It’s nearly a year since the Justice Secretary got one of his minions to write to the Poet Laureate defending his decision to ban books being sent to prisoners. The ban itself was introduced in November 2013.
It was a long letter. It spoke about “misinformation “ being circulated about the ban. It spoke about the need to stop drugs, extremist material, SIM cards, mobile phones and weapons being sent to prison hidden in parcels containing shoes, clothes, toothpaste and breakfast cereals ( although not books, funnily enough). It spoke about prisons being flooded with “thousands of unknown parcels each day.” It spoke about the burden this would have on prison staff .
The ban attracted widespread criticism: it was vindictive, the work of Philistines; it was redolent of prison regimes in Communist Europe; it was not conducive to allowing prisoners to better themselves; it was anti-intellectual; it hampered rehabilitation.
Grayling, who looks like he has never read a book in his life, was unbowed.
Predictably the ban was challenged in the High Court. Grayling’s long letter to the Poet Laureate cut no ice with Mr Justice Collins who said he could see “no good reason” to restrict access to books. He went further: he thought the Government’s argument that access to books constituted a privilege was “strange”.
The decision of the High Court was announced on 5 December last year. We wonder how much this has all cost.