A PRISONER has been paid compensation after being unable to fully practise his religion while in prison.

The prisoner, referred to as Mr H, aged 49, was placed in a vulnerable prisoner unit. A vulnerable prisoner unit accommodates prisoners who need to be separate from other prisoners for their own safety, as they are particularly vulnerable to assault. Mr H is a practising Muslim and wished to observe the Jumu’ah prayer, a congregational prayer which takes place each Friday and is an integral part of his Islamic faith.

However, the prison would not allow Mr H or any of the other Muslim prisoners on the vulnerable prisoner unit to attend the prison chapel to observe Jumu’ah prayers. Prison managers said it was for their protection from other Muslim prisoners who would be attending the prison chapel to observe the Jumu’ah prayers at the same time.

Mr H asked the prison to make alternative arrangements so that he and the other Muslims on the vulnerable prisoner unit could attend the prison chapel for the Jumu’ah prayer, either by allowing them to attend at a different time or by providing extra staff when attending at the same time.

However, the prison failed to make any alternative arrangements, and also failed to give any adequate explanation, so that Mr H was unable to fully practise his religion for a period of over six months, causing him considerable frustration and distress.

Having complained repeatedly about this, Mr H was eventually transferred to another prison. At that prison, alternative arrangements were already made to allow him and the other Muslim prisoners placed on the vulnerable prisoner unit to attend the prison chapel at a different time so that they could observe Jumu’ah prayers.

Mr H instructed the prison team at Leigh Day to bring a claim against the Ministry of Justice for unlawful religious discrimination under the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Equality Act 2010, in respect of the six-month period when he had been unable to fully practise his religion. The Ministry of Justice agreed to settle Mr H’s claim and pay him compensation.

Leigh Day prison team solicitor, Benjamin Burrows, said: “Despite the law, and the Prison Service’s own policies, being clear that prisoners have the right to manifest their religion, this right is increasingly being ignored or undermined in prisons because of reasons of administrative cost or convenience. Given the important part it can play in prisoners’ lives and in their rehabilitation, that cannot be allowed to happen unchallenged.”

* Source: Leigh Day