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Sexual inequality in HM prisons

Letter to the Editor, Daily Mail, from Mr Paul Laxton, Huddersfield

As a retired prison governor, I can see the flaw in Justice Secretary Chris Grayling’s proposals to make prison life tougher by rectifying the situation whereby gays serving prison sentences can be sexually active while heterosexual prisoners can’t. He says gay prisoners should be split up and, if necessary, transferred.

I’m not convinced that Mr Grayling has been fully briefed by his civil servants about this. He may not be aware that a prisoner can no longer be charged with indulging in gay sex unless the governor has enacted a specific rule against such relationships.

No governor is likely to risk his job by promulgating such a rule and bringing down the wrath of a politically correct HQ on his head.

Mr Grayling may also not know that the governor no longer has the power to prevent the issue of condoms, which may prevent the spread of HIV but effectively give the green light to sexual activity.

Meanwhile, there is an unintended consequence of the ban on smoking in public buildings, which came into force in England in 2007. The head of the Prison Service at the time successfully argued that, as a cell was effectively a prisoner’s home, it should be exempt from the legislation.

This brings into play the much abused Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to a private and family life, and leaves open the possibility of legal action being brought to establish that, as a consequence of this decision, a prison cell is a private place under the meaning of the 1967 Act that legalised homosexuality between consenting adults – thus overturning the current position that a prison cell is excluded from the definition.

I hope Mr Grayling can raise these issues with civil servants and Treasury solicitors.

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