Campaigners win more time in Roque Hall court fight


Campaigners have secured a high court injunction that has – temporarily – prevented a seriously-ill disabled man from being returned to prison.

Family and friends of Daniel Roque Hall have warned the government that returning him to Wormwood Scrubs prison was likely to prove a “death sentence”.

This week, they held a vigil outside the Royal Courts of Justice, as a judge prepared to hear his case.

Hall’s lawyers successfully secured an extension to an emergency injunction – obtained on new year’s day – that prevented him being returned to prison following months of treatment at London’s University College Hospital (UCLH).

They have also lodged an appeal against his three-year prison sentence, which they argue is disproportionate and a breach of his human rights because of the risk to his life in prison.

Roque Hall was sentenced in June, after admitting trying to smuggle almost three kilogrammes of cocaine into the UK in his wheelchair.

But his health deteriorated soon after he was sent to Wormwood Scrubs in west London, and – despite the prison authorities initially denying that he needed treatment – he was eventually admitted to an intensive care unit at UCLH.

His mother, Anne Hall, said: “UCLH saved my son’s life and I will be eternally grateful to all the wonderful staff who have provided dedicated and expert care to Daniel, day and night. They could not have done more”.

But she added: “No UK prison can meet his complex care needs. To send him back would amount to a death sentence – he has already been punished far in excess of the three years he was given.”

Supporters calling for Roque Hall to be allowed to serve his sentence somewhere more suitable than prison include the Labour MP John McDonnell; Lord Ramsbotham, the former chief inspector of prisons; the civil liberties charity Liberty; the veteran peace campaigner Bruce Kent; the disabled women’s organisation WinVisible; and the charity Ataxia UK.

Roque Hall experiences pain and muscle spasms, fatigue, heart problems, diabetes, and difficulty with speech and swallowing, as a result of the life-limiting condition Friedreich’s ataxia. He is a full-time wheelchair-user and at home has a 24-hour care package.

He usually carries out exercises – with the aid of a support worker – that help him maintain muscle strength, ease his pain, and prevent further deterioration to his health. But his supporters say he was denied access to any exercise equipment while in the prison’s hospital wing.

The prison originally denied that he needed any treatment, and it was only when his condition deteriorated that he was admitted to UCLH with heart problems. His mother found him “emaciated” and barely able to speak or recognise her.

A Prison Service spokeswoman declined to comment on the case because legal proceedings were active.

10 January 2013