These days the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) underpins the arguments in many cases in which people allege that being treated a certain way means that their human rights have been violated. It was, therefore, only a matter of time before the smoking ban, which was introduced in July 2007, was attacked on the basis of the HRA.

The case was brought by patients at Rampton Special Hospital, which is a high-security hospital for the mentally ill. Because of a temporary exemption applicable to mental health units, the smoking ban was not implemented there until July 2008. Some of the patients detained there are under legal restraint and are not allowed into areas where smoking is permitted. Staff anticipated problems keeping order if the restrained patients were allowed into the open to smoke and feared violence might result. Accordingly, the patients were prevented from smoking, which they claimed was a breach of their rights under the HRA, because it breached their right to respect for their private or home life under article 8 of the Act.

The High Court heard their claim. It doubted that article 8 applied in this instance but concluded that even if it did, health and security considerations had to be taken into account and the actions taken by the Hospital were therefore appropriate.

View the Government's guide to the Human Rights Act .