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House of Lords allows rights abuse lawsuits against Scotland prisons

[JURIST] A judicial panel of the British House of Lords [official websites] Wednesday narrowly ruled that Scottish subjects can pursue cases related to alleged human rights abuses [judgment text] of prisoners by the Scottish Prison Service [official website] occurring as far back as 1999. Considering a test case brought by prisoners [JURIST report] alleging that solitary confinement violated their rights, the Law Lords determined that the 1999 establishment of the Scottish Parliament [official website] eliminated the one year statute of limitations on such cases that continues to apply in England and Wales. The prisoners argued that they were placed in extended solitary confinement at the sole discretion of a prison governor, without recourse or third party scrutiny.

Approximately 1700 inmates are additionally seeking compensation from the Scottish Prison Service for being forced to "slop out," which entails using a closed chamberpot in full view of other inmates. Approximately 220 "slop out" cases have already settled for a combined sum of £400,000. The devolved Scottish government [official website] has spent millions to upgrade Victorian-era prisons under its jurisdiction with modern sanitary facilities, or alternatively, to build new prisons. Although the prison service estimate of £71 million to cover alleged rights violations is less than an initial estimate of over £130 million, it is believed that the Law Lords' ruling will increase the number of claimants. The Guardian has more.

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