As prisoner compensation claims in England and Wales reached almost 14,000 in the past year - costing the taxpayer £29m – the Ministry of Justice has revealed plans to crackdown on bogus claims. The MoJ says that the number of claims almost doubled from the year before.
Records show that the huge figure was spent covering damages, legal advice and representation for cases that reached court. Whilst individual payments to prisoners totalled £9.3m.
For the same period the year before, the overall figure was almost £8m less at £21.1m. This has led to the MoJ commissioning top law firm BLM to carry out an independent audit of thousands of claims to determine the best way of cracking down on illegitimate litigation. They will report back to the ministry later this month.
Justice Minister Dominic Raab said: "Of course the Prison Service must be accountable, but taxpayers will be staggered to learn that the costs of litigation against it reached £29m last year. We have ordered an independent audit to make sure we are not being taken for a ride. We want public money focused on protecting the public and reforming offenders."
Included in the claims is one by notorious killer Michael Adebolajo, convicted of murdering soldier Lee Rigby outside his barracks in Woolwich, in May 2013. Adebolajo is seeking £20,000 as he claims he lost two front teeth in an incident involving five prison officers in Belmarsh high security prison in July 2013.
Convicted triple killer, Kevan Thakrar, has successfully sued the MoJ for compensation twice in as many years. Thakrar is serving life for the murder of three fellow drug dealers in Hertfordshire in 2008 but in January this year he was awarded £1,000 from the MoJ after a judge ruled that a guard squirted shampoo on the Thakra's CDs during a prison transfer.
The 27-year-old was also awarded more than £800 by the same judge after items including his nose hair clippers were damaged.
Steve Gillian, General Secretary of the Prison Officers Association, told Sky News that the crackdown was long overdue. He said: "The POA welcome any tightening up of spurious compensation claims as some of the settlements to prisoners have been ridiculous.
"Most claims are frivolous and the MoJ and Government should remember tax payers money is not their money and they should stop playing fast and loose. Ironically the MoJ appeal even to the Supreme Court when a member of staff is claiming injury, yet they appear to want to settle every claim a prisoner makes"