3 Jul 2013

Inmates can't light up despite court ruling

8:36 pm on 3 July 2013

Prisoners won't be able to light up, despite the latest High Court ruling criticising the legality of a smoking ban in jails. However, they may be able to seek redress over any adverse effect on their record.

After a second legal challenge by multiple offender Arthur Taylor, the High Court at Auckland has ruled that amendments to regulations rushed through Parliament around possession of tobacco in prisons were unlawful and are invalid.

National's education spokesperson Anne Tolley.

National's education spokesperson Anne Tolley. Photo: NATIONAL PARTY

In July 2011, the Government introduced a blanket ban on smoking in prisons, but late last year the High Court ruled the ban was unlawful because it did not properly rule that tobacco should be a contraband item.

The Department of Corrections then hastily put in new regulations, declaring tobacco and any equipment related to smoking forbidden. But Taylor argued that this was also unlawful.

In a decision released on Wednesday morning, Justice Brewer ruled that the amendment is unlawful and that the Department of Corrections went beyond its powers implementing it.

But Corrections Minister Anne Tolley said the Act passed into law in March this year supersedes this ruling and the smoking ban is now lawful.

Mrs Tolley said the legislation rules out compensation for any inmates who received disciplinary action during the time that the unlawful amendments were in place.

However, she said any prisoner who was reprimanded can have that wiped from their record.

Mrs Tolley said the smoking ban has had a tremendous impact on the health of inmates and prison staff.