Former Barlinnie inmates win slopping out court ruling

prison Hundreds of former inmates are expected to file new claims

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Three former prisoners have been told they can sue the Scottish government for damages over the practice of "slopping out".

The Court of Session agreed the claims of Stuart Docherty, James Philbin and Paul Logan could go ahead, despite their cases being time-barred.

If they are successful it could result in up to 1,700 claims, leading to millions of pounds in compensation.

The three had served time in Glasgow's Barlinnie Prison between 1999 and 2002.

During that period slopping out, where prisoners locked up over night have to use a chamber pot in their cell instead of a toilet, was still a practice.

However, the men did not bring their compensation claims to court until 2006 and 2007.

Lawyers acting for the group had asked Lord Hamilton, who was sitting with Lady Smith and Lord Wheatley, whether human rights meant the usual time limits on damages claims did not apply.

The judges decided that the Scotland Act of 1998, which made the European Convention on Human Rights part of Scots law, held sway.

The men's claims were initially heard at Glasgow Sheriff Court where the sheriff ruled that they were time-barred under the Prescription and Limitation (Scotland) Act of 1973.

Start Quote

It is astonishing that this matter continues to be litigated when the conditions complained of have, in many cases, been improve”

End Quote Tony Kelly Solicitor

The ex-prisoners took their case to the Court of Session asking judges to overturn the sheriff's decision.

Scottish ministers told the higher court that a declaration that the men's human rights had been breached was enough to settle the case and no cash should change hands.

In April 2004 armed robber Robert Napier won a landmark decision, and £2,400, after successfully arguing that his time on remand had affected his eczema.

Since then a number of claims have been fought out in court, or settled, according to their particular circumstances.

In September 2006 the Scottish Prison Service issued a statement agreeing that when two prisoners had been locked up for a significant part of the day and forced to rely on a chamber pot for their needs, their human rights had been breached.

And in May this year, judge Lady Dorrian widened the scope to include prisoners in Peterhead who had to use a porta-potty and stand in line to slop out into a public sluice.

The prisoners claims are now expected to go back to Glasgow Sheriff Court at a future date.

Solicitor Tony Kelly said the three men had been selected as test cases, and many others had been on hold, pending the decision.

He added: "Many hundreds of clients were eagerly awaiting the outcome of the court's deliberations today.

"It is astonishing that this matter continues to be litigated when the conditions complained of have, in many cases, been improved."

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