Simmons oversees MoJ’s £2.4bn prison service contracts process

Simmons & Simmons has advised the Ministry of ­Justice (MoJ) on two prison service procurement ­provisions that resulted in contracts worth a combined total of £2.4bn being awarded to bidders.

HM Prison Birmingham
HM Prison Birmingham

Simmons advised the MoJ from start to finish on the competitions. International projects head Juliet Reingold led for the firm. Of counsel Michael Polling assisted on the deal and was seconded to the MoJ at the beginning of the procurement process in 2009. Managing associates Ann Marie Davies and Rachel Scott also helped on the deal.

Both competitions used the competitive dialogue procedure. The first was for four prisoner escort and ­custody services contracts, together worth £1.2bn, that were awarded to two ­bidders. One of the contracts was awarded to service ­company Serco, which declined to comment on who provided legal advice.

GEO Amey PECS, a joint venture between The GEO Group and Amey, won the remaining three.

GEO instructed Mills & Reeve on its bid, with ­partner Andrew Ray ­leading on the deal, assisted by ­senior solicitor Simon Crane. Amey was advised by its in-house counsel.

According to a statement made by Lord Chancellor Kenneth Clarke on a ­Government website, the award of the contracts is expected to reduce costs for the MoJ by 20 per cent.

The second competition concerned three 15-year ­contracts, again with an ­estimated value of £1.2bn, to private sector companies for the operation of three ­prisons – Birmingham, Doncaster and Featherstone 2.

HM Prison Service won its bid to run the fourth prison, Buckley Hall, for the next seven years, ­in a deal worth £64.8m.

Serco kept its contract to run Doncaster’s prison, while Featherstone 2 will be run by support services ­company G4S, advised by its own in-house lawyer. G4S will also provide custodial ­services for the Birmingham prison in what is the first case of a publicly run prison in the UK being transferred to a private ­contractor.

The Doncaster prison contract was also innovative in that part of Serco’s ­payment will depend on the company achieving a reduction in reoffending rates.