Test case could spark prison sanitary review

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A HIGH Court trial test case could result in a number of prisons having to review their sanitary systems, including HMP Ranby near Retford.

The prison was named in a recent report along with nine other jails where buckets are handed out when regular sanitary systems fail.

It follows convicted child rapist, Roger Gleaves, claims his human rights were violated when he was told to ‘slop out’ - use a bucket as a toilet in a prison cell. His damages claim against the Ministry of Justice is due to be heard at the High Court next week.

If his case succeeds, the Ministry will face having to plough vast sums into remodelling, or even rebuilding, a number of Britain’s Victorian jails to ensure each cell has an en-suite lavatory.

Mr Justice Hickinbottom, who will hear the cases, rejected claims by the Ministry that the trial should include a visit to a jail, where he could see prison sanitation systems in action first hand.

At a pre-trial hearing, David Pievsky, for the Ministry, told the judge one of the seven days earmarked for the case should be spent at HMP Albany, on the Isle of Wight, where Gleaves says he was forced to endure the indignity of slopping out.

Gleaves, who is still a serving prisoner, listened to the hearing over the phone from jail, and told the judge he supported the planned site visit.

But, after hearing their arguments, the judge ruled that travelling to the island would ‘not be an economic use of the court’s time’. The court heard a number of ex-governors, as well as serving and retired wardens from HMP Albany, will give evidence at the trial. Gleaves, who is a category B prisoner, will give his testimony from a secure dock.

Gleaves, of Northumberland Park, Tottenham, north London, was jailed for 15 years in 1998 after being convicted of rape, attempted rape, incitement of one boy to rape another, and three counts of indecent assault. He is representing himself at the trial.

Slopping out was formally terminated as a system in the UK in 1996, but 10 UK prisons are still believed to be using the out-dated arrangement to some extent.

On top of any damages payable to Gleaves if he succeeds, barristers say it would involve massive reconstruction works to install toilets in every cell of Britain’s aging prisons. The cost is put at £82m to convert HMP Albany alone.

There are believed to be more than 300 similar claims against the Ministry of Justice ready to be filed, and about 2,000 prisoners will be affected by the outcome of the case.