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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Prisoner loses high court challenge over slopping out

Prisoner loses high court challenge over slopping out

Judge rules Roger Gleaves's claim over practice at HMP Albany fails to qualify as 'degrading and humiliating treatment'

A serving prisoner has lost a high court challenge to the continued practice of slopping out that could have forced the government to spend millions on upgrading old jails in England and Wales.

Roger Gleaves, 77, claimed that having to use a bucket as a toilet in his cell at HMP Albany, on the Isle of Wight, was so degrading it amounted to a breach of his human rights.

Gleaves, the self-styled Bishop of Medway now serving time at Brixton prison, claimed £2,600 in damages for the continued practice between 2005 and 2006 despite the fact slopping out was formally abolished in jails in England and Wales in 1996.

He told Mr Justice Hickinbottom that the use of buckets was deplorable because not every prisoner chose to use it as the target for waste.

"Many put newspaper on the floor, use that and throw it out of the window. The use of this type of sanitation in cells is demeaning, utterly despicable in relation to people's behaviour and upsetting to a number of inmates who have never encountered such a practice before," he said. "It should never have been allowed."

Gleaves, who is due to be released in seven months, was present in court to hear his claim dismissed by the judge. Hickinbottom said it failed to pass the high threshold needed to qualify as "degrading and humiliating treatment" banned under the European convention on human rights.

A recent report by the National Council of Independent Monitoring Boards revealed that 10 prisons were still using the system in about 2,000 cells because they had not been able to install in-cell sanitation or could not afford the refurbishment costs involved in adapting Victorian buildings.

Gleaves was jailed for 15 years in 1998 for raping two 14-year-old boys. His claim was backed by two other ex-Albany inmates, Peter Kirby and Desmond Grant. More than 328 similar claims for damages were in the pipeline pending the result of Gleaves's challenge.

Gleaves's solicitor has been quoted as saying that the work involved could have left Albany with a £12m bill to provide in-cell sanitation and a further cost to compensate for the cells lost as a result of the refurbishment.

New prisons have a toilet in every cell but in some older prisons inmates operate a call button to ask for their cell to be unlocked so they can use facilities outside. Only one prisoner is let out at a time for between six and 10 minutes, with waits depending on how many are in the queue.

Comment: I think the judge was wrong to set such a high threshold. When I was in Albany 1973/4, before it became a regime catering for only Vulnertable Prisoners, there was a system of night sanitation. The cells only measure 8ft 3ins x 7ft 1 ins, the smallest I have ever come across. These were justified on the basis that inmates would not spend long periods in the cells, and there was night sanitation. The quality of life has gone down since my days there. I don't believe that the judge should have ruled against the inmate just because it will cost £millions for refurbishment. Hopefully, the inmate will take the case to the ECtHR.

1 comment:

Tim said...

His argument doesn't make any logical sense to me. If the Judge was made to use a bucket over at ASlbany, would he really then claim that the experience did not substantially lower his dignity?

There seem to be a lot of UK judges using clever convoluted logic to justify absolutely anything. Sophisticated Piers Morgans.