Bid to speed up prison smoking prohibit fails in Court of Appeal – BBC News

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Image caption Smoking is currently permitted only in prison cells and exercise yards

The ban on smoking in public places does not apply to country prisons, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

Judges allowed a government appeal against a High Court ruling that the 2007 forbid encompassed all public places and workplaces in England and Wales.

The government says it entails it can carry on with its plans to roll out a forbidding gradually “in a safe and secure way” rather than rushing it through.

An inmate who wanted quicker implementation had brought the case.

He and some other prisoners and staff argue country prisons should never have been exempted from the 2007 forbid on smoking in public places.

Smoking is currently allowed in prison cells and exert yards. The prohibition already applies to private prisons as they are not Crown premises.

The government eventually intends to make all 136 state prisons in England and Wales entirely smoke-free to reduce health risks to staff and inmates.


Paul Black, an inmate at HMP Wymott in Lancashire, complained that prison smoking rules were being flouted and should be made legally enforceable under Part 1 of the 2006 Health Act, which came into force in July 2007.

His lawyers told the hearings he suffered from a range of health problems due to frequent exposure to second-hand smoke, in particular on prison landings, in laundry rooms and in healthcare waiting rooms.

Black’s health problems included hypertension and heart disease, the court was told, and other prisoners statements in support of his claim.

Sean Humber, head of human rights at statute firm Leigh Day, which represented Black, said the ruling seemed “absurd” to their client and they would discuss an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Government lawyers had warned that a “particularly vigorous” ban could cause discipline problems and danger the safety of staff and inmates.

That warning was echoed by the Prison Governors Association, which is in favour of a prohibition, but has raised concerns about it potentially leading to instability in jails, given about 80% of inmates currently smoke.

BBC correspondent Daniel Boettcher said the smoking prohibit had already begun in prisons in Wales.

A Prison Service spokesman said: “The result of this appeal means we are able to roll out smoke free prisons in a safe and secure way.

“Our careful approach will ensure staff and prisoners are no longer exposed to second-hand smoke, while not compromising the safety and security of our prisons.”

In Scotland, captives are allowed to smoking in their cells and in some open-air areas. Prison staff are not allowed to smoke anywhere.

A Scottish Prison Service spokesman said they were developing plans to deliver smoke-free prisons in Scotland, but no timeframe for this was available.

The Northern Ireland Department of Justice said it had no plans to change the current rules, under which smoking is permitted in prison cells and certain open spaces.

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