Lewes prison mutiny trial collapses

HMP Lewes

Between 2 and 18 July 2018, five former prisoners from HMP Lewes in East Sussex stood trial for their alleged participation in a protest in October 2016. Prisoners’ rights activist and FRFI supporter George Coombs attended the trial throughout and has written this eyewitness report for us.

 

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Chief Inspector says prison conditions worse than ever

Image: HM Prisons Inspectorate

On 11 July the prisons inspectorate published its annual report into the prison system of England and Wales. Inspectorate reports are rarely a cheerful read but the latest one is particularly grim. Chief Inspector Peter Clarke introduces the report by describing the previous year as ‘a dramatic period in which HM Inspectorate of Prisons documented some of the most disturbing prison conditions we have ever seen – conditions which have no place in an advanced nation in the 21st century.’ Nicki Jameson reports.

 

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HMP Lewes prison mutiny trial

HMP Lewes

On the 2 July 2018 the trial of five prisoners opens at Hove Crown Court. Ross Macpherson, Steve Goodwin, Dave Carlln, Shane Simpson, and John Udy face various charges of prison mutiny, criminal damage and violent disorder in relation to an incident at the prison on 29 October 2016.

 

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Dehumanising system leads to murder inside Woodhill

HMP Woodhill

On 6 June the press reported on an alleged murder in Woodhill prison in Milton Keynes; few details were given at that point, beyond the fact that one prisoner had been killed by three others. The victim was named nine days later but no further details have been published and there has been little information provided to the public regarding the specific location – a special unit operating as a ‘prison within a prison’ inside HMP Woodhill. KEVAN THAKRAR, who has spent many years incarcerated in Woodhill, has sent us this report into the events and the background to them.

 

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Police conspiracy in Cardiff/North of England Irish Prisoners Committee

POLICE CONSPIRACY IN CARDIFF

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no. 3, March/April 1980

On 15 September 1979 two Hands Off Ireland! supporters and a member of Provisional Sinn Féin were arrested during a street meeting in Cardiff city centre. The three were charged with displaying or distributing insulting or abusive writing – the writing in question being Hands Off Ireland! No 8 and a Provisional Sinn Féin leaflet on H-Block.

 

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Arrested by the most liberal policemen in Bristol

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no. 3, March/April 1980

The arrests in Cardiff were followed in October by the arrest of a Hands Off Ireland! supporter in Glasgow and in December by the arrest of Val Greene under the Prevention of Terrorism Act in London (see Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No 2). The new year got off to a fine start with the arrest of three supporters of Hands Off Ireland! in Bristol on 5 January.

 

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Inside News - FRFI 264 June/July 2018

Parole Board Rules change

On 22 May, in the wake of the John Worboys scandal, a change to the Parole Board Rules came into effect, meaning that anyone can now request a summary of the Board’s reasons for releasing or continuing to detain an indeterminate sentenced prisoner. This only applies to fresh decisions and is not retrospective.

Muslim prisoners fed non-halal meat

A relative of a prisoner at HMP Frankland has asked us to let readers know about an incident in April in which all prisoners were served with sausages that were not halal and may have contained pork. Muslim prisoners were understandably angry and the governor has been compelled to apologise.

Rule 39 problems

We have been told by prisoners and legal advisers that a number of prisons have recently been unlawfully interfering with confidential legal mail, purportedly in order to prevent the sending in of spice and other drugs. Remember that, unless the prison specifically suspects you individually, the law firm you are using or the piece of correspondence concerned, it has no right to open your legal mail.

Censorship of FRFI

Once again FRFI has heard from prison subscribers who are being told they cannot receive the paper. The current culprits are Warren Hill and Wymott prisons who, as usual, are relying on a combination of overtly political reasons (‘not suitable’, ‘subversive’ etc) and bureaucratic ones (‘not sent via the Business Hub’). As always, we will contest all attempts at censorship and, if forced to, will take legal action.

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 264 June/July 2018

 

Birmingham prison spotlight shone – nothing done

Police in riot gear outside Birmingham prison in 2016

On 3 May the trial of nine prisoners accused of involvement in the 2016 mass protest at Birmingham prison came to an end. The results were clearly not what the government, prosecution or G4S (the private company which manages the prison), had hoped for. Only one of the accused was convicted of the serious charge of prison mutiny; he and three others were also convicted of ‘taking a photo or making a sound recording without authority’ – an offence introduced in 2007 as part of a series of amendments to the Prison Act designed to deal with phones and other devices being used in prison. The remaining five were acquitted on all charges.

Earlier court hearings in 2017 were more successful for those lined up against the prisoners: two men were found guilty of prison mutiny and sentenced to serve nine years each. Four others who pleaded guilty were sentenced to six-year terms. Nicki Jameson reports.

 

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Assault and victimisation of prisoner in wheelchair

Kyle Major was released from prison in April 2018. He has written to FRFI with to share this horrific account of the treatment he has received: 

Since 2012 I have been seriously harassed by the ministry of justice. It all started when I was accepted into the Close Supervision Centre (CSC) system within the high security prison estate for an alleged assault for which I was later exonerated. I was not in prison for a violent crime; I was in prison for blackmail and had received nine years reduced to six on appeal. I spent over 19 months within this system and, believe me, I have never experienced so much abuse, corruption, sick and evil treatment of people in my whole life. I can assure you now that system is another way for the prison service to extort the British tax payers and the government of money. They breed violence and encourage it; they target prisoners and inflict psychological abuse upon them, in some circumstances leading to self-mutilation, also warehousing mentally ill patients to increase the budgets from the government.

 

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Liverpool – ‘Britain’s worst prison’

In January 2018 the Chief Inspector of Prisons published the report of an unannounced inspection of HMP Liverpool in September 2017. A draft report had been leaked to the BBC in December, which broadcast some of the findings, along with the testimony of whistle-blowers, following the self-inflicted deaths of three prisoners in the months directly after the inspection. The full report condemns the gaol not just for medical neglect but for a wide range of malpractice and negligence. Nicki Jameson reports.

 

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Racism and sexism in women’s imprisonment

PRT Racism and sexism

In 2017, the Prison Reform Trust (PRT) published Counted Out, a report on the disparities and inequalities for Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) women within the prison system. The findings paint a picture of institutional racism and sexism.

The report was submitted to the Lammy Review prior to its final launch in September 2017. Commissioned in 2016 by former Prime Minister David Cameron and led by Tottenham Labour MP David Lammy, that review was tasked with collecting data and providing recommendations on the treatment of and outcomes for BAME people in the criminal justice system.

 

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The IPP sentence – abolished but still mired in controversy

smach ipp

The announcement in early January 2018 that the Parole Board had directed the release of convicted rapist and former London taxi driver John Worboys/Radford prompted an outcry. Legal challenges opposing his release and demanding disclosure of the Parole Board’s written reasons for their decision were quickly filed by the Mayor of London, as well as by two women who were already involved in litigation against the police for not taking seriously their claims that they had been victims of Worboys. These judicial review challenges were heard by the High Court on 13 and 14 March and the judgment is currently expected.

 

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The injustice of joint enterprise

JENGBA
JENGBA organise rallies, supports prisoners and educates people about joint enterprise

On 18 December 2017 comrades from Manchester RCG participated in a lively demonstration by supporters of the Joint Enterprise, Not Guilty By Association campaign (JENGBA). The protest was called to highlight the continuing injustice of joint enterprise convictions. Many JENGBA members are relatives of prisoners convicted under joint enterprise laws.

In February 2016, Supreme Court judges ruled that the law regarding joint enterprise had been ‘wrongly interpreted by judges for 30 years’. This applied especially to the foresight principle, known in legal terms as ‘parasitic accessorial liability’.

 

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Immigration detention: deadly and punitive

shut down morton hall demonstration 20 january 2018
Shut down morton hall demonstration, 20 January 2018

On 20 January 2018, Nottingham RCG comrades supported a demonstration at Morton Hall Immigration Removal Centre (IRC). The demonstration was bigger than previous ones, with groups from London, Nottingham, Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester attending. Protesters included former detainees of Morton Hall and other IRCs. At earlier demonstrations protesters were able to march around the perimeter of the IRC, shouting their solidarity to the detainees inside; however on this occasion they were prevented by a heavy police presence. The police had erected fences and used cameras and a drone to observe the demonstration. There were four deaths in Morton Hall in the year up to November 2017, and the increased police presence suggests that the state is concerned about abuse in the IRC being highlighted by such protests. Nicki Jameson and Lucy Roberts report.

 

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Barbaric treatment of women prisoners

bed handcuff

Holloway prison in north London first hit the headlines on 19 December 1995 when the new Chief Inspector of Prisons, Sir David Ramsbotham, pulled his team out midway through an inspection, disgusted at the squalor of Britain’s largest women’s gaol. Nicki Jameson reports.

Ramsbotham’s reaction must have come as a shock to the Home Secretary, who undoubtedly expected the ex-military man would give him an easy ride, in contrast to the eight years of criticism which the Home Office and Prison Service had been subjected to by the previous Chief Inspector, Judge Stephen Tumim.

 

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Letter from Jaan Laaman in US prison

jaan 3

Red Greetings and solidarity. I wanted to say thanks for your support in recent issues (258 and 259), and to let you know I got some positive developments in my struggle to not get indefinitely sent to Communications Management Unit (CMU), a repressive control unit prison.

 

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Inside News - FRFI 261 Dec 2017/Jan 2018

IPP scandal continues

Despite repeated promises from government and the Parole Board to address the scandal of the over 3,300 prisoners who continue to serve the discredited Indeterminate Sentence for Public Protection (IPP) no real action is being taken to release those stuck in this nightmare. On 13 November the Court of Appeal refused to overturn the IPP sentence imposed in 2006 on then 18-year-old Daniel Sayce. Sayce was given an IPP with a minimum tariff of 14 ½ months for a robbery in which he stole £1.50. He has now served 11 years. His lawyers said that his IQ is too low for him to understand the prison ‘offending behaviour courses’ which might compel the Parole Board to deem him safe to release.

 

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Long Lartin prisoners protest

long lartin prisoners
‘Tornado team’  is the term used to describe the squads of prison officers who are used to break up riots and disturbances.  In the past they were known as C&R teams or the MUFTI squad and had a reputation for extreme brutality towards prisoners.

In the early hours of Thursday 12 October, ‘Tornado team’ prison staff were sent in to E wing of high security Long Lartin prison in Evesham, Worcestershire to forcibly end a protest which had begun the previous evening.

A life sentence prisoner gave this account of events on E Wing in to the Miscarriages of Justice UK (MOJUK) organisation:

‘The disturbance was down to three prisoners trying to air their frustration at being kept on Basic for long periods of time. They asked to see the governor etc but were denied. They refused to go behind bars at lockup on Wednesday 11 October and then caused a disturbance with a snooker ball and a stick. This got out of hand and damage was caused. E wing was taken over and set on fire; staff then retracted from the wing. Tornado were called. It was a very scary situation.’

 

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The state of British prisons: overcrowded, violent and angry

birmingham prison
Birmingham prison, December 2016: prisoner protected then and again in August 2017

On 26 August prisoners at Haverigg in Cumbria staged an angry protest as the prison joined the increasingly long list of those introducing a ban on tobacco. A further upheaval occurred the following week at Birmingham prison. Such disturbances are now routine within a prison system that has always been punitive and austere, and which is once again at a tipping point as both numbers and violence continue to increase. The prison population has doubled since 1980. According to the National Audit Office, there is no consistent correlation between prison numbers and levels of crime. Nicki Jameson reports.

 

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Letter from Ben Stimson

stimson 2

Ben was sentenced to five years and four months imprisonment on spurious terrorism charges, after he spent four months in Donbass. He is the only British citizen to have been prosecuted for assisting the anti-Government militia in Ukraine. He writes:

 

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G4S – making money from brutalising vulnerable detainees

g4s

In summer 2017, staff employed by private security firm G4S, which runs Brook House Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) near Gatwick Airport, were secretly filmed abusing detainees. The footage showed one custody officer allegedly trying to choke a detainee. In other clips, staff were verbally and racially abusing inmates and ridiculing suicide attempts, saying they did not care if detainees died.

 

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Video: DIY Cultures panel discussion on prison solidarity – 14 May

diy

The panel was chaired by Hamja Ahsan, who began campaigning in support of prisoners when his brother Talha was imprisoned and subsequently extradited to the US. Speakers were Nicki Jameson, the editor of the Prisoners Fightback page in Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! and co-author of Strangeways 1990: a serious disturbance; Leah Jai-Persad, who is a campaigner for freedom for Leonard Peltier and who has written for FRFI about the campaign, and Harriet and Becka from the Reclaim Holloway campaign, which North London RCG comrades have been supporting.

 

Parole Board keeping lifers behind bars

Swaleside Prison

There is currently a massive population of post-tariff life sentence prisoners overcrowding British prisons; lifers detained long beyond the time originally recommended by the judiciary or Secretary of State. This includes prisoners sentenced under the Indefinite detention for Public Protection law which, although now scrapped, has left a legacy of thousands of prisoners. Britain has more indeterminate sentence prisoners than the whole of Europe combined: a consequence of a ‘lock ’em up and throw away the key’ culture that pervades the judiciary and justice apparatus. Parole Board collaboration in detaining lifers who represent little or no actual risk to the community was typified in my own case in June 2017, when, after 37 years’ imprisonment – more than ten years beyond the original judicial recommendation – the Board denied my application for release for nakedly political reasons. John Bowden writes from HMP Swaleside.

 

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Organising behind bars to fight prison slavery

pelican bay hunger strike protest
Pelican Bay hunger strike protest

If there is one thing that I learned in my time inside, it is that prisons cannot function without the labour of prisoners. We cook the food, maintain the gardens, clean the wings, work at reception, do the laundry, pack the canteen bags…Without us, prisons could not afford the cost of keeping us imprisoned. Ironic isn’t it? It has inspired me to see, therefore, recent prisoner resistance in the United States. Across the country, prisoners have started to recognise the system’s economic dependence on them. Nicole Vosper of the Incarcerated Workers Organising Committee (IWOC) writes.

In 2013, the largest hunger strike in recorded history took place in California. More than 30,000 participants effectively ended solitary confinement in Pelican Bay State Prison. This huge victory is as a result of prisoner organising. With mass incarceration so linked to for-profit prison industries, prisoners now have more opportunities for leverage than ever, and are moving beyond hunger strikes to withdrawing their labour as well.

 

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Inside News

breack the chains rcg

Court rules against ‘deport first appeal later’ policy

In June, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of R (Kiarie and Byndloss) v Secretary of State for the Home Department, that the policy of deporting foreign national prisoners who have ongoing appeals was ‘unfair and unlawful’. This does not mean that the government will not try to reintroduce the so-called ‘certification’ of appeals in the future, but for now all appeal certificates have been withdrawn and no more are being issued.

 

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Segregation and solitary confinement

KevanThakrar

Before entering the notorious Close Supervision Centre (CSC) system back in 2010 I had very little knowledge of either segregation or solitary confinement. Having just turned 23 years of age and having spent as little as two and a half of those years in prison, my mind had never had been focused on or even interested in this topic. Now, midway through my seventh year of isolation things have changed; the horrors I have witnessed over this period have left me with little option but to become fully aware of the devastation even short periods in these conditions can have.

 

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Solidarity with Ben Stimson

Banda Basotti en DNR

On 14 July, Ben Stimson, a political prisoner currently held at HMP Manchester, was sentenced to serve five years and four months imprisonment, following his conviction for ‘facilitating Acts of Terrorism’ under Article 5(b) of the Terrorism Act 2006. He was sentenced under special provisions introduced under the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 whereby there is no automatic entitlement to early release and sentences are subject to an additional year on licence beyond the final release date.

 

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New prisons for old ... as prime sites redeveloped for luxury flats

Birmingham prison 012 700x432

On 22 March the Justice Secretary Liz Truss announced plans to build four new prisons in England and Wales. Three of these will be on sites next to or replacing existing prisons at Full Sutton in York, Hindley in Wigan and Rochester on Kent, with the addition of a new site in Port Talbot in Wales. The four prisons will together provide 5,000 new prison places – half of the 10,000 promised by the government in its White Paper last year.

Another 2,000 places will be created at recently opened HMP Berwyn in Wrexham, north Wales, with further expansion due at two sites which were named in an earlier announcement in 2016. Glen Parva young offenders institute in Leicestershire is to close and be redeveloped as a Category C men’s prison, while Wellingborough prison, which has been empty since 2012, will also be rebuilt. The Wellingborough development has already been granted planning permission by the local council, while the Glen Parva one is due to be considered after the current prison closes in June.

 

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New control units to open for ‘extremist’ prisoners

KT protest

On 19 April the Prison Rules were amended to include a new Rule 46A, which allows for prisoners to be sent to a so-called Separation Centre (SC). These new units are the latest in a long line of small units which the British state has used to control and manipulate prisoners. Kevan Thakrar, who has been held in the Close Supervision Centre (CSC) system since 2010, writes:

 

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Court victory for the Anatolian People’s Cultural Centre

Hands off the Anatolian

On 19 May comrades from the north London Anatolian People’s Cultural Centre (APCC) and their magazine Yuruyus (‘March’) won another victory for the freedom to express political views and organise around them, when Ayfer Yildiz was acquitted in the second of two trials to arise from a raid on the Centre on 6 April 2016.

The raid was clearly politically motivated and took place just weeks after Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davatoglu had met then British PM David Cameron in the course of talks around Turkey-EU refugees and trade agreements. It was justified on the basis of allegations that the APCC was fundraising for the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (Devrimci Halk Kurtuluş Partisi-Cephesi – DHKP-C), an illegal organisation in Turkey, which is also banned in Britain under the Terrorism Act 2000. The order to close the APCC was issued under the Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 – the first time such an order has been used in this way to close premises which are alleged to have links to a banned organisation.

The APCC was not intimidated and set up a temporary centre in a tent opposite the locked building, which remained there for 105 days, continuing the centre’s work and demanding the return of all the property confiscated in the raid.

 

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Detainees victimised for speaking out

On 11 March Nottingham RCG attended a demonstration outside Morton Hall immigration detention centre in Lincolnshire. After the demo, two detainees Nariman Jalal Karim and Raffael Ebison, who spoke out on the day against their treatment, were seized by the guards and moved nearly 200 miles away.

When we arrived, the prison authorities put on loud music and gave the men cola and ice cream and told them that any noise they might hear outside was because of a football team. The men were not fooled. Raffael turned off the music and Nariman, who is from Iranian Kurdistan and is being threatened with deportation to Iraq, climbed the interior fence to speak to us. He shouted to us about how he would continue to fight for freedom and thanked us for not forgetting about the people in Morton Hall.

 

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