A gay prisoner has launched a legal challenge amidst a sex and condom ban at Maghaberry prison.
Believed to be the first of its kind, the judicial review claims that a refusal by prison chiefs to allow such items into the jail is in breach of the human rights act and the European Convention on Human Rights.
The inmate who was granted the request to remain anonymous is challenging the Northern Ireland Prison Service’s failure to allow “effective access to preventative measures to prevent sexually transmitted infections” amid the Maghaberry sex and condom ban.
Condoms, lubricants, disinfectant tablets and dental dams together with information about sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections are among the items requested. Gavin Booth, of Phoenix Law, the Prisoner’s solicitor, has said in legal documents that such banned items are frequently made available in English and Welsh prisons.
The legal action is challenging what is outlined as the “unwritten and/or unpublished position of the NIPS that prisoners are not permitted to engage in consensual sexual activity.” Lawyers maintain that the ban on sexual contact in the facility is unlawful “and it has no basis in any published legislation, rule or policy”.
The South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust, two bodies who oversee the running of medical services provided to the prisoners at the facility support the provision of the requested items which was revealed within legal documents linked to the case.
A senior official said that the trust “is in favour of the provision of the items detailed in your letter” in response to a letter from the prisoners’ solicitor.
The official has said that the trust has made “numerous representations to this effect” adding that the “trust has been advised by the Northern Ireland Prison Service that these items cannot be distributed within the prison”.
In a written response the gay inmate was told that “sexual relations could potentially lead to a charge under rule 38”, an act which deals with “offences against prison discipline” and that prophylactics were “listed as a prohibited article”.
Mr Booth told Irish news that “Our client is rightfully pursuing an application for a judicial review following a refusal by the Prison Service to provide him with condoms in order to have safe sex while in prison.”
Adding that “We are long past the days that this should be a taboo subject when in reality this is a sexual health matter. and The reality is a section of prisoners are having sex in prison with each other and prisoners should have the option of having sex in a safe way”.
A spokeswoman for the prison service told Irish News that “It would be inappropriate to comment further whilst legal proceedings are ongoing”.
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