Roque Hall relief as appeal court says prison ordeal is over


theweek120by150A disabled man with high support needs has been told he will not have to continue a prison term he feared could kill him, and can return home instead.

To the delight of his mother and other supporters, Daniel Roque Hall learned this morning (Friday) that the appeal against his prison sentence had been successful and that it had been cut from three years to 18 months.

The court of appeal in London decided that because of the time he had already served, he would now be released on licence, although he will not be allowed to leave the country until the end of the 18 months.

His mother, Anne Hall, who has led the campaign to fight plans to return him from hospital to Wormwood Scrubs prison in west London, said this morning that it was “fantastic news”.

She spoke to him on the phone after the ruling was delivered. “It was hard for him to take in. He was very grateful that he was able to come home and to everybody who had supported him and for the decision.

“He just said, ‘I want to come home and recover my health as much as I can and lead a peaceful life.’”

She added: “I am just so delighted that Daniel can be home and safe. He suffered hugely. Now he can put it behind him and rebuild his life.”

She said her son would now return to his adapted flat in north-west London.

There was disappointment, though, that a judicial review of the decision to send him back to prison from hospital had failed.

His lawyers claimed such a move would breach his right not to be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment under the Human Rights Act (article three), and could even breach his right to life (article two).

Hall said she believed the judges had still accepted that the needs of people with “complex disabilities” were not being met in prison.

She said: “There isn’t the expertise, the knowledge, the resources and the commitment. I hope it will be addressed by both the NHS [which delivers healthcare in prisons]… and the prisons.”

Earlier this week, Roque Hall had watched the appeal against his sentence – and the judicial review – from his hospital bed via a video-link.

He had received the physical therapy he needs to relieve the pain caused by his impairment as he watched his case being discussed by barristers and a panel of three judges.

His barrister, Flo Krause, told the court that the judge who handed him a three-year prison sentence last summer had not taken sufficient account of his health conditions and impairment.

He was sent to Wormwood Scrubs, after the prison assured the court it could meet his complex care and health needs.

But Roque Hall’s health deteriorated within weeks, and he was eventually admitted to London’s University College Hospital.

The court heard that he needs frequent massaging and stretching exercises to stop his muscles contracting and ease the “very painful spasms” he experiences as a result of the life-limiting condition Friedreich’s ataxia.

He also has heart problems, diabetes and scoliosis, and requires 24-hour monitoring by two care workers in case he needs to be moved or lifted.

Krause told the court that Roque Hall needs “medical monitoring for a number of different conditions”, as well as regular medication, and a lot of handling and care “to maintain him and keep the pain away and enable him to sleep”.

She added: “We still don’t know and we have asked the prison to provide evidence of how they intend to meet his needs.”

Krause claimed the prison had failed to make reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act, for example by not training its staff to use his standing wheelchair, which he needs to keep tone in his muscles, or to provide him with education and exercise, or privacy to make his phone calls.

She said the only education Roque Hall was offered was a “level one” literacy and numeracy course, even though he already has a degree.

Galina Ward, representing the secretary of state for justice, said the prison had been in the process of training staff to use the wheelchair when he was taken to hospital, while there were limits to what they could do because of his impairments.

She said the prison had made all the reasonable adjustments that it had to make in law.

Roque Hall was sentenced last June, after admitting trying to smuggle almost three kilogrammes of cocaine – worth nearly half a million pounds – into the UK in his wheelchair, following a trip to Peru.

Krause suggested that the judge had imposed a stricter sentence than he should have done last year as a “deterrent” to prevent other wheelchair-users becoming drug mules.

She told the court that, at the time he committed the offence, Roque Hall had been depressed because of his health, and because of the cancellation of his wedding in Morocco the day before he and his fiancée were due to get married, after their plans had been “thwarted” by her uncle.

He even began giving hundreds of pounds of his money away while travelling in a deprived part of Nicaragua, and had also learned that his half-sister in America – who had only recently contacted him for the first time – had cancer.

8 February 2013