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"Prisoner Wins 'Slopping Out' Case: The Scottish Executive is facing huge compensation claims after a judge ruled that "slopping out" in jails amounted to degrading treatment.

26th April 2004

In a judgement to be delivered later on Monday, Lord Bonomy has awarded £2,400 to a prisoner at Barlinnie Jail in Glasgow.  The inmate claimed that the practice, where prisoners use buckets in their cells, breached his human rights. Scotland's prisons watchdog demanded an end to the practice last October.

Robert Napier, a remand prisoner at the time, raised a legal challenge in 2001 under the European Convention on Human Rights, in which he sought £5,000. He had been arrested after failing to appear at the High Court on robbery, assault and abduction charges. Napier said he found the conditions in the jail's C hall depressing and disgusting and they had resulted in a "diminishment of his human dignity". Being forced to slop out had resulted in his eczema being aggravated.

In his judgement, Lord Bonomy agreed with Napier, who is nearing the end of his sentence. He found that slopping out violated articles three and eight of the convention and the common law "duty of care."  On the violation of article three, the judge said: "I am entirely satisfied that the petitioner was exposed to conditions of detention which taken together, were such as to damage his human rights, his human dignity and to arise in him feelings of anxiety, anguish, inferiority and humiliation."

The Scottish National Party described the judgement as "inevitable" and accused the executive of not doing enough to end the practice.  Justice spokeswoman Nicola Sturgeon said: "This case was only ever going to go one way and now the executive face hundreds of claims for compensation from other prisoners. 

"Because of a failure to invest in prison conditions, they now face having to make compensation payments to convicted prisoners.  

"No doubt the executive will appeal against this judgement to try to delay the consequences of their own inaction."

Twelve hundred male prisoners are forced to slop out in five prisons in Scotland.

In October last year, the chief inspector of prisoners, Andrew McLellan, said slopping out at Barlinnine had to end.

The Scottish Prison Service said £20m had been invested in providing sanitation and power in cells in three of the prison's halls in the past six years.

At the time, the governor said only 20% of inmates were slopping out but even that figure was unacceptable.

Published: 2004/04/26

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