The UK Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that prisons in England and Wales are exempt from the smoking ban under the Health Act 2006.
President Lady Hale said provisions of the Act prohibiting smoking in offices, bars and enclosed areas were not extended to government or Crown sites because under standard practice, legislation is not considered to bind the Crown unless explicitly stated or by “necessary implication”.
Leigh Day, the law firm which acted in the case, has warned that the ruling could have wider consequences beyond just prisons.
The case was brought by Paul Black, a prisoner who complained that his health problems were being exacerbated by tobacco smoke because the smoking ban was not being enforced in the common areas.
His judicial review, which succeeded in the High Court and was overturned in the Court of Appeal, challenged the Secretary of State for refusing to provide confidential and anonymous access to prisoners to the NHS smoke-free compliance line to report breaches of the smoking ban.
Sean Humber, head of prison law at Leigh Day, said: “This judgment has far wider implications than simply the issue of smoking in prisons.
“It confirms that thousands of government properties, including, for example, courts and jobcentres, are not covered by the provisions of the Health Act prohibiting smoking in enclosed places.
“While many of these buildings even have signs saying it is against the law to smoke in them, these turn out to be incorrect.”