Vegan sex offender's pounds 101 shoes

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The Independent Online
A SEX offender who is opposed to cruelty to animals has forced the Home Office to compensate him for giving him standard prison issue leather boots, writes Nick Cohen.

Mark Kessler, an inmate at Channings Wood jail, Devon, is a vegan, who will not eat or touch any animal products - including meat, eggs and leather.

When he was first jailed in April 1992 he refused to wear prison issue boots. He paid for two pairs of plastic boots and after months of arguments issued the Home Office with a County Court summons demanding that it met the pounds 101 cost. Last week the Home Office finally agreed an out-of- court settlement.

'It is definitely a laugh a minute being in captivity,' said Kessler after learning he had got the money.

John Greenway, Conservative MP for Ryedale and a member of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, said the case was 'bizarre'. He said: 'If it is within the rules, they probably had no option. This person has been able to run rings around authority.

'But the public will have no sympathy. Most people would think if you are given a custodial sentence, you do as you are told.'

The prison department defended paying Kessler. It said prison rules required clothes and food to meet the 'religious preferences' of offenders. In this case, veganism was treated as if it were a religion.

Simon Creighton, Kessler's London solicitor, said his client earned pounds 2.50 a week and could not afford to pay for his own footwear.

Kessler, who has been supported by the Vegan Society, claimed that the Home Office was obliged under Prison Standing Order 14 to pay for 'any necessary items of clothing which the prisoner does not possess'. As he was a vegan, he maintained, he was 'entitled to wear boots which are not made of animal products'.

He said he would donate the pounds 101 to Battersea Dogs' Home.