Daniel Roque Hall Receives £5000 Payout After Being Handcuffed In Hospital As A Prisoner
A severely disabled man has been paid £5,000 in compensation after being handcuffed when taken to and from hospital appointments and placed under constant supervision while in intensive care.
Daniel Roque Hall, who received a three-year sentence for smuggling £300,000 worth of cocaine in his wheelchair on his return from a holiday in Peru, has Friedreich’s ataxia, a degenerative disease that affects co-ordination of the whole body.
His condition causes a heart defect and diabetes, and shortens life expectancy. Hall, 33, requires round-the-clock care and is not expected to live beyond 40.
In August 2012, when his condition worsened at Wormwood Scrubs, he was taken to University College hospital in London and placed on a life support machine.
Hall spent the next six months in hospital, and in February 2013 the appeal court ruled that he should be released from prison early after lawyers argued that the Prison Service could not meet his medical needs.
In 2013, a civil claim was issued on Hall’s behalf under articles 3 (the prohibition of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment) and 8 (right to a private and family life) of the European convention on human rights. It was argued that there had been an assault and trespass to Hall’s person on the basis that there was no lawful justification for the use of force against him through handcuffing.
The Ministry of Justice resisted the claim for more than two years, until Hall and the MoJ agreed a £5,000 settlement in what is known as a “part 36” offer – a settlement without admission of liability. Settlements for unlawful handcuffing are extremely rare, and this is believed to be the largest of its kind.
The settlement comes as the prisons and probation ombudsman, Nigel Newcomen, issued a report saying elderly and infirm prisoners are often restrained inappropriately when travelling to and from hospitals for appointments and treatment.
The handcuffing of ill prisoners in hospital has long been criticised by the prisons ombudsman. In 2013, it was revealed that more than 50 dying prisoners over a five-year period had been wrongly chained or handcuffed in the final days of their lives, including a cancer patient who died handcuffed to a prison officer and a prisoner who remained chained to his escort after being put into a medically induced coma.
Newcomen said: “The majority had been restrained while in hospital and it was identified in 51 investigations that the level of restraints used had been inappropriate.”
In the same year the Guardian revealed that 22-year-old Kyal Gaffney, sentenced to 21 months for careless driving under the influence, was handcuffed to a guard when clinically brain dead after having suffered a cerebral haemorrhage. In May this year, Newcomen highlighted the failure of HMP Altcourse for the “degrading” and “inhumane” use of escort chains when two dying inmates were taken to hospital.
The Prison Service is supposed to carry out a risk assessment before cuffing or chaining a sick prisoner on their way to or in hospital but has historically failed to do so, as was the case with Hall. Anne Hall, his mother, challenged the Prison Service at the time, claiming it was cruel and unjustified to handcuff her son.
She said: “The pursuit of this case and the victory we have won shows that it possible to make prisons and [the] MoJ accountable for any mistreatment or lack of compliance with proper procedure.”
Hall said: “The settlement means for me that we proved Wormwood Scrubs abused human rights and ignored Ministry of Justice policy and procedure on assessing who should be handcuffed and who shouldn’t be, even though it won’t admit wrongdoing. That’s an important precedent for other cases and I hope it helps prisoners to be treated like human beings and makes prison governors accountable for how they treat sick and dying and disabled people in prison and when they are in hospital.
“Putting a handcuff and chain on me was bizarre and cruel and stupid, and made me feel like I was not a human being, not worthy of any kind of dignity or respect, whatever my circumstances were, which I can only assume was the point.”
Hall’s lawyer, Andrew Sperling, said: “Daniel cannot stand up or walk by himself. He cannot pick up or hold anything without help. The idea that he posed any kind of escape risk or risk to the public was frankly ridiculous. He was handcuffed during an invasive medical procedure and subjected to constant supervision in his hospital room. The Prison Service must not allow a blanket preoccupation with security to interfere with basic standards of decency and humanity.”
The MoJ said: “We do not comment on individuals. The Prison Service is committed to treating all prisoners with dignity and respect but public safety remains our priority.”