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« Questions that need answers | Main | Risk and responsibility »
Tuesday
Dec192017

Hypocrisy of government's prison smoking ban exposed

A prisoner who wanted smoking banned in jail because he feared the impact of secondhand smoke on his health has lost his case.

According to BBC News (Inmate loses jail smoking ban fight at Supreme Court):

Paul Black, an inmate at HMP Wymott in Lancashire, wanted the same protection against passive smoking as "non-smokers living in the wider community".

Five justices dismissed his case against the government following his defeat in the Court of Appeal.

The BBC added:

The case centred on the 2006 Health Act which places restrictions on smoking in public places and workplaces, making it a criminal offence to smoke in an unauthorised place and also an offence for those in charge of the premises to turn a blind eye to smoking.

The 2006 Health Act did of course allow exemptions and they included, in particular, "any premises where a person has his home, or is living whether permanently or temporarily (including hotels, care homes, and prisons and other places where a person may be detained).

The exemptions for prisons could not have been any clearer and it's a mystery how Black won the original case in 2015.

Nevertheless, listening to his lawyer on Five Live this morning it was interesting to hear him say his client never wanted smoking banned in other inmates' cells, nor did he want smoking prohibited in outdoor areas.

The goal, according to the lawyer, was merely to have smoking banned in communal areas indoors.

How ironic therefore that after successfully challenging Black's 2015 High Court victory in the Appeal Court on the grounds that a "particularly vigorous" ban could cause discipline problems and risk the safety of staff and inmates, the government ignored its own warning and is currently introducing a prison smoking policy that is far more draconian than Black ever intended.

How hypocritical is that?

Another issue the Supreme Court ruling raises is this: if exposure to 'secondhand' smoke is as dangerous to non-smokers as current anti-smoking orthodoxy would have us believe, it begs the question why any court (Supreme or otherwise) would not uphold an indoor smoking ban.

And yet, by dismissing Black's case following his defeat in the Court of Appeal last year, it would seem that both the Appeal and Supreme Court judges have indeed rejected the fallacy that even regular exposure to other people's tobacco smoke is a serious risk to the health of non-smokers.

Final point. The lawyer representing Paul Black works for Leigh Day, the controversial 'personal injury and medical negligence lawyers'.

By coincidence this is the same firm that has represented ASH (Leigh Day acting for ASH in High Court tobacco plain packaging case).

Fancy that.

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Reader Comments (6)

It must be Christmas.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017 at 21:18 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Joyce

It makes one wonder where a prisoner, presumably with no money, was able to raise the high costs involved in taking legal action.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017 at 23:21 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

This has all the hallmarks of a Government appealing the decision through a sheer sense of pique. As you say, Simon, they’re bringing in smoking bans in prisons throughout the land anyway, so why bother challenging a case which would merely expedite a process in this particular prison that they’re going to impose anyway? You’d have thought that they’d be glad that a specific case had saved them the time and trouble of “organising” a ban in that prison as part of their overall plans. Perhaps it’s the thought that they’d had their hands forced by a private individuation – and a prisoner and sex offender at that, too! Or perhaps they were scared that if the decision was upheld it would lay them open to compensation claims from this irksome man (and others) at a later date because of “damage to his health.” Except that that does beg the question as to whether, by effectively accepting the claims of harm (which their bans are effectively doing) by imposing bans of their own volition, they are laying themselves open to such claims in any case? Or perhaps the ban which he was asking for wasn’t strict enough.

Mind you, I’ve always wondered why prisons – if they were so keen to “protect the health of non-smoking workers and prisoners” – didn’t ban smoking indoors regardless. After all, there’s nothing in the law that states that just because an establishment is allowed to permit smoking that they’re therefore obliged to do so, is there? Countless private firms did it long, long before the smoking ban came in, and countless hotels (which also fall under the same exemption) have also done so and now don’t even provide a few smoking rooms, so why didn’t prisons?

Or could it be that maybe - just maybe - in the wake of all the unrest which bans have caused in prisons where they have been imposed both here in the UK and elsewhere, the Government have decided to drag their feet, just a little, over their great "ban rollout?" Who knows, perhaps reality is starting to filter into the Westminster bubble ...

Wednesday, December 20, 2017 at 1:04 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

The first crack in the fictional rationale fro smoking bans. I suspect more to follow once the solicitors become aware that the bans were imposed using falsified data.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017 at 2:49 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

Pat, according to the lawyer from Leigh Day, Black received legal aid so the public paid.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017 at 8:05 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

If only I could have got legal aid when as a consumer I sought to sue the govt over plain packs. Yet another example of the so called equal society we smokers are part of.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017 at 13:49 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

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