9 Jan 2013

Prisoner steps up legal bid for prison 'smokes'

5:03 am on 9 January 2013

A career criminal has filed papers in Auckland High Court seeking a ruling to force the Corrections Department to reverse its ban on smoking in prisons.

Arthur Taylor has already successfully argued a ban in Auckland Prison was unlawful - he took a civil case against the prison's manager after cigarettes, lighters, matches and tobacco were banned in all prisons in July last year.

Justice Gilbert ruled the Auckland Prison ban was unlawful, invalid, and inconsistent with legislation that makes it clear prisoners should have the right to smoke.

His High Court decision says the prison managers had no authority to introduce that rule, which blocked about 6000 prisoners from smoking.

In November 2012, the Corrections Department put into effect new regulations making tobacco in prisons contraband.

And Corrections Minister Anne Tolley said that if the Government needs to change the law to maintain a smokefree environment in prisons, it will do so.

Now that Taylor has mounted a further legal challenge to the ban Corrections says it will consider Taylor's application for a judicial review in due course.

In May 2011 Taylor was sentenced to an additional seven years' jail for conspiring to supply methamphethamine from prison.

He was the target of a police operation that involved tapping cellphones of inmates in 2007.

Justice Wylie said at the time that Taylor negotiated the sale of more than three ounces of methampethamine worth $12,000 each using a cellphone smuggled into prison.

The judge says the offending warranted a strong deterrent and ordered Taylor serve a minimum term of three years and six months' jail.

Taylor is a maximum security prisoner. He was first convicted in 1972 and has convictions for dishonesty, fraud, drugs and violence.