Six figure compensation payouts to prison inmates who were made to go cold turkey in the county’s jails have been blasted “crazy” and unacceptable.”
A Lancashire Evening Post freedom of information request has found the Government has been forced to pay out almost £125,000 over the past five years at Preston, Lancaster and Leyland’s Wymott and Garth Prisons to prisoners who had drugs withdrawn from then while inside.
It includes whopping £82,000 paid to ex-jailbirds from Preston Prison over the last year alone.
In total, almost £300,000 has been awarded overall across six Lancashire prisons since 2007 for drug withdrawal and other grievance settlements, including to inmates injured in trips and falls inside or by assaults from fellow prisoners.
It comes at a time when some victims of violent crime have had their right to compensation axed by the Government, if they are deemed to have suffered less serious injuries following an attack.
Lindsay Hoyle, Labour MP for Chorley, said: “I think the public will be annoyed and frustrated at this, when victims of crime have compensation reduced while people who commit crimes receive compensation.
“The public will not understand it. It’s an issue that needs looking at.”
Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of campaign group TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “If the prison service has seriously failed inmates, of course that needs to be investigated.
“However, it’s crazy that the compensation culture is allowing convicted prisoners to pocket large amounts of taxpayers’ cash like this.
“The total bill for prison compensation is unacceptably high and needs urgently to be brought under control.”
Derek Barton, who campaigns against cutbacks on behalf of the North West Pensioners’ Association, said his experiences of working in mental health suggested the money would be better spent on improving treatment for addicts on the outside, to prevent the need for expensive litigation in prisons in the first place.
He said: “There are people that unfortunately need help that want to get off drugs and the help is not there.
“The more we can get them off drugs, the less it will cost for treating people, particularly when they go to prison.”
Drug-addicted prisoners were given the go-ahead to pursue claims under the Opiate Dependent Prisoner Litigation (ODPL), following a test case in 2006 which claimed enforced withdrawal amounted to a breach of human rights.
Many of those who have received settlements since then were former prisoners making historic claims dating back to the 1990s.
National charity DrugScope said prisons had to observe the same standards and access to health care that were offered in the community.
Martin Barnes, DrugScope’s chief executive, said: “The government has provided funding for prisons to deliver drug treatment programmes to help offenders reduce or cease their addiction to drugs, mainly heroin and crack cocaine.
“An important part of the treatment is the prescribing of drugs such as methadone and Buprenorphine to help stabilise individuals and begin the process of moving away from the use of illegal drugs.
“If prisons fail in their duty of care in this respect, individuals are entitled to seek compensation as would happen in other failures of medical care.”
There were no successful claims for enforced drug withdrawal at Kirkham prison or Lancaster Farms young offenders’ institute.
However, the Home Office has paid out £47,370 in other claims at Kirkham since 2007, while Lancaster Farms has been forced to spend £8,850 on settlements, including £2,000 for an alleged assault by a staff member in 2008.
An inmate in Wymott in Leyland also made a successful claim for £5,500 after alleging a breach of the Human Rights Act.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said it was not possible to break down the litigation figures into how many inmates had successfully claimed, as it would be too time-consuming and costly under Freedom of Information limits.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: “All prisoner claims are robustly defended so far as the evidence allows.
“Claims are only settled on the basis of strong legal advice and compensation amounts are determined on the law and evidence of each case and the Judicial Studies Board guidelines on general damages.”