Page last updated at 13:14 GMT, Thursday, 1 May 2008 14:14 UK

Anger at cuffing pregnant inmates

Cornton Vale cell. Pic by PA
Ms Sturgeon said it was unacceptable to cuff pregnant inmates

The handcuffing of pregnant prisoners in hospital has been branded "unacceptable" by Nicola Sturgeon.

The deputy first minister made the comment after Labour's Johann Lamont described in parliament how a heavily pregnant constituent was handcuffed.

Prisoner Donna McLeish was shackled to a Reliance officer while attending appointments at hospital in Stirling.

A recent HMI report into Cornton Vale condemned the practice of handcuffing women before and after they gave birth.

During First Ministers Questions, Ms Lamont said her seven-months pregnant constituent was handcuffed for both inpatient and outpatient appointments at Stirling Royal Infirmary.

The position of this government is very clear. "We consider the handcuffing of pregnant women in hospital to be absolutely unacceptable
Nicola Sturgeon

She called on Ms Sturgeon to outline the government's policy on the issue and called for action to address it with Reliance, the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) and health boards.

But Ms Sturgeon said: "The position of this government is very clear.

"We consider the handcuffing of pregnant women in hospital to be absolutely unacceptable and I hope that's something everybody in the chamber would agree with."

Justice secretary Kenny MacAskill is due to meet Ms Lamont to discuss the issue.

'Double-cuffed'

"I certainly hope that in the course of that conversation she will be reassured that this is something this government does take very seriously indeed," Ms Sturgeon added.

When he published his report in Cornton Vale last year, HM chief inspector of prisons, Dr Andrew McLellan, criticised the cuffing of pregnant women, particularly during labour.

He said: "There is always a balance to be found between security and humanity, but in the case of women giving birth the security considerations would need to be extraordinarily high to justify this practice."

He also said questions surrounded the practice of routinely "double-cuffing" woman.

Staff at the prison also told of women refusing to go to hospital for medical treatment when they learned that they would be double-cuffed and women being handcuffed during labour.




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