Prisoner sues for 'toilet distress'

A CONVICTED burglar jailed for three-and-a-half years is suing prison bosses for breaching his human rights because he had to empty his toilet pot while behind bars.

A CONVICTED burglar jailed for three-and-a-half years is suing prison bosses for breaching his human rights because he had to empty his toilet pot while behind bars.

Daniel Cornell, of Roseallen Avenue, Colchester, is claiming £50,000 from the Ministry of Justice for “distress” during his term at HMP Blundeston, near Lowestoft.

Throughout this time he claims he was required to empty his toilet pot - or “slop out” - on a regular basis and that there was a lack of ventilation in his cell.

He says the conditions amounted to a breach of Articles 3 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

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On Tuesday Bob Russell, Liberal Democrat MP for Colchester, said: “It's April 1st and I think the general public would wish to treat this sort of behaviour with the contempt it deserves. You only have to watch Porridge to realise this is what happens in prison.”

Meanwhile a spokesman for the Prison Reform Trust said he could not comment on active legal proceedings but was surprised to learn that “slopping out” was continuing.

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“Obviously I don't know any of the details but that sort of thing shouldn't be happening unless the toilets have broken down or are temporarily unavailable,” he said.

In June 2004 Chelmsford Crown Court heard how Cornell, then 28, stole more than £15,000 worth of property from homes in Colchester between May 2003 and April 2004.

When he was quizzed by police he confessed to a series of burglaries at houses, garages and sheds throughout the town - including that of a 76-year-old pensioner in Cambridge Road.

Cornell - a prisoner at HMP Blundeston between June 14 2004 and November 14 2005 - was jailed for a total of three-and-half years after he admitted four burglaries and asked for another 43 similar matters to be considered.

According to the writ prisoners at Blundeston would be locked in their cells for approximately 13 hours per day between Tuesday and Friday and for more than 14 hours a day during the weekend.

During these hours inmates would only be able to access toilets by using an electronic unlocking system, which enables a prisoner to obtain access to sanitation facilities while their cell is locked.

However it is alleged the system suffers from a number of problems - only one prisoner is allowed out of their cell at any time, inmates can be left a whole night without access to sanitary facilities and a prisoner is not allowed out of their cell for more than eight minutes and only for a maximum of three times a night.

As a result inmates are provided with plastic chamber pots for them to use in their cell and which they then have to empty in the communal sluice area once their cell is open, the writ continues.

“After the chamber pots are used they remain uncovered in a prisoner's cell until the prisoner is unlocked,” the document reads. “During this time a prisoner may wish to eat or sleep. The claimant has been forced to use a chamber pot on a number of occasions.”

It is alleged that the failure to provide adequate access to sanitary facilities was “inhuman or degrading” and that the cell size - at seven foot by seven foot - is smaller than that recommended by the Council of Europe.

As a result it is claimed Cornell suffered “distress” and that the Ministry of Justice is in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights.

A spokesman for the government department said he could not comment on active legal proceedings.

Although the writ says Cornell is claiming against the Home Office the spokesman confirmed it was actually a matter for the Ministry of Justice, which is responsible for prisons.

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