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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 August 2005, 08:27 GMT 09:27 UK
Slopping out bill rises to 44m
Slopping out
The prison service faces hundreds of compensation claims
The budget for compensating prisoners forced to slop out in Scottish jails has increased by 70%, it has emerged.

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) now expects to pay out up to 44m and has set aside a contingency liability fund.

Several hundred inmates still have to use chamber pots instead of toilets in Scottish jails.

A high court judge said this amounted to "degrading" treatment in a challenge under human rights law. The action cost the taxpayer almost 1.5m.

The Scottish Executive faces more than 1,000 claims for damages from prisoners and former inmates and the SPS is seeking to reach out of court settlements in similar cases.

It was a deliberate decision by the executive not to address it, now we're compensating criminals instead of fighting crime with this money
Margaret Mitchell
Tory justice spokeswoman

The latest figures were revealed in the SPS annual report and accounts for 2004-05.

Armed robber Robert Napier, 25, won 2,450 after he claimed he suffered an outbreak of the skin complaint, eczema, when slopping out at Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow.

Last year, the service earmarked 26m pounds for this kind of compensation.

In this year's accounts, that estimate has grown by 18m, with the possibility that future test cases could increase this liability.

More than 300 actions have already been raised in the Court of Session and sheriff courts.

'Huge error'

Napier's lawyer Tony Kelly said many more claims could follow.

He told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme: "We're talking about claims going back to the coming into force of devolution and the devolved institutions back in 1999.

"The people I act for are very much the tip of the iceberg and the potential liability is absolutely huge."

The Scottish National Party's justice spokesman Kenny MacAskill said: "This was caused by a huge error on the part of the executive.

Margaret Mitchell
Margaret Mitchell: "Now we're compensating criminals"

"They were told that costs would have to be paid unless they took action, they failed to take action and the price is now being met by the Scottish taxpayer."

The Conservatives also claimed the taxpayer was picking up the bill for executive "incompetence".

Justice spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell said: "It was a deliberate decision by the executive not to address it, now we're compensating criminals instead of fighting crime with this money."

The Scottish Executive passed inquiries about compensation to the SPS which declined to comment.

SPS chief executive Tony Cameron said in the annual report that "significant progress" was made during 2004-05, including ending slopping out at Barlinnie last July.


SEE ALSO:
New block ends jail slopping out
09 Jun 05 |  Scotland
Courts to hear slopping out cases
02 Mar 05 |  Scotland
Ministers lose slopping out case
10 Feb 05 |  Scotland
Judges hear slopping out appeal
18 Jan 05 |  Scotland
Row over jail compensation funds
21 Oct 04 |  Scotland


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