Outrage as Judge Defends the 'Civil Rights' of Phone Call Case Inmate
Byline: GRAHAM GRANT
Home Affairs Editor
A CONVICTED armed robber won a landmark legal action yesterday when a judge ruled a recorded message on his calls from prison breached his human rights.
Stewart Potter lodged a case against the Scottish Prison Service (SPS), complaining the message on outgoing telephone calls breached his right to privacy.
The prisoner at Glenochil jail in Clackmannanshire said the prerecorded message - 'This call originates from a Scottish prison' - also 'inhibited his social rehabilitation' and was embarrassing.
Yesterday, a judge at the Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled the message was unlawful under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) because prisoners are entitled to a family life.
But politicians last night condemned the ruling and said it made Scotland a 'laughing stock'.
Lawyers for the inmate argued the message alerted his children's school to his incarceration.
It was also claimed that the information was not relevant to his dealings with teachers and others.
Potter, 43, was jailed for two consecutive terms of nine and 12 years for robbery, imposed in 2001 and the following year.
The criminal, from Glasgow, was said by one of his victims to have foamed at the mouth 'like a mad dog' during a raid on an off-licence in the city's Hyndland Road.
A 30-month battle was fought with the Scottish legal aid authorities to secure funding to bring his case to court. The test case followed previous inmates' human rights cases over slopping out, segregation and voting rights.
Potter challenged the legality of the SPS policy of an automated message being attached to a prisoner's outgoing call, informing the recipient it was coming from a jail.
Human Rights legislation says it is unlawful for a public authority to act in a way incompatible with the ECHR and Article 8 gives the right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence.
Interference with that right by a public authority is prohibited, except in accordance with the law and when necessary for reasons such as public safety.
The case was handled by Tony Kelly, the lawyer from Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, who was also behind yesterday's legal bid to halt the Holyrood election in the row over prisoners' right to vote. Yesterday, Lord Glennie cited Article 8 of the European Convention, adding: 'In some societies it might be regarded as obvious that a person convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to a period of imprisonment should, for the duration of his imprisonment, be deprived of his civil rights.
'Such a notion has no place in our society. It is accepted that the message constitutes interference with the prisoner's right to respect for family life and correspondence.' But last night Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie said: 'There is a clear issue here - are the rights of the law-abiding majority being served ahead of the rights of a minority who happen to be in jail?
'It appears not. …