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Jail for disabled man 'cruel and inhumane'

2 November, 2004

Jail for disabled man 'cruel and inhumane'

Green Party Co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said today she is shocked that a severely disabled man has been sentenced to prison after being convicted of cannabis cultivation to relieve his pain.

Christchurch man Neville Yates was handed a five month prison sentence for using cannabis to alleviate the chronic pain he suffers from because of an amputated leg and brain damage caused by an accident when Mr Yates was a teenager.

"It is cruel and inhuman to send this man to jail," said Ms Fitzsimons. "Prison is absolutely the wrong place for someone with the level of suffering experienced by Mr Yates.

"It's a miscarriage of justice to imprison a man who presents no danger to society simply because he was using the only pain relief he found to be effective and with far less serious side effects than prescription drugs.

"This is the reason why I have a private members' bill in the ballot that would allow for doctors' consent to be given to allow cannabis to be used medicinally when it is appropriate," she said.

Ms Fitzsimons said the prison term would achieve nothing except further stress the corrections system because of Mr Yates' condition. The cases of Mr Yates and tetraplegic Danuiel Clark, whom she visited in prison five years ago, showed that the law regarding the medicinal use of cannabis had to change.

"Despite repeated convictions, severely disabled people will continue to self-medicate with whatever is most effective with the least damaging side effects. It makes the courts look foolish to require them to issue a prison sentence for repeat 'offences'.

"There was no suggestion that the cannabis was for supplying other people. It is a situation where a severely disabled man has been locked up with hardened criminals simply for trying to improve his quality of life with the substance that works best for him," she said.

ENDS

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