Prisoners receive £10m in payouts

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The Independent Online

Prisoners have won more than £10 million in compensation over the last five years, figures show.

A total of £10,125,845 was handed to inmates who claimed they suffered harm inside the prison system in the last five financial years.

Two payments to prisoners of more than £100,000 have been made in the last year alone as part of almost £1.6 million in settled claims, figures released to the Press Association under freedom of information laws showed.

But the £1,575,032 paid out in 2010/11 was less than half the £3,286,521 handed out in 2009/10, when the total was boosted by £1.6 million in payouts for medical negligence cases alone.

The Ministry of Justice figures showed the highest payout last year was £125,000, followed by payments of £100,000, £95,000 and £62,867 - all for personal injury cases.

Three prisoners were also given £25,000 each for "false imprisonment".A further 280 offenders won payouts of less than £10,000, with many of the smaller claims relating to delays in processing release papers, which can lead to prisoners spending too long behind bars.

The figures showed that a total of £1,669,312 was paid out in 2008/09, £1,452,309 in 2007/08 and £2,142,671 in 2006/07.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "The vast majority of prisoners' compensation claims are relatively trivial, do not merit financial redress, and are dismissed at an early stage.

"All claims are robustly defended, and would only be settled on the basis of strong legal advice, and in order to seek the best value for the taxpayer.

"Compensation would then be determined following judicial guidelines and a full analysis of the available evidence."

One of the largest compensation payments to date was a £2.8 million settlement in 2005/06.

At the time, the Government would not comment on reports that the out-of-court settlement was made to an inmate who required long-term medical care because of self-harm committed in jail.In a separate case, £1.14 million, went to former prisoner Gregg Marston, of Shoeburyness, Essex, who was left crippled when a doctor failed to send him for an urgent examination.

His case, which was settled out of court, centred on his treatment at Chelmsford jail in Essex in February 2000.

He was taken there after failing to appear at court for driving offences committed in breach of the terms of his release from a four-year sentence for burglary.

Marston complained of back pain when he arrived at the jail but was not referred to hospital until the next day.

As part of his legal action, a consultant in spinal injuries told the Prison Service that, if Marston had been referred a day earlier, he might have undergone surgery to save the use of his legs.

Mark Leech, editor of prisoners' newspaper Converse, said: "I see nothing wrong in these payments, and welcome them.

"Morally of course the public would say its outrageous that prisoners who have caused harm to others should receive compensation in prison - but the fact is we don't have courts of 'morals' in this country we have courts of 'law', and a basic principle of England law is that if you suffer harm at the hands of others you are entitled to compensation and prisoners are no different in that.

"Just because you are a criminal doesn't mean you are immune from being a victim."

He said one of the £100,000 payments was for a prisoner in Brixton who suffered a brain injury after falling out of his bunk.