(119)  ‘Slopping out’ and human rights

On 26 June 2001 Lord Macfadyen granted an interim order requiring the removal of Robert Napier (21) from his cell at Barlinnie Prison, Glasgow. Napier had been a remand prisoner since 18 May facing charges of assault, robbery, abduction and attempting to pervert the course of justice. He claimed that conditions were in contravention of article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (no-one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment), as he was held in overcrowded conditions, and frequently shared a cell without integral sanitation, i.e. prisoners used pots as toilet facilities (slopping out). It was said that Napier had suffered a worsening of his eczema as well as distress and anxiety as a result of these conditions. The judgment is available on the Scottish courts website as Napier v The Scottish Ministers (http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk). The Scottish Ministers intend to appeal against the ruling, although it is intended to end the practice of slopping out over the next four years at the prisons where it continues in use (as well as Barlinnie, Edinburgh Saughton, Perth, Peterhead, and Polmont young offenders institution). Meantime, on 6 July Napier pleaded guilty to assault and was jailed for six years for his part in a knifepoint hijacking during an ice cream van war in Glasgow.