Victims' Rights

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 5:15 pm on 15th September 2005.

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Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party 5:15 pm, 15th September 2005

Slopping out is regrettable; I do not think that it should happen. However, I disagree with where Patrick Harvie is coming from and sympathise with Margaret Jamieson's position. I think that the amount of compensation that has been awarded is scandalous, given that, without going into the rights and wrongs of regeneration, urban blight and poverty, we accept that one in four children live in poverty and that people live in damp housing. Many people cannot understand how all of us, as members elected to look after their interests, manage to give a substantial award of money to the likes of Mr Napier when they face problems through our failings. We can decide whether to cast the blame on a Tory Government or the Executive, but there is something manifestly wrong in our society when Mr Napier benefits to the extent that he has and yet we fail to address the problems of those who are poor, dispossessed or disenfranchised or who live in bad housing.

The issue is not simply the amount of money that has been or is going to be awarded to prisoners, but the cost. Despite the amount of money that has been spent on the legal aid bill, women who have been battered as a result of domestic violence suffer from not having access to legal aid. There is something wrong in our society; the situation is simply unacceptable.

Of course Mr Napier has rights; of course in the 21st century we do not want prisoners to slop out. That should not happen, but, having weighed up the situation on the scales of justice, which is what we have to do, I would much rather see the money go towards repairing damp housing in Scotland than into the pockets of Mr Napier. He should perhaps not have had to expect to slop out, but the amount of money that he was awarded, which astounded Lord McCluskey, baffles Margaret Jamieson and confounds me, shows that there is something far wrong.

Yes, we want prisoners to have rights, but we have always to remember that in our society communities also have rights. Frankly, this chamber has got something wrong and out of kilter when the rights of an individual who has transgressed weigh far more than the rights of a community that has to suffer. We have to take action and ensure that the victims have the right to access that money, which, frankly, should not have gone to prisoners in the first place. We must ensure that we end slopping out but we must not reward those who do not merit it, which baffles ordinary people in Scotland.