Inmate compo win prompts law rethink
By Evan Schwarten
February 12, 2007
Article from: AAP
THE Queensland Government may change anti-discrimination laws after a Muslim child sex offender was awarded compensation because prison authorities failed to provide him with fresh halal meat.
Queensland’s Supreme Court upheld a ruling by the anti-discrimination tribunal to award $2000 in compensation to the prisoner for not meeting his religious dietary requirements.
The man claimed he was forced to survive on vegetables, nuts and fatty and salty meat because prison authorities would not provide him with fresh halal meat.
The court defined halal meat as as “meat which has been blessed and slaughtered by Muslim slaughtermen and prepared, cooked and stored in accordance with religious law.”
A corrective services spokesman said fresh halal meat was difficult to source in parts of the state and the offender, who was imprisoned for five years from 2000, was the first prisoner in the state’s history to request the product.
They said the prisoner had been given tinned halal meat but they now undertook to provide fresh meat where possible.
Corrective Services Minister Judy Spence fears the decision to compensate the inmate could set a dangerous precedent and is considering new legislation to protect against trivial claims.
She said in another case a transsexual prisoner was currently taking the department through the anti-discrimination tribunal for refusing to provide them with a preferred brand of hair product.
“We are not running hotels â€“ we are running prisons and we should not be expected to provide room service,” Ms Spence said.
“I don’t think that when we introduced anti-discrimination legislation that we ever envisaged that prisoners would use it in this fashion.”
However, Queensland Council for Civil Liberties president Michael Cope accused Ms Spence of over-reacting and using the situation to score political points.
He said the verdict proved the Muslim inmate’s claim was not frivolous and argued there already were processes in place to ensure frivolous claims were nut successful.
“If prisoners make complaints … there is a whole process, a full hearing before the tribunal in which the minister can say `I’m not discriminating or if I am it’s because it’s an unreasonable burden,”‘ he said.
Mr Cope said authorities needed to respect inmates’ religious beliefs to help ensure their rehabilitation.
“Just because you are in jail doesn’t mean people are entitled to discriminate against you, you don’t lose your human rights simply because you are in jail,” he said.
“Prisoners are far more likely to be rehabilitated if you treat them with basic respect of their religious beliefs than if you don’t.”
*This shyster in the service of the pedophile will have us believe that feeding this low-life criminal with fresh halal meat will cure him of his propensity to re-offend at the next chance. A nightmare. This is the kind of useful idiot that will help to get us all killed. The ‘human rights’ of the victim were never mentioned.
But Ms Spence said the prison authorities tried to accommodate the religious beliefs of prisoners where possible.
“Where it is reasonable we definitely try to meet the religious and dietary requirements of prisoners but sometimes they are not reasonable,” she said.