Patients at Rampton high security psychiatric hospital, which houses some of the country's most dangerous criminals, are challenging a smoking ban in a test case which claims the refusal to permit cigarettes in the hospital's buildings or grounds violates their human rights.
The case, due for hearing in September, is being brought by Terrence Grimwood, a patient who has been given legal aid to contest the no-smoking policy, imposed at the end of March.
His lawyers argue that the ban by Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, which manages the hospital, breaches article 6 of the European convention on human rights, which guarantees respect for private and family life.
They say the hospital is the patients' home and to stop them smoking there when they are not free to go elsewhere constitutes a disproportionate interference with their right to do what they want in their own home as long as it poses no harm to anyone else.
Not everyone incarcerated in Rampton has been convicted of a crime, although all of its inhabitants are considered a threat to others. Personally, I see no reason why those who have not actually done anything wrong should not be allowed to smoke, although I also respect the right of the hospital authorities to regulate their patients' lives as they see fit. But the notion that the real criminal lowlife who inhabit Rampton (such as child-murdering ex-nurse Beverley Allitt) should be entitled to the same rights and liberties as everyone else is abhorrent. Nonetheless, the European Convention on Human Rights has been used to justify the striking down of previous restrictions on the freedoms of criminals, such as the law banning them from voting, and it would not in the least surprise me if this present claim were to succeed.However, as with the levels of perversion of children, Sweden has the dubious honour of being ahead of us. Female prisoners at a prison in the country are demanding that the state provide them with bikinis, in order that their human right to sunbathe might be unrestricted.
Don't worry, though: I'm sure we'll be at the same stage as Sweden in no time.