A number of popular writers, including Mark Haddon and Philip Pullman, have strongly criticised "despicable" new rules about UK prisoners access to books.

These new provisions in effect ban prisoners from being sent books from friends or family members outside.

The writers have described the rules as a "malign and pointless extra punishment, which is not only malign and small-minded but desperately counterproductive." 

Haddon, who wrote The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time announced yesterday that he wanted "every writer in the UK to be "publicly opposed to this by tea time." The petition already has well in excess of 10,000 signatures.

"We give books to children and we encourage other people to give books to children because we think of books as an unequivocal good which makes them better educated, more rounded people, " Haddon writes on his website. "Yet the ministry of justice seeks to improve the behaviour of prisoners by restricting access to books as if they were a different species of human being."

A Change.org petition called on UK justice minister Chris Grayling to "urgently review and amend your new rules which restrict prisoners access to books and family items." Philip Pullman also called the decision "one of the most disgusting, mean, vindictive acts of a barbaric government."