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18 May 2020updated 06 Oct 2020 9:45am

Scottish Human Rights Commission: Prison service is breaching inmates’ rights

By Samuel Horti

The Scottish prison service is breaching the human rights of inmates by confining some to their cells for 24 hours a day without access to showers or outdoor exercise, according to the Scottish Human Rights Commission.

The commission, a statutory body, said the service is breaching the European convention on human rights, which prohibits inhumane and degrading treatment in prisons.

It had “serious concerns” about the service, and knew of prisoners confined to cells because of Covid-19 without being able to speak to their families on the phone. Some were given only limited telephone access to lawyers, it said.

In a letter to the Scottish Parliament’s justice committee, Judith Robertson, the commission’s chair, said: “The commission is deeply concerned about the current conditions being experienced by some people within Scotland’s prisons. People in prison are likely to be more vulnerable to the risks and impacts of Covid-19.

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“Measures taken to protect health cannot override people’s fundamental rights. It is not acceptable to confine anyone to their cell for 24 hours a day, with no access to shower facilities or outdoor exercise, and with limited contact with the outside world.

“Given the serious nature of our concerns, we have urged the Scottish government to take action to ensure that all prisoners are being held in conditions which are fully in accordance with the state’s human rights obligations. To date, we have not received the assurances we would wish to see in this regard.”

(Image credit: Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images)