Lawyers and prison reform campaigners attacked plans on Friday to charge Scottish prisoners’ rent to claw back compensation paid out to them for having to ‘slop out.’

SNP minority government First Minister Alex Salmond has said that prisoners who have received compensation payments for being forced to carry out the Victorian practice of using a chamber pot in their cells could be charged ‘bed and board’ for their incarceration at Her Majesty’s pleasure.

The Scottish government has already paid out more than £11 million in some 3,737 cases brought under the Human Rights Act.

A further 1,223 are in the pipeline and there are 200 new cases coming in a month.

But lawyer Tony Kelly, who has been involved in many of the human rights cases, said that the idea of charging rent was a non-starter.

‘I think there are practical difficulties. You can imagine the volume of litigation that would be involved,’ he said.

The idea was suggested by SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell, who claimed that the principle of such deductions has already been established in cases in England where prisoners were compensated for being wrongly imprisoned.

But Mr Kelly argued that the two situations were not comparable.

‘Down south, an independent assessor is appointed under statute to work out a figure that should be paid to those people wrongly imprisoned as a result of miscarriages of justice,’ he said.

‘Here we would be talking about recovering from the prisoners’ payments in respect of the appalling conditions that the government accepts they have to pay out by way of compensation.’

Prison Reform Trust director Juliet Lyon pointed out that prisoners earn on average £5 to £8 for a week’s work.

She added: ‘Where a prison service is thinking of charging bed and board for its prisoners, it will need to review arrangements for prisoners’ work, pay and pensions in custody.

But Prison Officers Association assistant secretary for Scotland Derek Turner hailed the policy.

He said: ‘Slopping out is an inhumane practice, which is also bad for the officers who have to supervise the process. We do not think that prisoners should be compensated using taxpayers’ money.’

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