30 October 1969 and was informed during the
latter that his statement had been verified.

It is to be clearly understood from the Government's observations that
Principal Officer M. and another prison officer confirmed the written
statements of the applicant. It is believed by the applicant that
Principal Officer M. and the other officer made their statements before
7 November and that it was only when confronted with those statements
that Prison Officer L. admitted that he could have been wrong in
accusing the applicant of being one of the prisoners who assaulted him.
The Government's observations state that the disciplinary charge
against the applicant was then dropped. According to the Government the
entries on the applicant's prison record showed that he had been
charged under the Prison Rules with gross personal violence against an
officer but that the charge had not been proceeded with. If, in fact,
a charge had been entered against the applicant in the appropriate
prison books and records he was not informed of the charges as soon as
possible as is provided for in Rule 49. There is no provision in Rule
52, or in any other Rule, for a charge of committing gross personal
violence against an officer to be either "dropped" or "not proceeded
with". There is only room for a conviction or acquittal. The
Government's observations consequently disclose a violation of the
Prison Rules by the Governor of Parkhurst Prison.

The applicant's two letters to his Member of Parliament of 25 October
and 2 November 1969, did not contain any complaints about his treatment
in prison and ought not to have been stopped. It is further alleged
that the way in which his first letter to his Member of Parliament is
cited in the Government's observations results in a misinterpretation
of the letter and the applicant's intention. Further, the applicant's
letter to the Chief Constable of 4 November 1969, was an appeal for
help from a wrongly accused man and should not have been stopped or the
Governor should have consulted the Chief Constable beforehand.

The applicant further submits that the summary, in the Government's
observations, of his petition dated 20 March 1970 is incorrect and
misleading. In this petition the applicant said that as a result he
suffered nervousness at being in a small room with a mass of other
prisoners because he was afraid that, if a fight occurred between
prisoners, he might be subjected to indiscriminate repressive action
by the staff and liable to have unfounded accusations made against him.
He also said that because of these fears he was prevented from enjoying
or participating in stage facilities as this would necessitate his
associating with large numbers of prisoners in small stage rooms. He
was wisely avoiding any involvement in trouble and asked for a transfer
to another prison where he would feel free to enjoy the facilities to
which he was entitled. Additionally, the applicant said that he
understood that a statement by Prison Officer L. accusing him of an
offence under the Prison Rules was lodged with his prison record.
Nevertheless, it is also admitted by the Government that there is on
record an entry that the applicant had been charged under the Prison
Rules with gross personal violence to a prison officer but that the
charge had not been proceeded with. The applicant submits that failure
to proceed with the charge is not a declaration of the innocence of the
applicant. In this petition he had asked permission to consult a
solicitor, as was confirmed in the Government's observations, and
suggested, as an alternative, that he would be satisfied with an
independent examination of his record by a named magistrate and an
apology for the libel. The observations of the Government at no stage
deny that the applicant had a prima facie case upon which to found
proceedings and, according to the applicant, it is not for the
Secretary of State to decide whether or not the prison officer will
avail himself of any defences open to him or whether or not a court
will accept any defence that may be raised.

It is further alleged by the applicant that it appears from the
Government's observations that at Parkhurst the innocent suffered the
same restrictions as the guilty.

The applicant had applied, before 24 October 1969, for permission to
sit for certain examinations which were to be held in January 1970 and
not in November 1969 as was stated by the Government. The allegations
against the applicant were not under investigation in January 1970 and
therefore arrangements could have been made to enable the applicant to
take the said examinations.

II. THE LAW PRACTICE CONCERNING PRISONERS' COMMUNICATIONS IN CONNECTION
WITH COURT PROCEEDINGS AND PRISON PRACTICE RELATING THERETO

1. The respondent Government submit that the Prison Rules 1964, made
by the Secretary of State under Section 47 of the Prison Act 1952 place
certain restrictions on communications between prisoners and other
persons. The relevant provisions are contained in Rules 33 and 34, the
text of which is attached as Annex A to the Government's observations.
In particular, Rule 34, 8 provides that a prisoner may not communicate
with any person in connection with any legal or other business, or with
any person other than a relative or friend, except with the leave of
the Secretary of State.

A prisoner who wishes to take legal advice in connection with his
treatment in prison, as with any other matter, must therefore obtain
the permission of the Secretary of State before communicating with a
solicitor. In deciding whether or not to grant a request for leave to
seek legal advice, the Secretary of State takes into account the extent
to which the particulars contained in the request reveal a possible
cause of action and leave will not normally be granted if the
particulars are insufficient to indicate the precise nature of the
prisoner's complaint. If the particulars are not sufficient for this
purpose, the prisoner is normally invited to submit further
particulars. In considering whether a prisoner should be allowed to
communicate with a solicitor while still serving his sentence, the
Secretary of State takes into account whether any proceedings which the
prisoner might wish to take would, before his release from prison,
become barred by statutory limitation on account of the passage of time
since the alleged cause of action arose. But in any event it is not the
practice of the Secretary of State to refuse leave to communicate with
a solicitor for the purpose of obtaining legal advice if the request
indicates the nature of the complaint in question and the complaint is
of such a nature as, on a reasonable and objective view of the facts,
to reveal a cause of action.

In considering a request to pursue action against the prison
authorities or against individual prison officers it is the
responsibility of the Secretary of State to satisfy himself as to the
full circumstances of the case and, where appropriate, to cause such
enquiries to be made as are necessary for this purpose. Where the
complaint involves accusations of misconduct by prison officers (e.g.
assault) it is the practice of the Secretary of State to insist that,
before he entertains a request for permission to consult a solicitor
with a view to bringing legal proceedings, the prescribed procedure for
dealing with such allegations of disciplinary offences by the prison
officers concerned (or, in appropriate cases, a criminal offence)
should first be exhausted.

2. The applicant observes that under Rule 34, 8 a prisoner shall not
be entitled "under this Rule" to communicate with any person in
connection with any legal or other business ... except with the leave
of the Secretary of State. On the other hand, Rule 37, 1 provides that
the legal adviser of a prisoner in any legal proceedings, civil or
criminal, to which the prisoner is a party shall be afforded reasonable
facilities for interviewing him in connection with those proceedings.
(A copy of this Rule is attached to the applicant's reply). It is
appreciated that in the present case the applicant is only a potential
party to legal proceedings against the prison officer but, if the
position were reversed and the prison officer had instituted legal
proceedings against the applicant for damages for injuries received,
then the applicant would have been entitled under Rule 37 to have a
visit from his legal adviser.

It is further agreed by the applicant that in the existing
circumstances he required the permission of the Secretary of State
before communicating with a solicitor and a petition for permission was
duly lodged by the applicant . The reference to the possibility of
particulars not being sufficient is not understood as the particulars
contained in the petition were sufficient and the Secretary of State
did not invite the applicant to submit further particulars. The
particulars supplied and the information available to the Secretary of
State revealed a prima facie case of defamation of the applicant's
character by the prison officer concerned. The Secretary of State's
decision does not give any reasons for rejection of the applicant's
petition. Various matters are suggested which may or may not have
influenced him in his decision. Dealing with these matters in the order
presented by the Government, the first point raised is that of actions
which are barred by statutory limitation on account of the passage of
time since the alleged cause of action arose. According to English law
(being that applicable in that part of the United Kingdom in which the
cause of action arose) proceedings must be instituted within a period
of six years. The cause of action arose on 24 October 1969 and the
earliest date for the applicant's release from prison, subject to good
behaviour, is 16 March 1975. The earliest period of time, before which
the applicant will be free to take action, is almost five and a half
years after the cause of action arose, leaving little time in which to
apply for legal aid and comply with the necessary formalities of
issuing legal process before the date on which proceedings are barred.
In any event, this affluxion of time would operate against the
applicant in that the memory of any witness would be substantially
dimmed.

The next matter referred to by the Government is the practice of the
Secretary of State not to refuse leave to communicate with a solicitor
for the purpose of obtaining legal advice if the request indicates the
nature of the complaint and it is of such a nature as, on a reasonable
and objective view of the facts, to reveal a sustainable cause of
action. In other words the Secretary of State presumes to set himself
up as a judge and jury on such unsworn evidence as he himself chooses
to obtain, which in itself is contrary to all known rules of justice.
The reference to the Secretary of State's duty to first apply procedure
for dealing with allegations of disciplinary offences by prison
officers concerned should first be exhausted is immaterial as the
petition to him by the applicant did not allege or reveal any such
disciplinary offense.

III. CONSIDERATION OF ADMISSIBILITY

1. Under Article 6 (1) of the Convention

The respondent Government submit that detention in a prison pursuant
to a sentence passed on conviction of a criminal offence (this being
a deprivation of liberty permitted under Article 5 of the Convention)
necessarily involves a deprivation of liberty going beyond the mere
fact of confinement. There is inherent in physical confinement a
restriction on the ability of the person confined to see to the conduct
of his affairs. It is therefore further submitted that the fact of
confinement affects the application of provisions of the Convention
beyond those of Article 5, for example those relating to family life,
correspondence, assembly and marriage, and that this is a necessary
consequence of the inherent characteristics of confinement and is
distinct from the express qualifications on certain of the provisions
of the Convention such as those set out in Articles 8 (2), 9 (2), 10
(2) and 11 (2). In support of these submissions, the respondent
Government refers to the final decision of the Commission as to
admissibility in application No. 2759/66, De Courcy against the United
Kingdom, Yearbook, Vol.10, pp. 388, 412, and to the decision of the
Commission in relation to Article 12 of the Convention (which does not
contain any express qualifying provision such as is to be found in
Article 8 (2)), in application No. 892/60, Yearbook, Vol. 4, pp. 240,
256.

The respondent Government further submit that the circumstances of a
regime of detention are such that certain restrictions on the free
access of prisoners to the machinery of civil litigations are both
necessary and justifiable; that, even as regards persons who are not
prisoners, it is generally accepted that there may be circumstances in
which it is legitimate to impose restrictions in appropriate cases on
their untrammelled recourse to the machinery of litigation. Such
restrictions may be imposed on the bringing of frivolous or vexatious
litigation or litigation fostered by imaginary grievances or attempts
to escape the monotony of prison life or just pass time. Further, there
are cases where the pursuit of litigation is seen by a prisoner as a
way of circumventing prison discipline. In the case of convicted
persons, for reasons set out in the Government's submissions, there is
a greater necessity for such restrictions.

The respondent Government also submit that the facts of the case, as
completed in their observations, indicate that the applicant has no
reasonable grounds for bringing proceedings for defamation against a
prison officer who was doing no more than his duty in reporting, in
good faith, what he thought was the identity of his assailant.

The Government therefore request the Commission to reject the
applicant's complaint under Article 6 (1) of the Convention as being
either incompatible with the provisions of the Convention, or
manifestly ill-founded.

The applicant submits that Article 6 (1) does not exclude its
application to those persons deprived of liberty under Article 5. The
examples given, and the decisions quoted by the Government are not
analogous with the circumstances of the present application. The
Government's observations show that the prison officer made a statement
which is prima facie libellous, defaming the character of the
applicant. This being so, whatever the merits or admissibility of any
defence, the applicant's complaint cannot under any circumstances be
described as frivolous or vexatious or fostered by an imaginary or
pretended grievance or a desire to pass the time, attempt to escape the
monotony of prison life, strike back at the prison authorities or an
individual officer, or circumvent prison discipline.

The applicant clearly showed a reasonable attitude in his petition by
suggesting an alternative to the institution of civil proceedings
against the prison officer. As the petition by the applicant was for
permission to consult a solicitor, the suggestion by the Government
that the unrestricted access of prisoners to persons outside their
place of detention, ostensibly for the purpose of initiating or
pursuing litigation, could be used for a criminal or other improper
purpose, can only be interpreted as a regrettable slur on the legal
profession generally. The applicant's attorney would not consider
contending that the Secretary of State, in refusing the applicant's
petition, was motivated by a desire to protect one of his Department's
servants, yet those who are incarcerated and subjected to environmental
and psychological pressures and conditions in the manner described by
the Government might well be led to make wrong assumptions of actions
taken by the Secretary of State. It is incumbent upon the Secretary of
State for his own protection, as a matter of governmental policy and
in the interests of justice, to accede to requests for permission to
consult a solicitor.

In all but an insignificant number of cases any legal proceedings by
a prisoner against an officer would have to be supported by legal aid
and, as all applications for such aid are severely scrutinised by a
panel of solicitors, legal aid would only be granted in cases where
such panel is of the opinion that the said applicant has a reasonable
and sustainable case. It is essential, in the interests of justice and
the preservation of human rights, that any prisoner feeling himself
aggrieved by the action or statements of a prison officer should be
allowed to consult a solicitor, rather than that any prison officer
should think that he is in the happy position of defaming the character
of a prisoner who is prevented from access to legal redress.

It is further submitted by the applicant's lawyer that the applicant
has a sustainable case against the prison officer who had lost his
defence of privilege by neglecting, or refusing unequivocally, to
withdraw his allegations against the applicant when the occasions arose
for him to do so.

2. Under Article 8 of the Convention

The applicant further alleges that Article 8 has also been violated
since no Prison Rule states specifically that letters complaining of
treatment in prison are to be stopped. He states that this allegation
is supported by the Government's observations themselves.

3. Under Article 13 of the Convention

The respondent Government submit that Article 13 relates exclusively
to a remedy in respect of a violation of the rights and freedoms set
forth in the Convention and that, until such a violation has been
established, which is not the case in the present application, there
is no basis for the application of this Article. Reference is made to
application No. 1167/61, Collection of Decisions, Vol. 12, p. 70.

The applicant submits that there has been a violation of Articles 6 and
8 of the Convention and that accordingly Article 13 applies.

THE LAW

1. The Commission first examined the applicant's complaint that his
letters of 25 October and 1 November 1969 to his Member of Parliament
and of 4 November 1969 to the Chief Constable were stopped by the
prison authorities. The applicant alleges that this action contravenes
Article 8 (Art. 8) of the Convention which provides for the right of
everyone to respect for his correspondence and this allegation was
first made by him in his observations of 15 January 1971 in reply to
the Government's observations of 1 October 1970. The Government
reserved the right to reply to this allegation.

The Commission has had regard to the terms of Article 26 (Art. 26) of
the Convention under which it may only deal with a matter after all
domestic remedies have been exhausted according to the generally
recognised rules of international law. In this connection the
Commission has ex officio taken note of Rules 33 and 34 of the Prison
Rules 1964 made by the Secretary of State under section 47 of the
Prison Act 1952 and also of Section 1 of the said Act.

Prison Rule 33, Section 2 states:  "Except as provided by statute or
these Rules, a prisoner shall not be permitted to communicate with any
outside person, or that person with him, without the leave of the
Secretary of State". Section 1 of the Prison Act 1952 states: "All
powers and jurisdiction in relation to prisons and prisoners ... shall
be exercisable by the Secretary of State".

The Commission first considers that it has no reason to suppose that
the reference to third persons in Prison Rule 33 does not apply to a
prisoner's correspondence with his Member of Parliament or the Chief
Constable.

In the present case the applicant first failed to request the Home
Secretary's permission to send the above-mentioned letters and,
secondly, he failed to submit his complaint by way of petition to the
Home Secretary requesting the revocation of the measures taken by the
Governor to stop the letters concerned.

The Commission has already found in its previous decision on the
admissibility of application No. 2749/66, De Courcy v. United Kingdom,
Yearbook, Vol. 10, pp. 388, 410, states that the applicant who failed
to apply in accordance with the Prison Rules to the Home Secretary for
permission to send his letters has not exhausted the remedies available
to him under English law and had therefore not complied with the
provisions of Article 26 (Art. 26) of the Convention.

In the present case the applicant has similarly failed to petition the
Home Secretary in regard to his complaints and has, therefore, not
exhausted the remedies available to him under English law. Moreover,
and examination of the case as it has been submitted, including an
examination made ex officio, does not disclose the existence of any
special circumstances which might have absolved the applicant,
according to the generally recognised rules of international law, from
exhausting the domestic remedy at his disposal.

It follows that the applicant has not complied with the condition as
to the exhaustion of domestic remedies and his application must in this
respect be rejected under Article 27 (3) (Art. 27-3) of the Convention.

2. The Commission next examined the applicant's complaint that, while
detained in prison, he was refused permission to consult a solicitor
with a view to bringing a legal action for defamation against a prison
officer, who wrongly  accused the applicant of having assaulted him.
In this respect the application submits that this refusal constitutes
a violation of Article 6 (1) and again of Article 8 of the Convention.

Article 6 (1) (Art. 6-1) of the Convention provides that "In the
determination of his civil rights and obligations ... everyone is
entitled to a fair ... hearing within reasonable time by an independent
and impartial tribunal established by law ...".

The applicant's allegation is that, by the refusal of the United
Kingdom authorities to allow him to consult a solicitor, he was denied
access to a court as guaranteed by the above provision.

The Commission observes, as it did in its decision of 16 December 1970
on the admissibility of application No. 4115/69, Knechtl v. United
Kingdom, that the question whether Article 6 (1) of the Convention
guarantees the right of access to the courts has never been expressly
decided. The Commission again considers that the application raises an
important issue concerning the interpretation of the Convention whose
determination should depend upon an examination of the merits of the
application. The application, therefore, cannot in this respect be
considered as being manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of
Article 27, paragraph (2) (Art. 27-2), of the Convention.

The respondent Government has further submitted that for various
reasons this right must in any event be subject to certain limitations
in the case of persons lawfully detained in prison in accordance with
Article 5 (Art. 5) of the Convention. They contend that on this ground
the refusal to allow the applicant to consult a solicitor with a view
to bringing legal proceedings, was consistent with Article 6 (Art. 6).

The applicant has submitted in reply that the application of Article
6 (1) (Art. 6-1) is not excluded in regard to those persons deprived
of liberty under Article 5 (Art. 5) of the Convention.

The Commission has made a preliminary examination, in the light of the
facts presented by the parties, of the question whether, if Article 6
(1) (Art. 6-1) guarantees the right of access to the courts, there
exist any inherent limitations in the exercise of that right which may
be applicable in the present case. It finds that the issues raised by
this aspect of the application should depend upon an examination of its
merits and therefore the application can again not be rejected as being
manifestly ill-founded under Article 27, paragraph (2) (Art. 27-2), of
the Convention.

3. The remaining issue as to whether the same refusal of permission to
consult his solicitor raises a question under Article 8 (1) (Art. 8-1)
of the Convention, is closely connected with the wider questions of the
existence of a right of access to the courts and of the scope of any
such right. The Commission considers therefore that this remaining
issue depends for its determination on an examination of the merits of
the main issue, and that the application cannot be rejected in this
respect as being manifestly ill-founded or on any other ground.

For these reasons, the Commission

1. DECLARES INADMISSIBLE THE APPLICANT'S SEPARATE COMPLAINT UNDER
ARTICLE 8 (Art. 8) OF THE CONVENTION IN CONNECTION WITH THE STOPPING
OF HIS LETTERS OF 25 OCTOBER AND 1 NOVEMBER 1969 TO HIS MEMBER OF
PARLIAMENT AND OF 4 NOVEMBER 1969 TO THE CHIEF CONSTABLE

2. DECLARES ADMISSIBLE THE REMAINING PARTS OF THE APPLICATION.