Print

Prisons are under the public microscope this week, though it really seems the Great Unwashed care little about the people the system robs of every freedom, and which robs them very dearly at the same time. In fact, the public seems not to care at all - just so long as most remain locked up.

However, here is one voice who has experienced the callousness, the blindness, of the system. As blog regulars know, I was sentenced to 19 years - three more years than the Lockerbie airline bomber - for smuggling when it must have been obvious that it couldn't have happened.

Justice secretary told to 'get a grip' on prisoners with no release date, reports the Guardian newspaper this week. Parole Board chair warns over ‘unacceptably high’ level of suicide among prisoners serving indeterminate sentences. The newspaper points out that 3,300 people in England and Wales are imprisoned on 'IPPs', a public protection scheme. They have no release date.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Justice at any price? ... Keeping this almost certainly innocent man in prison has cost taxpayers a minimum of £720,000 so far, plus the price of two very expensive trials. What could be the possible political reason for keeping a foreign national here? And more to the point, the human reason? Photo by Mitchel Lensink on Unsplash
Let me introduce you to another blatant case of English justice that went horribly wrong. Back at the turn of the millennium, I met a very pleasant fellow I'll call Abs in the top security prison, Belmarsh. He had been inside since August when he was arrested for a double murder in London.

It was a particularly brutal murder, a man and woman, chopped or stabbed, or a like combination, in a blood splattered flat.

Gifted intellectually

The important feature of this particular murder is that Abs is a man of modest build, gifted much more intellectually than physically. He must be among the world's most accomplished calligraphers.

In other words, the man is an artist. Could an artist commit an ugly murder, let alone an exceedingly ugly double murder? Would he be capable of it?

However, Abs is a Pakistani, and that is probably the reason he was picked on. He sat through a dreary trial. Quite possibly the unlikeliness of such a neat and quietly disciplined fellow performing such an ugly crime meant the jury couldn't decide.

Shortly after 9-11 - the September 11 attacks in New York - Abs' second trial was held. This time the prosecution centred on his religous beliefs. And I mean concentrated on it. It is said that time and time again, the prosecution hammered home the connection between Abs, his religion, and 9/11. If you remember the shock we all felt at the time, it won't come as a surprise that this time he was found guilty.

A Category A prisoner

Here is where the more nonsensical part of the justice system arises. Instead of recognising the real reason for the conviction and ensuring that another trial followed, those in charge, the, well, brains of the system, accepted it.

The man is not a Briton, as I've shown. His guilt is highly, highly unlikely. And Abs has been held in the tightest custody since August 1999. He is held as a Category A prisoner where the undisclosed cost is believed to be much more than £40,000 a year.

So far then Abs has cost the British taxpayer the price of two very expensive trials, and eighteen times at least forty grand. That's £720,000 as an absolute minimum without counting the two big trials.

For a moment, let's overlook that it is highly, highly unlikely that the man is guilty. But let's not forget that he is not a Briton, has no family here, and few connections. And to prove heaven knows what a man most likely to be innocent is held in Britain at a cost - so far - of much more than £720,000. From what I saw that in that desperately sad sytem, Abs will be just one of very many in a like situation.

And politicians question the overcrowding! For humanity's sake, why wasn't Abs given a fair trial? For the sake of us all, why wasn't Abs sent home years and years ago?

Thanks for visiting the SailingToPurgatory.com blog