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Prisoner "passive smoking" claims in the pipeline

27 January 2011

Pending compensation claims against Scottish prison authorities by inmates subjected to passive smoking in their cells have received a boost from a European Court of Human Rights decision.

In a judgment of 25 January, the court held there had been a breach of article 3 of the Convention, which prohibits inhuman or degrading treatment, in the case of Anesti Elefteriadis, who brought an action against the Romanian Government. Declared medically fit when sentenced in 1992, by 1999, after sharing a cell with three smokers, he was found to have pulmonary fibrosis. More recent tests also confirmed the presence of a chronic bronchal condition. Elefteriadis was awarded 4,000 euro compensation "pour dommage moral", in the terms of the French judgment.

The Herald reports today that Tony Kelly, the Coatbridge solicitor who has acted for many prisoners complaining about their conditions during sentence, has about six cases already in train where his clients were non-smokers but had been exposed to cigarette smoke while in their cells. Mr Kelly predicted that the cases would be successful regardless of the European ruling, as it was "common sense" that harm was reasonably foreseeable especially given the Scottish Government's ban for health reasons on smoking in public places.

Click here to access the European ruling (available in French only).

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