Lancashire sex offender wins prison smoking ban

HMP Wymott
HMP Wymott
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A Lancashire sex offender has won a landmark ruling that the ban on smoking in public places applies to state prisons and all Crown premises.

A High Court judge made the ruling, despite fears that rigorously imposing the ban could lead to unrest in the jails of England and Wales.

The decision was a victory for Paul Black, an inmate at HMP Wymott in Ulnes Walton who says he suffers from a range of health problems made worse by second-hand smoke.

Black, a sex offender who has been at Wymott since 2009 for sexual assault, says 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.

Smoking is permitted in the cells of state prisons with the doors shut, but not in communal areas. The Health Act already applies to private prisons as they are not Crown premises.

Shaheen Rahman, representing Black, told the court at a hearing last month that he was frequently exposed to second-hand smoke in areas of the prison where smoking was prohibited, in particular on landings, laundry rooms and healthcare waiting rooms.

He came to court arguing that prisoners are legally entitled to anonymous and confidential access to the NHS freephone smoke-free compliance line to report infringements of the rules.

The line enables members of the public to seek enforcement of the Health Act ban. Confidentiality and anonymity was necessary to avoid reprisals from fellow prisoners, said Ms Rahman.

Although Black now personally had the right to access the line after beginning legal action, other inmates did not and he was still vulnerable to being singled out as “a grass”.

The judge rejected Justice Secretary Chris Grayling’s argument that the 2006 Health Act does not “bind the Crown” and does not apply in state prisons.

Mr Justice Singh, sitting in London, declared: “In my judgment it is clear from the terms of the 2006 Act...that the intention of Parliament was indeed that it should apply to all public places and workplaces which fell within its scope.”

He postponed his ruling taking effect to give the Justice Secretary time to appeal to the Court of Appeal.