Category Archives: Court of Appeal

Strict prison smoking ban could risk staff and inmate safety, Government tells court

snokinginprisonA “particularly vigorous” ban on smoking in state-run prisons could cause discipline problems and risk the safety of staff and prisoners, the Government has told the Court of Appeal.

Justice Secretary Michael Gove is challenging a High Court declaration that the legal ban on smoking in public places applies to state prisons and all Crown premises in England and Wales.

The ruling blocking Crown immunity was won by sex offender Paul Black, an inmate at HMP Wymott in Lancashire, who has been serving an indeterminate sentence since 2009.

Black says he suffered from a range of health problems due to frequent exposure to second-hand smoke in areas of Wymott, in particular on landings, laundry rooms and healthcare waiting rooms.

His complaint is that no-smoking rules in state prisons are being flouted and need to be made legally enforceable under Part 1 of the 2006 Health Act, which came into force in July 2007 and makes smoking a criminal offence in enclosed public places and workplaces.

In reality, smoking is generally not allowed in state-run prisons, except in cells designated for smokers. The Health Act already applies to private prisons as they are not Crown premises.

Black gave evidence that staff and prisoners were guilty of illicit lighting-up in areas where it was not allowed and not enough was being done to stop them.

His health problems exacerbated by smoke include hypertension and heart disease. A number of other prisoners served statements in support of his claim.

High Court judge Mr Justice Singh ruled in March 2015 that it was “Parliament’s intention” that the Health Act should apply in places for which the Crown was responsible.

Because of the potential impact of the ruling on prisons, the judge’s decision was not given immediate effect pending appeal.

James Eadie QC, representing the Justice Secretary, on Monday asked three appeal judges – Lord Dyson, Master of the Rolls, sitting with Lord Justice McCombe and Lord Justice David Richards – to strike down the High Court’s “unsustainable” decision.

Mr Eadie argued that no statute binds the Crown unless that statue expressly states that it does, or it is a “necessary implication” of the legislation. The Health Act did not expressly state, and there was no implication.

The QC stated: “A large proportion of prisoners smoke, and a particularly rigorous ban could cause discipline problems in some prisons, risking the safety of staff and prisoners.”

The Government’s current policy remained that a prisoner over 18 who smoked was permitted to do so in a single cell, or in a cell with a smoker, and a non-smoker must not be required to share with a smoker.

Whether to introduce entirely smoke-free landings and wings was for local prison governors to decide, following consultation with staff and prisoners. But all other indoor areas had to be smoke free.

Lawyers for Black say compliance with the anti-smoking legislation has been high around the country, due to inspections carried out by local authorities, who can be contacted anonymously and confidentially by members of the public via the Smoke-free Compliance line.

Black has requested that prisoners should be granted access to the line. Similar systems are already in place in jails for access to the Samaritans and Crimestoppers.

But he has been told that local authorities have no role in enforcing the Health Act, which does not apply to state prisons.

Philip Havers QC, appearing for Black, said it was estimated that second-hand smoking was causing at least 12,000 deaths each year in the United Kingdom, showing just how damaging and dangerous it was.

The Health Act was “plainly intended to prevent smoking in virtually all public and workplaces for a beneficial purpose – it was to apply to all”.

And that included state prisons, argued Mr Havers.

Reserving judgment, Lord Dyson said the court would give its decision at a later date.

Unduly lenient sentence doubled

A man who virtually decapitated his girlfriend with a bread knife while he was drunk has had his jail sentence doubled. Judges at the Court of Appeal in London overturned the “unduly lenient” six-year prison term imposed in the case of James Richardson and increased it to 12 years. Richardson, 35, of Berridge Green, Edgware,… Continue Reading

Open Prison Absconder Policy Upheld On Appeal

A High Court ruling that a policy of excluding prisoners with a history of absconding from being transferred to more lenient open conditions is unlawful has been overturned. The Government’s policy was introduced following high-profile media reports last year of prisoners with a history of violence absconding while on release on temporary licence (ROTL) from… Continue Reading

Life sentence prisoner freed by Court of Appeal – despite danger

A “very dangerous” sex offender has been released after leading judges ruled that the indefinite jail term handed down in his case was “unlawful”. The Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, Mr Justice Coulson and Mr Justice Gilbart, sitting at the Court of Appeal in London, quashed the sentence of “imprisonment for public protection” (IPP) imposed… Continue Reading

Judges warn lack of legal aid increasing burden on courts

A rise in the number of people representing themselves in person at Court of Appeal hearings is posing an “increasing problem”, a leading judge has warned. Lady Justice Black – who sits in the Court of Appeal – said the task facing judges was “infinitely more difficult” when people were not represented by lawyers. She… Continue Reading

Court rules that prisons are vicariously liable for prisoners working in kitchens

Landmark case: The Court of Appeal has ruled that the Ministry of Justice are liable in damages for injuries caused to others by prisoners working in prison kitchens. The Ministry of Justice is seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. Judgement here Continue Reading

‘Whole Life’ Sentences Lawful Says Court – But ‘Right Wing’ Say Critics –

Leading judges gave a crucial ruling backing the use of whole-life sentences today – which was criticised as ‘right wing’ by commentators. A panel of five judges, headed by the Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, announced their decision on controversial “life-means-life” orders at the Court of Appeal in London. The judges increased the 40-year minimum… Continue Reading

Court Due To Rule on Stop & Search

The Court of Appeal is to rule today on a challenge over the legality of random stop-and-search powers aimed at tackling street violence. The Metropolitan Police have been accused of breaching human rights laws by using the controversial powers against a disproportionately high number of black Londoners. Ann Juliette Roberts, 39, of Upper Edmonton, north… Continue Reading

EXCLUSIVE! Corrupt Prison Officers Lose Appeal

Three corrupt female prison officers, one of who had sexual intercourse with a convicted rapist three times inside a maximum security prison, have lost their appeals against conviction. Karen Cosford (above), 47, had sex with inmate Brian McBride, who was serving a life sentence at Wakefield Prison, during a relationship that lasted several months had… Continue Reading

Cameras to be allowed in some courts

The Guardian reports that TV cameras will be allowed into the court of appeal for the first time from October and senior judges will be offered training before appearing on camera, the lord chief justice has revealed. Lord Judge cautioned against government plans to extend filming into crown courts, where criminal trials take place before juries, for fear… Continue Reading