Belfast Telegraph

Prisoners claim £538k for personal injuries in Northern Ireland jails over three years

 

By Rebecca Black

Thousands of pounds of public money has been paid out to inmates at Magilligan Prison who had to slop out their own waste, it can be revealed.

In total, £538,431 has been paid out to prisoners across Northern Ireland's three jails for "personal injuries" in the last three years, according to figures released to the Belfast Telegraph following a Freedom of Information Act request.

It is understood that the type of injuries claimed for include slips, trips and falls while some inmates have even claimed for lost clothes.

The payouts were made to prisoners at Maghaberry, Magilligan and Hydebank Wood from 2015 to 2017.

However, Magilligan jail, on the outskirts of Londonderry, which has a prison population of around 500, saw significantly more paid out, compared to Maghaberry which houses around 800 prisoners.

Some £328,580 was paid out to Magilligan prisoners between 2015-17, compared to £192,600 to Maghaberry prisoners in the same period, and £17,250 to Hydebank prisoners. This included one month - November 2016 - where £101,250 was paid out to Magilligan prisoners, compared to just £1,500 to Hydebank prisoners, and £8,250 to Maghaberry prisoners.

At Magilligan, some £19,900 was paid out in 2015. But this rose dramatically to £192,955.25 in 2016 and £115,725.75 in 2017.

The Department of Justice has confirmed that many of the payouts relating to Magilligan were due to a situation where there had been no cell toilets in the old H blocks, which resulted in prisoners there having to slop out every morning - that is, empty buckets of human waste.

In 2006, a former Magilligan inmate's claim that slopping out breached the European Human Rights Convention was upheld in the High Court in Belfast.

Justin John Martin (33) won a declaration that the Prison Service failed to adequately respect his right to private life.

Mr Martin said the lack of in-cell facilities was "degrading".

Since that ruling, a number of other inmates sued the Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS).

The Department of Justice told the Belfast Telegraph that the maximum amount of compensation received by an individual inmate was £1,500.

And more is set to be paid out, with a number of cases remaining outstanding.

A Department of Justice spokesperson said the majority of the compensation was paid for what it termed "an historic breach of human rights for prisoners at Magilligan Prison".

"These claims were taken against the NI Prison Service for unsatisfactory sanitation in a number of accommodation areas of the prison," he said.

"The accommodation has now been upgraded and meets with the required standards.

"Over 95% of these cases have now been concluded, with payments of either £250 or £750 paid to prisoners. The largest payment to any individual prisoner was £1,500."

At Maghaberry, £58,750 was paid out in 2015, £63,850 in 2016 and £70,000 in 2017.

Meanwhile at Hydebank Wood, where around 150 women and young people are held, just £17,250 was paid out over the three year period. At Hydebank, £8,000 was paid out in 2015, £3,500 in 2016 and £5,750 in 2017. But the Department of Justice did not comment further on what those claims had been over.

"NIPS receives various claims for compensation from prisoners," they said.

"Each claim is dealt with on an individual basis."

Belfast Telegraph

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