Tory justice secretary Chris Grayling enacted a ban on sending reading material for prisoners as a way of throwing red meat to his base, who bay for maximum cruelty to "bad people" — but a high court judge agreed with English PEN and the John Howard society and struck down the ban.
The case was brought on behalf of Barbara Gordon-Jones, imprisoned for arson, who holds a PhD in literature and wanted to read Alan Bennett, Monica Ali and the dialogues of Marcus Aurelius.
The ban was imposed a year ago as part of a crackdown by Grayling on what ministers described as prisoners' "perks and privileges". It sparked a high-profile campaign, led by the Howard League for Penal Reform, that has attracted support from leading authors, including Duffy, David Hare, Salman Rushdie and Jeffrey Archer.
"This is a wise, just and irrefutably correct ruling," said Duffy. "We all look forward to hearing to which prison library Mr Grayling will be sending books for Christmas."
Philip Pullman was also delighted: "Clearly the Ministry of Justice was taken aback by the public reaction to their mean and vindictive ban, and tried to claim that there was nothing new, it only enforced an already existing rule, and so forth. Bluster. I'm very glad that the courts have seen through it, and stated that reading is a right and not a privilege," he said.
Prison book ban is unlawful, court rules [Alan Travis/The Guardian]
(Image: San Francisco, Adam Foster, CC-BY)