This project is based on the unique ‘Shared ethical debate’ between NHS RECs in the UK in which one research application is reviewed by several research ethics committees. This programme is now in its 6th cycle. In the fifth cycle a prison- based research project was reviewed by each of three NHS RECs that are ‘ flagged’ for such research and their debate and discussions were observed directly by one researcher who recorded the committee processes and the issues raised in committee. Subsequently a focus group of REC members from all three committees was constituted to consider the ethical importance of these issues. The three RECs were consistent in both process and identifying ethical issues. The focus group formulated a basic framework that will further contribute to ensuring a consistent and balanced approach to ethical review within this area of research.