Murderer claims the minimum wage and jail holidays under new Act

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The Independent Online

A murderer serving life has appeared before an employment tribunal to claim the national minimum wage, proper holiday entitlement and other full-time workers' benefits.

A murderer serving life has appeared before an employment tribunal to claim the national minimum wage, proper holiday entitlement and other full-time workers' benefits.

Lawyers for Philip Garden, 48, jailed for punching a man to death four years ago, told the Glasgow tribunal the case raised serious issues under the Human Rights Act. Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), implemented in Scotland last year, says no one is required to do forced labour.

Iain Robertson, of the Paisley law firm Robertson and Ross, said the case would have far-reaching implications for all working convicts. Garden, who contacted Mr Robertson, is a printer at Shotts Prison in Lanarkshire. He is demanding a written contract of employment, itemised pay statements, holidays and the right to be paid in cash.

If successful he may be entitled to the national minimum wage of £3.70 an hour, giving him about £140 a week. Now he earns £5 a week, paid in credits for sweets and tobacco. But human rights experts say the ECHR provides exceptions for those legally held in detention.

Garden, who is disabled, beat Kenneth Kincaid to death after an argument. Although Garden was in a wheelchair at the time, the prosecution said he was a former black belt in karate. He is appealing against his conviction, and last year went on hunger strike to complain about the alleged poor sanitation and inadequate washing facilities. He said he had had only one shower in 18 months and was forced to keep himself clean by sponging himself down in his wheelchair.

The tribunal was adjourned for Garden to make an application for legal aid. A spokeswoman for the Scottish Legal Aid Board said aid was not available for representation at employment tribunals but declined to say whether Garden had legal aid to prepare his case.

Mr Robertson told the tribunal: "Given the terms of the Convention on Human Rights, the applicant is entitled to fair and impartial representation so that he obtains a fair hearing. He is deprived of that." Since the Human Rights Act came into force in Scotland the criminal justice system has suffered shocks. Last week the Appeal Court in Edinburgh ruled that legislation to confiscate criminals' profits breached the ECHR.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Prison Service said it would be defending the action.