Career criminal challenges prison smoking ban

Blog Post created by Thomas3.20.2010 on Aug 6, 2012

The man who is challenging a smoking ban in Auckland Prison was led from the court handcuffed to a Corrections officer.

Career criminal Arthur William Taylor has taken the management of Auckland Prison to the High Court at Auckland.

Flanked by four prison guards, Taylor invoked the Bill of Rights Act among others, and said the prisons had not put aside extra funding to help smokers quit.


He said one prisoner had self-harmed as a direct result of the smoking ban and had lost three litres of blood.

"It is one of the only decisions that has any real importance to anyone in prison."

Taylor - who was last year sentenced to a further seven years jail for his involvement in a P-ring inside Paremoremo Prison - said smoking was "virtually" a common law right and everyone in New Zealand was able to smoke in their homes if they wanted to.

Counsel assisting the court, Gillian Coumbe, said the case was not about the court deciding whether or not smoking is good or bad but whether the ban was lawful.


She said if Parliament wanted smoking banned in prisons then a blanket ban should have been made. Instead, it was left up to prison managers to impose new rules.

Ms Coumbe said the smoking ban effected all prisoners, including those not convicted. The ban is also around the clock and covers all parts of the prison, including outdoor yards.

"It is important to acknowledge that a prison cell is the home of the prisoner who resides there."

Ms Coumbe said Parliament allowed smoking in prison cells - even after non-smoking legislation was enacted in 1990 - because some prisoners were confined to their cells for 23 hours a day.


She said the Corrections Department "strenuously advocated" for smoking to be allowed in cells when it appeared before a Parliament Select Committee in 2002.

Ms Coumbe said prisoners caught smoking can face seven days loss of earnings or seven days confined to their cell.

While privileges can also be taken away, one of the items that cannot be denied to prisoners under current prison rules is tobacco.

"That doesn't really make sense. It is an inconsistency."

Ms Coumbe said while overseas courts in Canada and the United States had upheld prison smoking bans, New Zealand was capable of making its own decision.

Taylor has previous convictions including armed robbery, escape and kidnapping.

He was infamous for a string of armed robberies and for prison breaks, including one in 1998 that led to an armed cordon around an enormous area of the Coromandel.

Taylor and the other escapers - including double murderer Graeme Burton - were found in a plush holiday home with an extensive wine cellar, which they had pillaged. Detectives found the men had stacked the fridge with red wine.

The hearing before Justice Murray Gilbert continues.