Last month I wrote about a legal case brought by Clifford Lyons, a prisoner at the Carstairs State Hospital, who was seeking to be allowed fizzy drinks and other snacks.
The judge, Lady Dorrian, has now issued her written decision, ruling in favour of Lyons.
The background to the case reads like something out of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. In a bid to tackle obesity among inmates, managers at the hospital brought in new rules replacing junk food, rationing takeaway meal deliveries and banning food parcels from visitors.
But Lyons claimed his exercise regime would be hampered if he could not buy energy drinks at the hospital shop or order high protein bars and food supplements online. He argued that this amounted to a breach of the duty of staff to look after him as well as they can, as demanded by the Mental Health Care and Treatment (Scotland) Act 2003.
And Lady Dorrian agreed, ruling that patients could continue to order their favourite snacks from outside and that visitors could continue to bring in food parcels – as long as they did not contain alcohol, glass bottles or tin cans.
She also noted that patients were against the changes, criticising managers for a lack of consultation. She said that from what little there had been, patients were “vehemently opposed” to the plan and wanted to continue to receive outside food parcels.
Now, Carstairs is a state hospital. But it is not an ordinary hospital; it is Scotland’s only special security psychiatric hospital. All of its 140 patients have committed serious criminal offences.
Lyons himself was admitted in 1990 after raping a10 year old girl in a field while on bail for another sex offence, after being charged with molesting a 12 year old boy.
It seems bizarre that those who manage the hospital appear to need the consent of the inmates before changes can be made. And many will be appalled that a convicted rapist is free to order from the internet, and that his fellow prisoners can phone out for a pizza if they feel a little peckish.
What next? The right to a personal chef to draw up a menu to suit each individual’s desires? The right to ice cream cones in the summer?
Or perhaps prisoners should just go the whole way and petition for their own keys.