A RACING fan struck a blow for the Bill of Rights yesterday when he won a court battle against newspaper censorship - from his prison cell. Chim Shing-chung, serving eight years in Stanley Prison for drug trafficking, challenged the Correctional Services Department's (CSD) removal of racing supplements from prisoners' newspapers. Mr Justice Sears underlined the importance of the Bill of Rights as he ruled that censoring newspapers in prisons was unlawful. 'It is an important matter for those in authority to recognise they must accord to the law and the Bill of Rights, at the moment, is the law in Hong Kong,' he told the High Court. 'People's rights, even if they are prisoners, must not be infringed.' Mr Justice Sears also criticised the Commissioner of Correctional Services for inhibiting Chim's access to the courts. The case was initially hindered by the Commissioner's refusal to reveal the reasons for the censorship, a move described by the judge as arrogant and unwarranted. 'To impede a person in his legal advice or his opportunity to get to court is a serious matter and, on occasions, may amount to contempt of court,' Mr Justice Sears said. 'It is rather alarming that a person has his rights infringed but is not told why.' The Commissioner apologised to the court through CSD barrister Lynda Shine, who said the racing sections were removed from newspapers to combat illegal gambling. But the judge said: 'Those who interfere in the freedom of the press do so at their peril. Censorship of sports information can turn into censorship of other information. 'At this time in Hong Kong's history the courts must be vigilant to ensure that any interference in the press be justified and that such action is clearly lawful and necessary.' Article 16 of the Bill of Rights provides for citizens to be free to receive information. This extended even to those convicted of crimes and sent to prison, the judge said. Chim, in a statement handed to the judge, said he had been a racing fan for 20 years and enjoyed making imaginary bets on horses after studying form in his cell. Mr Justice Sears said: 'He is a man who has embarked upon crime on a number of occasions. Nevertheless he is still a citizen entitled to the protection of the law.' Freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights could only be infringed if the Government showed it had persuasive reasons for doing so. But Mr Justice Sears said there was no evidence to suggest that information in the racing sections would incite prisoners to gamble. The judge said the way to stop illegal gambling was better policing of prisoners. He rejected a CSD claim that the power to remove the racing sections was contained in orders given by the Commissioner to his staff. A prison rule giving the Commissioner the power to provide periodicals subject to conditions which he may determine did not apply to newspapers, Mr Justice Sears said. Prisoners received racing information when it appeared on news pages and were allowed to listen to radio coverage, but pullouts appearing on race days were banned. The judge said the censorship was irrational and totally ineffective. He agreed with Philip Dykes, the prisoner's counsel, that it made 'a lottery' of the system. Senior Superintendent of Correctional Services, Chan Kong-sang, said the judgment would be carefully considered. No decision had been made on any appeal. Yesterday's ruling means prisoners will receive racing sections for Sunday's meeting at Sha Tin.