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Last-minute delay in constitutional challenge to federal prison needle ban

The fence outside the Kingston Penitentiary in Kingston, Ont., on Thursday April 19, 2012. .
The fence outside the Kingston Penitentiary in Kingston, Ont., on Thursday April 19, 2012. . THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Lars Hagberg

TORONTO – A court challenge to the federal ban on clean needles for addicted prisoners has been delayed.

One of the applicants says the Superior Court of Justice in Toronto has requested further submissions.

The case, which had been scheduled for two days of hearings starting Monday, is now slated to begin next month.

READ MORE: Talks of regulating needle distribution in Penticton ‘disappointing’: harm reduction advocate

Prisoner activists argue that denying incarcerated drug addicts access to clean syringes violates their rights and puts them at risk of serious infections.

The case was initially launched in 2012 by Steven Simons, who became infected with the hepatitis C virus behind bars.

Emma Riach, with the co-applicant Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, said Monday that providing prisoners “easy and confidential access to needle and syringe programs” could save lives.

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“What we’re arguing in court is clear, evidence-based, and firmly rooted in health and human rights,” Riach said in an email.