Prisoner mounts legal challenge over access to smoking phone line

HMP Wymott in Preston

HMP Wymott in Preston

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A legal battle is being fought by an inmate in Lancashire to give prisoners the right to report unauthorised smoking in jail - including by prison staff - via a confidential health hotline.

Paul Black, an inmate at HMP Wymott suffering from a range of health problems made worse by second-hand smoke, is seeking a judicial review.

He says both staff and prisoners in his prison are guilty of illicit lighting up and not enough is being done to stop them.

He is challenging at London’s High Court a decision of Justice Secretary Chris Grayling backing the prison governor’s decision not to allow prisoners general access to the NHS freephone smoke-free compliance line.

Although he now personally has the right to access the line, Black argues that still leaves him vulnerable to being singled out and targeted, and access must be made available to all inmates.

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

Asking the court to dismiss the case, Jonathan Hall QC argued that when it came to state prisons the Crown was not bound by the Health Act, or its criminal sanctions for smoking in restricted areas.

He submitted refusing global access to the confidentiality line did not violate the European Convention on Human Rights or conflict with prison rules.

Mr Hall argued: “The line has to be drawn somewhere in the interests of security and good order.”

The judge said he would give his decision as soon as possible.