Dutch judges halt extradition to 'inhuman' HMP Liverpool

image copyrightPAUL ELLIS
image captionA recent inspection found a significant problem with cockroaches and rats throughout the jail

The extradition from the Netherlands of a suspected drugs smuggler has been suspended over Dutch judges' concern about the state of a UK jail.

The judges refused to send the man back to HMP Liverpool due to fears over "inhuman and degrading" conditions, the Liverpool Echo reported.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said: "Since providing reassurances the court has postponed its decision."

A spokeswoman said the judges wanted more information.

The judgment also referred to conditions in HMP Bedford and HMP Birmingham.

Although he is not named in court documents seen by the BBC, the fugitive's links to Liverpool mean it is likely he would be held at Liverpool prison.

In a statement, the MoJ said: "We strongly refute the idea that any of our prisons provide inhuman or degrading conditions.

"There have been significant improvements since the inspections of Liverpool, Birmingham and Bedford prisons and neither our domestic courts nor the European Court of Human Rights has ever ruled that they are in breach of Article 3."

image copyrightHMIP
image captionInspectors at Liverpool jail found filthy, leaking toilets and some areas so hazardous they could not be cleaned

Referring to last year's annual HMIP report, the Court of Amsterdam heard how inspectors had found "some of the most disturbing prison conditions we have ever seen" and "conditions which have no place in an advanced nation in the 21st century".

But a letter written by the Director General of Prisons to the judges overseeing Wednesday's case argued: "We do not accept those conditions anywhere in our prisons amount to inhuman or degrading treatment contrary to Article Three [of the] European Court of Human Rights."

The letter added that steps are being taken to reduce overcrowding and that £100m of funding has been put in to increase staffing levels across the prison network.

Despite this the Dutch judges ruled there was a "real risk of inhuman or degrading treatment" should the suspect end up at any of the three jails.

The judges concluded: "In these circumstances, the expectation that the situation will improve rapidly is not sufficient to assume that the real risk of inhumane treatment has actually disappeared.

"The already established real danger of inhuman or degrading treatment in these establishments has not been eliminated."

media captionInmates transform 'filthy' Liverpool prison

A report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons in December 2017 said they could not recall seeing "worse living conditions than those at HMP Liverpool".

Rats and cockroaches were rife, with one area of the jail so dirty, infested and hazardous it could not be cleaned, inspectors found.

Some prisoners live in cells that should be condemned, the report said, with exposed electrical wiring and filthy, leaking lavatories.

One released prisoner told the BBC: "The cockroach problem was so bad, you can hear them gnawing at you at night."

Another said a leaking toilet in his cell had led to him "waking up with the pad swimming in urine".

Since then, inmates at HMP Liverpool have been cleaning and painting the prison in order to transform what were described as "filthy" conditions.

Prisoners were trained as joiners, painters and industrial cleaners and earned qualifications while improving their surroundings.

One inmate who helped the project said it was "like being in a different jail".

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