Can Prisoners Claim Compensation For Injuries Suffered Behind Bars?

This is a guest post by Chris Sutton of JMW Solicitors:

Prisoners surrender their freedoms when they commit the crimes which led to their eventual imprisonment. Despite being locked up at Her Majesty’s pleasure, prisoners do have some basic rights. They have the right to protection from bullying or racial harassment, the freedom to get in contact with a solicitor if the need arises and access to any healthcare they may require.

Although their rights are limited compared to the average law abiding citizen, prisoners can claim compensation in certain situations.  The areas of law we deal with here at YouClaim are no exception to this rule and suffering injuries whilst in prison, experiencing medical negligence by prison doctors and being attacked by other prisoners are all legitimate causes for compensation claims to be brought. 

Our panel solicitors are currently exploring a number of claims on behalf of prisoners who have been injured in circumstances that weren’t their fault and there are several high profile examples of prisoners exercising their right to claim compensation for various reasons. Former prisoner Gregg Marston was left without the use of his legs after a doctor failed to send him for an urgent examination during his time at Chelmsford prison in Essex. After claiming for medical negligence he was awarded £1.14 million in compensation for his inadequate treatment.

Many believe that the compensation culture that has become prevalent in British society has become a problem in prisons, with recent figures showing that in the last four years convicts have been given more than £93 million to help them demand compensation or early release from jail. With the taxpayer funding legal aid for these claims the government has decided to take action to prevent money being spent on legal cases that could be dealt with by the prison service’s internal complaints system.

The new government proposals pertaining to legal aid for prisoners are part of a wider range of reforms which will cut the cost of the legal aid bill by £220m a year and stop legal aid being used if issues can be dealt with using the prison’s complaints system. Currently being consulted upon,  the new proposals do not completely prevent prisoners from getting access to legal aid, rather, they aim to eliminate the use of legal aid in matters which “do not justify the use of public funds”. In cases where prisoners are involved in serious disciplinarily procedures or parole hearings, legal aid will be made available.

The reforms to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act have had an impact on everyone’s ability to claim compensation in a wide variety of areas. It is important that people in prison do have access to some legal aid, because it ensures that justice maintains a presence in our prison system, but it is also important that the legal aid system is not abused via frivolous compensation claims. Clearly, the government has a difficult task ahead of them determining what is necessary and what is a luxury when it comes to legal aid and we at YouClaim will be watching the forthcoming discussion with interest.  These proposals do not appear to have any impact upon a prisoner’s right to claim personal injury compensation and at YouClaim, we believe strongly that everyone has the right to make a claim if they have been caused injury through no fault of their own.  But as ever, we will be watching the consultation process with interest so that we are kept abreast of any changes that may affect current or future clients. 

If you or a loved one wants to claim compensation against the prison service get in touch with the expert solicitors at YouClaim. To learn more about how YouClaim can help you make a successful claim call us today on 0800 10 757 95 now or complete an online enquiry form.

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