Nearly 200 Muslim prisoners are suing the Government after being served halal food contaminated with pork, claiming their human rights were breached.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has confirmed that 186 inmates have launched legal cases in an attempt to win compensation over the error.
Muslims are forbidden from eating pork under Islamic law.
However, tests on halal sausage rolls, shepherd’s pies, steak and kidney pies and pasties served in three separate prisons were found to have contained pork.
It is feared that if the legal cases are successful, they could leave the way open for a flood of similar claims from other prisoners. There are 11,248 Muslims in prisons in England and Wales, accounting for 13.1 per cent of the jail population.
Ministers are expected to oppose the legal cases amid growing concerns over the compensation culture in jails.
More than £13 million in compensation was paid to inmates last year for mishaps and delays in parole hearings – twice the figure from the previous year.
Jeremy Wright, the justice minister, said: “The Ministry of Justice has received a number of civil litigation claims following the discovery of contaminated halal food in March earlier this year. Each claim will be considered on its merits and robustly defended where appropriate.”
The legal cases are being brought by the prisoners under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which affords the right to the freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
The MoJ insisted that none of the 186 inmates has received legal aid to help them with their fight, but two prisoners have been awarded public money for a failed judicial review.
The contaminated meat products were discovered during investigations conducted during the horsemeat scandal earlier this year.
Halal sausage rolls served in HMP Sheppey Cluster, also known as Elmley prison, in Kent, were found to contain up to five per cent pork. The test results only emerged this week. Steak and kidney pies served in the same prison were also found to have contained 60-100 per cent pig meat.
Pork was also served in shepherd’s pie in HM Young Offender Institution Thorn Cross in Cheshire, while halal “beef and onion” pasties in HMP Verne on the Isle of Portland, Dorset, were also contaminated with pork.
The legal cases come amid fears of a growing compensation culture among prisoners.
Two years ago it emerged that £60 million was paid to criminals, prison staff and visitors to British jails over a four-year period for prison-related incidents. The sum included £16 million for 16,000 inmates. However, the compensation paid to prisoners last year alone was more than £13 million.
See on www.telegraph.co.uk