Daniel Roque Hall, from north London, was stopped by UK Border Force officers at Heathrow airport last November with almost three kilogrammes of cocaine hidden in his wheelchair.
Roque Hall is a full-time wheelchair-user and at home has a 24-hour care package. He experiences pain and muscle spasms, fatigue, heart problems, diabetes, and difficulty with speech and swallowing, as a result of the life-limiting condition Friedreich’s ataxia (FA).
But since he began his three-year sentence at Wormwood Scrubs prison in June – after the governor assured the judge his prison could provide the support Roque Hall needed – his family say he has received nothing more than basic care.
They are seeking a judicial review of the decision to keep him in prison, but a high court judge has already decided in an interim ruling that Roque Hall is not allowed access to his own specialist doctors.
Roque Hall usually carries out exercises – with the aid of a support worker – that help him maintain muscle strength, ease his pain, and prevent further deterioration to his health.
But he has apparently been denied access to any exercise equipment in the prison hospital wing, where he is being kept.
His mother, Anne Hall, said: “He has lost a huge amount of muscle mass. His speech is much less intelligible and his breathing is much worse.”
She said her son “is scared he is going to die” in prison, while his GP is concerned that the lack of care in prison will “result in Daniel’s demise”.
Hall said: “He cannot survive in a place like that. They have no idea of basic disability awareness. He needs 24-hour care. He has no quality of life and it is deteriorating. He is in danger of dying.”
In a statement, the charity Ataxia UK said Roque Hall had been given a prison sentence and “not a death sentence”, and added: “Daniel’s balance, co-ordination and mobility is already significantly compromised by his FA, and it is vital to his future welfare that he is provided with necessary care.”
The charity said the symptoms of his condition “require round-the-clock support to sustain safety and quality of life”, while it is “essential that specialist services, appropriate to the individual’s care needs, are both fully available and in place”.
It added: “Without these services in place, health and wellbeing – both physical and emotional – will be considerably compromised as time passes.”
A Prison Service spokeswoman said: “We don’t comment on individuals.”
She added: “We have a duty of care to those sentenced to custody by the courts. As part of that duty of care, we ensure that prisoners have access to the same level of NHS services as those in the community.”
When asked by Disability News Service (DNS) whether the Prison Service would discuss the case if Roque Hall gave his permission for it to do so, the spokeswoman repeatedly refused to comment.
Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust said it was “disappointed with claims of sub-standard care as we believe that we provide good quality care to anyone detained at HMP Wormwood Scrubs”.
UPDATE: In the early hours of this morning (Friday), Anne Hall was called to University College Hospital, where she was told her son was seriously ill. He had been taken there with heart problems (tachycardia, a heart rate disorder) two days earlier. He is currently in the critical care unit. She said she found him “emaciated, barely able to speak and barely able to recognise me”. Hall told DNS that she had been telling the prison “for weeks” that her son “must be having tachycardia and he needs to be taken to hospital to be managed and they refused”.