500,000 a week in legal aid for prisoners' human rights claims: YOU pay for them to seek easier life or early releaseTaxpayers' money used to fund human rights claims by prisonersLegal aid bill for prisoners increased to 25 million a year in 2010Justice Secretary Chris Grayling to review 'compensation culture' in jails
23:19 GMT, 30 December 2012
Taxpayers are handing nearly 500,000 a week in legal aid to prisoners to help them make human rights claims.
In four years, convicts have been given more than 93million to help them demand early release from jail, compensation or softer treatment behind bars.
The bill has spiralled from 1million a year before the Human Rights Act came into force to more than 25million in 2010.
Freed with tax: Convicted burglar Wayne Bishop celebrates his release from prison on the grounds of his five children's human rights
Since then prisoners addicted to heroin have used legal aid to win thousands in compensation for being forced to go ‘cold turkey’ when locked up.
In another notorious case, a rapist was given legal aid to claim his rights were breached by having to ‘slop out’ because there was no lavatory in his cell.
And in May 2011 burglar Wayne Bishop was released from jail after the Court of Appeal ruled that locking him up breached his family’s human rights.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has
ordered a review of legal aid payouts over the damaging ‘compensation
culture’ gripping jails.
Oxley, campaign manager of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: ‘Britain’s
legal aid bill has become unsustainable and must be reformed.
Review: Justice Secretary Chris Grayling wants to look into the 'compensation culture' in Britain's jails
‘It’s important that prisoners, like
everyone else, have access to justice, but this must not be abused.
Taxpayers are sick to death of paying for frivolous legal actions by
inmates who do it simply because someone else is paying.’
Figures released under the Freedom of
Information Act show 93,482,475 has been spent on legal aid for
prisoners in the four years since 2008. That is the equivalent of
449,435 a week.
It was 19.7million in 2008, but rose
to 24.2million in 2009. It peaked in the last year of the Labour
government at 25.7million in 2010 and fell back to 23.6million last
The total excludes criminal legal aid
and is for internal prison matters only – cases brought by burglars,
rapists and other convicts while they are behind bars.
All 143 prisons in England and Wales
are required have legal services officers whose job is to ‘identify
prisoners who may be eligible for publicly funded legal services’.
Inmates can demand lawyers to represent them at Parole Board hearings which decide whether they are safe to be released.
They can also use legal representation
to demand better treatment from governors, or fight disciplinary cases
over breaking jail rules. Such cases involve fights with other inmates,
disobeying instructions or being caught with drugs or phones.
breakdown of the costs shows ‘free-standing advice and assistance’ for
inmates cost nearly 53.6million over four years. Assistance at
disciplinary hearings cost more than 12.6million and lawyers at Parole
Board hearings cost more than 27million.
Grayling said: ‘After years spiralling out of control, rising by 2,500
per cent in a decade, the bill to the taxpayer has started to fall.
am concerned about public confidence in the legal aid system. I have
ordered an urgent review into aspects of the system that affect its
credibility with the public.
‘Legal aid is a fundamental part of
our legal system, but resources aren’t limitless. Legal aid should be
reserved for cases where there is genuine need.’
October one of the country’s most senior judges, Lord Justice Davis,
warned that human rights laws mean ‘unthinkable’ cases were coming
before the courts.
Half-million help: Hate preacher Abu Qatada has received over 500,000 in legal aid and has been released to live in a benefits funded home costing the taxpayer 1,400 a month
He made the comments as he dismissed a case brought by two prisoners – rapist Desmond Grant, who was given legal aid, and paedophile Roger Gleaves – who demanded an end to ‘slopping out’ in prisons in England and Wales.
They said the use of buckets in cells at Albany prison on the Isle of Wight was a breach of human rights but the judge threw out the claim, saying buckets were used rarely, the inmates had exaggerated their use of them and there was no evidence they had suffered any distress, anxiety, or feelings of humiliation or hurt. Yesterday a spokesman for the Legal Services Commission, which awards legal aid, said: ‘The rules on legal aid for prisoner treatment cases were tightened in 2010.
‘Prisoners will receive funding only once they have gone through the prison complaints procedure without their problem being resolved, and only where there is an allegation of serious mistreatment which proves their case has sufficient legal merit.’
The burglar who was freed to care for his children… then attacked a man in a supermarket just weeks later
Convicted burglar Wayne Bishop was let out of jail early after a judge ruled that locking him up breached his family’s human rights.
In a judgment in 2010, the Appeal Court said the rights of Wayne Bishop’s five children were more important than those of his victims or the interests of justice.
TAXPAYERS PAY FOR HATE
The hate preacher Abu Qatada has
received more than 500,000 in legal aid in his decade-long legal battle
against the Government, which wants to deport him to his native Jordan
where he is wanted on charges of terrorism.
The Al Qaeda fanatic was held in a
high security prison for eight years but was released to live in a
1,400-a-month property – paid for with state handouts – while he fights
his deportation on human rights grounds.
Judges released him after a month of his eight-month sentence for burglary and dangerous driving.
Unemployed Bishop, who admitted he had ‘never thought’ the judges would free him, claimed at the time that he was ‘going straight’ for the sake of his children.
But less than a month later he attacked a man in a supermarket as horrified shoppers looked on.
At the time of his release 33-year-old Bishop said: ‘I’m a lucky boy and I’m on top of the world.’
The Appeal Court had been told he was the sole carer of his children, aged from six to 13, for five nights a week. After he was jailed the children had been cared for by his sister during the week and their mother, Bishop’s ex-partner Tracey York, 30, at weekends.
His sister, a single parent, was already responsible for seven children and lived seven miles from the schools attended by her nieces and nephews.
Bishop, of Nottingham, said his wife Sandra, 36, was never considered as a possible carer for the children because she had four of her own and he and his wife lived at separate addresses with their own children.