Inmate launches legal fight against ‘gay sex ban’ in Northern Ireland prisons

·2-min read

A gay prisoner has launched a legal challenge against an archaic policy that prohibits sex between inmates in Northern Ireland’s prisons.

The inmate, who is currently incarcerated in Maghaberry prison near Lisburn, is pursuing an application for a judicial review after the Northern Ireland Prison Service told him that condoms, lube, dental dams and disinfectant tablets aren’t allowed in the region’s prisons.

In his application, the unnamed prisoner claimed the prison service is breaching the European Convention on Human Rights by refusing to provide prisoners with safe sex aids, the Irish News reports.

He has accused the service of failing to provide “effective access to preventative measures to prevent sexually transmitted infection” in legal documents filed by Gavin Booth of Phoenix Law.

Condoms, lube, dental dams and other sexual aids are currently provided to inmates in prisons in England and Wales, Booth said.

Furthermore, the judicial review questions the “unwritten and/or unpublished position” of Northern Ireland’s prison service that inmates must not have consensual sex with each other.

Lawyers working on the prisoner’s behalf have argued that the position has “no basis in any published legislation, rule or policy”.

Gay prisoner was told he could be disciplined for having sex with fellow inmates

South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust, which runs medical services at Maghaberry prison, has expressed support for the provision of condoms, lube and dental dams.

However, they were reportedly told that the Northern Ireland Prison Service would not allow them to be distributed in its institutions.

The prisoner bringing the judicial review said he asked for condoms last year but was told that they were considered a “prohibited article” and were not allowed.

He said prison officials told him that he could be charged under the prison’s disciplinary procedure if he was found to have had sex with fellow inmates.

John O’Doherty, director of The Rainbow Project, said his organisation is considering joining the legal action, telling the Irish News that they are “hoping to intervene in the case”.

He said he has been engaging with the Northern Ireland Prison Service for a decade in an effort to put in place supports for queer prisoners.

“I think honestly one of the main barriers to the implementation of that has been around recognising there has been sexual activity among prisoners,” O’Doherty said.

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