Prisoner awaits smoking ban ruling


Published: Thursday 5th March 2015 by The News Editor

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A prisoner learns today whether he has won the unrestricted right to report unauthorised smoking in jail via a confidential health hotline.

Paul Black, who is held at HMP Wymott in Lancashire and says he suffers from a range of health problems made worse by second-hand smoke, is seeking a judicial review.

He says both staff and prisoners are guilty of illicit lighting-up in areas where it is not allowed and not enough is being done to stop them.

He is asking London’s High Court to overrule Justice Secretary Chris Grayling’s decision upholding the prison governor’s decision refusing inmates general access to the NHS freephone smoke-free compliance line.

The line enables members of the public to seek enforcement of provisions of the Health Act 2006 which ban smoking in enclosed public places.

Confidentiality is necessary to avoid reprisals from fellow prisoners who might feel the line is being used to “grass them up”, his lawyers told Mr Justice Singh at a hearing last month.

Although he now personally has the right to access the line after beginning legal action, that still leaves him vulnerable to being singled out as “a grass” as others do not.

Black contends access must be unrestricted and made available to all inmates in order to be effective.

Lawyers for the Justice Secretary argued Crown Immunity prevents the Health Act provisions applying to state prisons.

They maintained prison rules and regulations, especially the sanction of withdrawal of privileges, were sufficient to deal with incidents of unauthorised smoking.

Black, who has been at Wymott since 2009 and is serving an indeterminate sentence, is accusing the Justice Secretary of breaching his own rules, as well as human rights laws.

Shaheen Rahman, representing Black, said it was accepted on all sides that about 80% of prisoners smoke.

Black complained of being frequently exposed to second-hand smoke in areas of the prison where smoking was prohibited, in particular on landings, in laundry rooms and in healthcare waiting rooms.

Published: Thursday 5th March 2015 by The News Editor

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