In the Media

Convic sues over ?slopping out?

PUBLISHED November 18, 2011

A convicted paedophile described the practice of ?slopping out? in jails in England and Wales yesterday as ?demeaning and utterly despicable?.

Roger Gleaves claimed that his human rights were breached because he had to use a bucket as toilet in his cell when he was in Albany jail on the Isle of Wight.

Gleaves, notorious as the self-styled Bishop of Medway, is claking damages of £2,600 from the prison service.

The Ministry of Justice is opposing the High Court actions brought by Gleaves and Desmond Grant, 30, another former Albany inmate.

Slopping out in jails in England and Wales officially ended in 1996 but there remain about 2,000 cells in ten prisons where there are no toilets in cells.

Gleaves, 77, who was given a 15-year sentence at the Old Bailey in 1998 for the rape of two boys, aged 14, arrived at the High Court from Brixton prison where he is currently held pending release.

He was exposed as a paedophile in a 1970 television documentary which investigated the plight of young people ending up on the streets in London after travelling to the capital from the north.

Gleaves, from Tottenham, north London told Mr Justice Hickinbottom in the High Court that the claim could not have arisen 100 years ago as all cells then had full sanitation ? before plumbing was removed in 1900 to stop prisoners tapping messages to each other on the pipes.

He said: ?The situation in regard to the use of buckets is deplorable because not every prisoner chooses to use it as the target for waste. Many put newspaper on the floor, use that and throw it out of the window.

?The use of this type of sanitation in cells is demeaning, utterly despicable in relation to people?s behaviour and upsetting to a number of inmates who have never encountered such a practice before. It should never have been allowed.?

Hugh Southey, QC, counsel for Grant, said slopping out involved squatting in a small, poorly ventilated and lit personal space, where a prisoner ate and slept, and emptying out the bucket?s contents and washing it in a public area.

?That?s what we say is unacceptable in the 21st century and it is very difficult to see why a system which is less invasive of privacy could not be devised.?

He added that the use of a bucket had been identified by the European Court of Human Rights as ?particularly objectionable? as it was not designed as a toilet and people had to use and clean it in an unpleasant and unusual manner.

Mr Southey said: ?Modern standards of decency require that prisoners are given better facilities than a bucket.?

James Eadie QC, for the Justice Ministry, said they key issue was whether the ?very significant and important? legal standards in the Human Rights Act had been breached.

Gleaves and Grant have argued that their rights have been violated under Article Three, which prohibits inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, or Article Eight, which protects private and family life.

Mr Eadie said: ?The sole issue is whether the conditions in which these two prisoners were held were degrading.?

The standard was a high one and a conclusion that conditions could be better, or even that they were unsatisfactory, was not enough to meet the Article Three threshold, which almost always involved physical injury or mental anguish.

All new prisons have a toilet in every cell but, in some older prisons where that is unavailable, prisoners operate a call button to ask for their cell to be unlocked so they can use facilities outside and are released one at a time for between six and 10 minutes. The wait depends on how many are in the queue.

The ten prisons where in-cell sanitation facilities are not available are Blundeston in Lowestoft, Suffolk; Bristol; Bulwood Hall, in Hockley, Essex; Coldingley in Surrey; Gloucester; Grendon, in Buckinghamshire; Hewell (Brockhill), in Redditch, Worcestershire; Isle of Wight (Albany); Long Lartin, in Evesham, Worcestershire; and Ranby in Nottinghamshire.

The hearing continues.