Substantial settlement for disabled prisoner
A wheelchair-bound disabled prisoner suffering from epilepsy and with a history of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), has achieved a substantial settlement following a claim regarding the conditions of his detention at HMP Wandsworth.
Mr D suffers from a rare neurological condition which leads to muscle weakness, epilepsy, pain and an unsteady gait. Mr D is wheelchair-bound and requires assistance with many of his daily care needs.
Mr D was held at HMP Wandsworth for a period of nearly two years in conditions which were discriminatory and in breach of his human rights. Mr D spent most of his time in cells on the second or third floors with no lift access, ramps or any adaptations. Being wheelchair-dependant this meant he was confined to his cell for extended periods of time. For the first three weeks of his detention he was unable to shower or leave his cell at all.
"I wasn't able to access the shower or go out for my one hour of exercise. I couldn't do anything. Other inmates in the prison would go to education or work within the prison and I couldn't do anything. I couldn't even go to the library. I would just be sitting in my cell."
He had to rely on other prisoners to carry him around and suffered the indignity of having to accept help from untrained and unskilled prisoners with showering and going to the toilet.
"My cell was on the second floor with no disabled access. There were two inmates who helped me to go to the shower. They carried me down the stairs to where the shower facilities were. Once I was in the shower, other inmates would help me wash myself and go to the toilet. It wasn't nice at all. I didn't get to go outside while I was remanded on that wing."
The prison has a duty to make reasonable adjustments for people with disabilities, so that they do not suffer any disadvantage. Mr D made several requests to be moved to a more appropriate cell, but these requests were ignored.
Mr D's solicitor Saoirse Kerrigan said the following:
"This is not the first case of this kind involving HMP Wandsworth, but the inability of prisons to provide for the most basic needs of disabled prisoners is not confined to just this prison. Sadly, this does not appear to be a priority for the Ministry of Justice and is only set to get worse as prisons' budgets continue to be cut."
Mr D was represented by Nia Williams and Saoirse Kerrigan of Saunders Law Ltd and Jude Bunting of Doughty Street Chambers.
Nia Williams and Saoirse Kerrigan are Solicitors in the Civil Liberties & Police Misconduct Department