Despite the Leveson Report, the Daily Mail’s brief flirtation with the Human Rights Act has not even lasted a month. This article by Home Affairs Correspondent Jack Doyle (Twitter: @jackwdoyle) is a weird one, even by the Mail’s standards. Here is the headline:
£500,000 a week in legal aid for prisoners’ human rights claims: YOU pay for them to seek easier life or early release
Clear, right? We are apparently spending £26m per year on prisoners’ human rights claims. And here is the first line:
Taxpayers are handing nearly £500,000 a week in legal aid to prisoners to help them make human rights claims.
That’s sounds like a lot of money to spend on prisoners’ human rights claims! But wait, there’s more…
The basis of the article is a freedom of information request about the amount of legal aid provided to prisoners in each of the last four years. In the last four years “convicts have been given more than £93million to help them demand early release from jail, compensation or softer treatment behind bars.” So maybe not all for human rights claims? Let’s read further:
A breakdown of the costs shows ‘free-standing advice and assistance’ for inmates cost nearly £53.6million over four years. Assistance at disciplinary hearings cost more than £12.6million and lawyers at Parole Board hearings cost more than £27million.
So, of the total £ 93,482,475 (which as the article says, is £449,435, not £500,000 per week), £39.6m (42% of the total) is spent on assistance at disciplinary and Parole Board hearings. Which is £188,762 of the £449,435 per week.
What of the remaining £260,673? That is for ‘free standing advice and assistance’. That could mean many things, including issues involving human rights. But it doesn’t mean human rights. It seems that the figures obtained by the Daily Mail don’t actually specify what proportion of the prisoners’ legal aid is spent on human rights claims.
So does that support the headline “£500,000 a week in legal aid for prisoners’ human rights claims“? Not even close. Maybe too much is being spent on prisoners’ human rights claims. Maybe not. This article has taken us precisely no further in answering that question.
Jack Doyle and the Daily Mail, on to the new year’s dishonours list and on the legal naughty step too for misrepresenting the figures and, again, blaming human rights law for something it hasn’t done. Or, as John Stewart might say, for causing an avalanche on a bulls$%t mountain.
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