Prisoner compensation tops £4m

Compensation paid to prisoners for assault, accidents and other complaints has doubled in the past year to more than £4 million, official figures show.

The majority of this money was paid in out of court settlements – £4 million – while a further £26,000 was awarded by the courts in 2005-06. This compares to just £2.1 million settled and £25,800 awarded by the courts the previous year.

Conservative MP Philip Davies, who obtained the figures in parliamentary answer, said they showed a system “that is biased towards the human rights of prisoners at the expense of taxpayers, victims and decent people in this country”.

The figures show £3.446 million was settled out of court for “miscellaneous injury” last year – an increase on £233,350 the previous year. However, the amount paid out for medical negligence fell from £1.437 million in 2004 to just £215,700 last year.

Elsewhere, £113,250 was settled out of court for abuse by staff, £13,270 for abuse by another prisoner, £72,155 for slips, trips or falls and £76,950 for unlawful detention.

The Prison Service defended the compensation figures, and in particular the doubling of pay-outs in one year, saying they varied “considerably” from year to year.

“Each compensation claim received by the Prison Service is treated on its individual merits. Legal advice is sought and, on the basis of that advice, a decision is made on whether or not the claim should be defended,” a spokesman said.

“It is also important to consider that any high-cost claims that are settled during a given year can completely distort the total amount of compensation that is paid out – making it very difficult to identify any genuine trends or significant year-on-year developments.”

The service refused to comment on reports in today’s Times that one prisoner received £2.8 million for a failed suicide attempt – the equivalent of the total pay-out for the whole of 2004-05.

Shadow prison minister Edward Garnier warned the Prison Service was succumbing to the “compensation culture”.

“Genuine claims should be appropriately dealt with but prisons should make sure they are not succumbing to the compensation culture,” he said.