Northern Ireland news

Condoms and other sex aids to be allowed into north's prisons

Maghaberry Prison
Connla Young

Condoms and other sexual aids are set to be allowed into the north’s prisons for the first time.

Officials have confirmed that inmates will be given access to a range of items after a bisexual prisoner, who has been granted anonymity, threatened to take legal action earlier this year.

The items include condoms, dental dams and water-based lubricants.

Solicitor Gavin Booth, of Phoenix Law, last night described the development as “monumental”.

The inmate had challenged a failure by the Northern Ireland Prison Service to permit "effective access to preventative measures to prevent sexually transmitted infections".

It had been argued that a refusal by prison chiefs to allow the items into the jail are in breach of the human rights act and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Mr Booth had said the requested items are currently available in prisons in England and Wales.

A judicial review had been listed for hearing next month.

In a letter to Mr Booth this week from departmental solicitors it was confirmed that the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust will now “implement a ‘Procedure for the Provision of Condoms, Dental Dams and Water-Based Lubricants for People in Prison’.“

"Through this procedure trust staff working in prisons will be able to provide these items to people in prison custody following a sexual health consultation," an official wrote.

“This guidance is aimed at ensuring that the supply of condoms is a component of healthcare in prison provision, as deemed clinically necessary for sexual health purposes, and thereby improving public health."

Mr Booth last night welcomed “the decision of the prison service to now implement a policy where prisoners can now access sexual protection items to have safe sex in prison”.

“This is a monumental change in prison rules which places prisoners’ health at the forefront of prison policy,” he said.

The prisoner at the centre of the legal challenge complained about a lack of access to condoms last year and was told they were "listed as a prohibited article".

In a written response he was also advised that "sexual relations could potentially lead to a charge under rule 38", which deals with "offences against prison discipline".

While prison rule 38 does not reference consensual sexual activity a section does state that a prisoner shall be guilty of an offence against discipline if he "commits an indecent and obscene act".

The inmate later complained about this response, describing it as "wholly offensive and a reflection out outdated attitudes".

The Department of Justice was contacted.

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