Campaigners who backed Mr Roque Hall’s case protest outside the High Court
Daniel Roque Hall with his mother Anne after he was told he could see out his sentence at home
Published: 14 February, 2013
by TOM FOOT
SMILING but visibly weakened, Daniel Roque Hall is back home after being freed from prison through a rarely used appeal court order that allows inmates to be released on grounds of “exceptional mercy”.
In a case which has raised serious questions about the capacity of the prison service and criminal justice system to look after the severely disabled, Mr Hall, 30, who admitted smuggling cocaine in July last year, was allowed to leave prison early, despite receiving a three-and-a-half sentence.
Peruvian cocaine worth £375,000 was found in the back of Mr Hall’s wheelchair by security staff at Heathrow.
He is terminally ill in the advanced stages of the incurable degenerative disease Friedrichs Ataxia, which developed when he was 12. Few who suffer from the condition live long into their 40s. Mr Hall cannot get out of his wheelchair, hold a pen or eat alone, and suffers almost constant spasms which requires two carers to be at this side around the clock.
Speaking for the first time about his case, Mr Hall, a former pupil of Beckford Primary School in West Hampstead who also suffers from Type 1 Diabetes, told the New Journal he was “finding it hard to adapt”, adding: “I have been looking forward to many things. But I haven’t been able to do it yet because I am not well enough yet. I look forward to going out in Kilburn, for a meal and getting a haircut. But now it is too much.”
His mother, Anne Hall, 62, had campaigned tirelessly for him to see out his sentence at home.
She said: “If it had not been for this campaign he would have died. I am sure of that. Everything helped. We did start from nothing and we did get some form of justice.”
On Friday, the High Court accepted an “exceptional application of mercy”.
Describing the conditions inside his psychiatric health wing for the first time, Mr Hall said: “There was so much noise – shouting and singing and bouncing off the walls, people trying to break down the door. I could not believe that someone who had seen my medical notes could say that I was trying to fake something. They were saying, ‘I don't buy it, mate’. I was in pain. If I had been at home I would have been taken straight to hospital.”
On August 23 – seven weeks after he was sent to Wormwood Scrubs – he was rushed to the intensive care unit of University College Hospital, where he remained under prison guard for six months until his discharge on Friday.
Last week, Mr Hall, who lives in Brondesbury , watched his hearing in the High Court through a digital link-up with UCH as nurses monitored his heart and spooned food into his mouth.
In his judgment, Lord Justice Hughes said Mr Hall was offered £7,000 to import the drugs because he wanted to “demonstrate an independence which is conspicuously lacking in his life”.
The drugs had been concealed in a replacement cushion in his wheelchair but Mr Hall “would not himself have been able physically to hide the drugs in the cushion”, the judge added. He drew attention to “severe disappointments” including the collapse of Mr Hall’s marriage to a woman in Morocco on their wedding day, and his half-sister being diagnosed with cancer.
Lord Hughes concluded: “There is no lack of punishment in what he has undergone since being sentenced in the summer of last year. He is now said by the hospital to be significantly more frail than at the time of sentence.”