Page last updated at 17:05 GMT, Wednesday, 25 June 2008 18:05 UK

Anger over slopping out 'delay'

Slopping out sign in a prison
Scottish prisons have been given investment to end slopping out

The Scottish Government has hit out at UK ministers for a delay in closing a legal loophole allowing prisoners to sue for human rights breaches.

The move came after The House of Lords ruled that a one-year time limit for bringing claims on issues such as slopping out did not apply in Scotland. Scottish prison chiefs have paid out millions of pounds in compensation, with hundreds more cases waiting.

But the UK Government said it was working to resolve the issue.

Human rights law has barred claims made a year after the incident of which inmates complained in England and Wales.

But the Lords ruled in October 2007 that the Scotland Act did not set out an explicit time bar for human rights claims brought against the Scottish Government.

The UK Government is emphatically not stalling on this issue
Jack Straw
UK justice secretary

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said the UK Government had yet to respond to calls from Holyrood ministers to amend the problem, an issue reserved to Westminster.

But his UK counterpart, Jack Straw, said he wrote to Scots ministers on the issue last week - and was still waiting for a reply.

The Scottish Prison Service has paid out 5.1m in compensation and 2.6m in legal fees on slopping out cases.

There are a further 600 cases in the system and 740 yet to be considered. Mr MacAskill said: "It is frustrating that, despite our strenuous efforts, we still await a commitment by the UK Government to take action to remedy this situation, although our discussions with them continue.

"I have made clear to the UK Government our dissatisfaction with its failure to act and am continuing to put strong pressure on them to deal with the issue."

Not stalling

The justice secretary said he was angry at having to pay out cash which could go into boosting penal policy.

He added that Scottish administrations had announced millions of pounds of investment for new and improved prisons which would end the practice of slopping out, where inmates are required to empty out their own sanitary waste from their cells.

Mr Straw said the Scottish Government's approach to the situation was "inaccurate" and said the two governments were working closely together on the issue.

He added: "This is a complex area of the law and requires careful consideration with the UK Government and the Scottish Executive working together.

"The UK Government is emphatically not stalling on this issue.

"It is wrong of the Executive to claim the UK Government is stalling when, as Kenny MacAskill recognises, it is engaged in ongoing dialogue with the executive."




SEE ALSO
Law Lords rule on prisoner rights
24 Oct 07 |  Scotland
Slopping out payments to be made
15 Sep 06 |  Scotland
Slopping out bill rises to 44m
02 Aug 05 |  Scotland
New block ends jail slopping out
09 Jun 05 |  Scotland
Slopping out payments for inmates
09 Mar 05 |  Scotland
Courts to hear slopping out cases
02 Mar 05 |  Scotland

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