Who would keep mementoes of the worst days of their lives, you might well wonder. And you wouldn’t be wondering alone.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Going to pot ... Glass wasn't to be trusted in the hands of UK's top security prisoners, so instant coffee was transferred into these undangerous pots.
I couldn’t agree with the feeling more.

And yet, I must rank among the greatest offenders of not-forgetting because I keep souvenirs of the years that I was held in UK’s most secure prison.

I confess

Did murderers and terrorists and others I mingled with in the occasional short out-of-the-cell breaks in HMP Belmarsh take souvenirs home?

I never asked.

However, there was quite a difference between my time there and theirs.

I was most certainly not guilty of the smuggling charge brought about me by a dishonest prosecution.

I say dishonest because their arguments before the jury were totally dishonest, and doubly so because I’m quite sure they knew I was not guilty, nor could have been.

And they won, which really means justice lost, and I was to lose my possessions, life-savings, and reputation as a solo Cape Horner ...
Their deceit arose from a quandary admittedly. They’d raided and rounded up an alleged drugs gangs, and imprisoned the lot.

However, they hadn’t one shred of evidence and soon it seemed they have to let them go.

They needed a sailor

They needed a sailor who had ventured near the Caribbean, where the prosection reckoned drugs came from that the alleged drugs gang sold.

On my swallowing the anchor voyage, to celebrate the end this Cape Horner’s professional sailing career, I sailed towards Blighty and came as close as the Bay of Biscay, about 1,100 miles from the South Coast.

The yacht’s mainsail tore in Biscay and I had to turn south for repairs.

That crooked branch of Customs learned about it, and decided to make me the ‘supplier’ of the alleged gang’s goods.

It was nonsense and the bureaucrats knew that, but they knew also how easy it is to convince a jury. And they won, which really means justice lost, and I was to lose my possessions, life-savings, and reputation as a solo Cape Horner.

Sadly, the wretched people in that former government department seemingly couldn’t have cared less. All they needed was a scapegoat, as my book, Sailing to Purgatory, reveals.

I was sentenced to 19 years, a year more than the Lockerbie bomber was serving, which I believe illustrates even more the grossness of an unreliable justice system.

Murderers and terrorists

Some of the years were passed in the prison that takes multi-murderers and terrorists, Belmarsh, and at the time – and maybe now – prisoners were not allowed to have glass containers. Jars were seen as a likely weapon.

I liked coffee, and the instant coffee I bought from the prison shop was transferred into little plastic pots.

To remind me of the failure of the justice system and of those weird years among top terrorists and killers, plus a few officers who turned out to be pleasant fellows, I kept all of the plastic pots.

And I took them away with me, and they remain on constant use at home. I never use one without recalling the years in that extraordinary corner of South East London and the many good fellows who work there.

Thanks very much for visiting the mostly Tuesday and Thursday blogs for my adventure writing. The blogs (as they call 'em) are introduced each time on Facebook Facebook dot com/Sailingtopurgatory,


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