Prisoners are paid pounds 5,000 for riot 'trauma'

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Seven former prisoners have been paid about pounds 5,000 each by the Home Office for the trauma they said they suffered during the riots in Strangeways prison, Manchester, in 1990.

The decision to compensate the former inmates in out-of-court settlements drew an angry reaction from MPs who warned that the move could open the flood gates to scores of similar claims. A victims' organisation said it was "justice back to front".

An eighth former Strangeways prisoner is having his claim considered, while a prison officer has been paid an undisclosed sum following the mass disturbances at the jail.

In what are believed to be the first cases of this kind, the inmates - all since released - said they underwent personality changes because of the riots.

The Home Office said settlements were made because of the huge cost to the taxpayers if the cases had come to trial.

A Prison Service spokesman said it was a decision of the Prison Board, but that Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, would have been informed.

The former inmates said they suffered post-traumatic stress disorder from the violent scenes in the jail. Terence Jeggo, 27, of Manchester, who was given pounds 4,500, said the Prison Service breached their duty of care.

Mr Jeggo was involved in an unsuccessful attempt to rescue two prisoners from a burning cell during the riot. He said he suffered post-traumatic stress disorder from a belief that he had left them to die. Mr Jeggo, who served two years for wounding, said yesterday: "My personality changed totally. My mother said before I went into Strangeways I was a human being and when I came out I wasn't."

Dawn Bromiley, of Justice For Victims, responded: "What about the stress and pain caused to the victims and families of victims by their actions? Justice has got everything back-to-front."

Richard Tilt, acting director-general of the Prison Service, said: "In seven cases we have concluded that it would be reasonable to make ex gratia payments."

Sir Ivan Lawrence, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, criticised the move as "absurd".

But Stephen Shaw, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said the prison authorities had a duty of care. "Where that is not forthcoming, inmates have the same right to seek redress or compensation as any other member of the public."