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Drug-addicted Prisoners

Volume 455: debated on Monday 8 January 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many claims by prisoners who have a drug addiction in relation to access to illegal drugs and the detoxification programmes that they have been alternatively offered (a) have been settled and (b) are outstanding; and if he will make a statement; (105695)

(2) what the (a) basis and (b) source was of the legal advice followed by his Department in relation to placing drug addicted prisoners on detoxification programmes and denying them access to illegal drugs; and if he will make a statement;

(3) why his Department agreed to pay compensation to prisoners denied illegal drugs in prison and placed on detoxification programmes; what the expected total costs are of the compensation to be paid; and if he will make a statement;

(4) what the cost was of the abandoned defence of legal actions taken against the Prison Service by prisoners who have had access to illegal drugs restricted and who have been placed on, or offered, detoxification programmes as alternatives; and if he will make a statement.

[holding answer 12 December 2006]: The civil action to which my hon. Friend refers was brought by 197 prisoners who claimed that their drug detoxification treatment was inadequate. The claims were not pleaded on the basis that their access to illegal drugs had been denied.

Legal advice, obtained from counsel, the Treasury Solicitor and Home Office legal advisers, was that the standard of care the claimants received fell short of acceptable medical standards and the Prison Service’s guidelines for dealing with opiate dependent prisoners. On the basis of legal advice it was decided to settle these cases out of court in order to minimise costs to the taxpayer. Each case was settled for £3,807.10 excluding costs giving a total figure of £749,998.70. The Prison Service has yet to receive the full bill of legal costs incurred in handling this matter. I am not aware of any outstanding cases.