- Created: Friday, 23 August 2013 11:40
- Written by FRFI
On Wednesday 9 November, after eight hours of deliberation, the jury revealed its final verdict on the trial of prisoner Kevan Thakrar, - not guilty of any of the five charges. Kevan had been accused of two counts of attempted murder, one wounding with intent, and two alternative charges of GBH – all against prison officers at HMP Frankland. The finger of blame was instead pointed directly back at the Prison Service, whose regime of racism and violence was clearly exposed throughout the four-week trial.
Initially the case against Kevan seemed strong, with CCTV footage and identical evidence from a number of prison officers. It was clear that Kevan had indeed lashed out at three officers as they opened the door to his cell. However the defence was not challenging this and instead took an explicitly political route, with prisoner after prisoner called to testify against the system to which Kevan had been subjected for 17 months. Parviz Khan explained how he had suffered 'racism at the hands of the prison guards' and believed that it was 'systemic'. Refusing to be drawn by the prosecution’s questions about his terrorism conviction, Parviz explained 'I am a Muslim political prisoner.' The jury heard that prison officers at HMP Frankland divided the prison population into 'Muslim' and 'non-Muslim' based on the colour of their skin, and that they believed Kevan was a Muslim.
A significant part of the defence case related to the evidence of consultant psychologist Roy Shuttleworth, who was originally a witness for the prosecution. The report of Kevan's mental state which he returned however, was not what the prosecution wanted to hear and he was instead called as a defence witness. This led to the bizarre situation of the prosecution cross-examining what had been their own witness, attempting to challenge evidence which they had paid for. Roy explained how Kevan was in the grip of severe depression and was suffering Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder when the attack happened, triggered by flashbacks to prison beatings and nightmares. The judge stated that if Kevan’s behaviour was not caused by experiences he had suffered in prison, he would be 'flabbergasted’ and when Kevan himself gave evidence, he explained: ‘If you put an animal in a cage, poke it and then unlock the door, it is not going to just sit there’.
The defence also exposed the fact that the prison officers had been sent on a course to learn how to give evidence in court. The prison officer witnesses completely denied knowledge of the injuries Kevan sustained following the attack, claiming he had suffered just a cut lip and had himself then rubbed blood on his face. They also all denied the existence of 'a culture of racism' in the prison.
The verdict clearly condemns the brutal regime in place at HMP Frankland, and directs the responsibility for Kevan's attack at the system which knowingly tortures, harasses and assaults prisoners, creating the conditions which lead to responses such as this. Victory in this case will inspire all those abused by the prison system, demonstrating that in fighting a case politically, the system can be exposed. Following the verdict the Thakrar family called for a 'huge public enquiry', which would 'question the system from the bottom to the top'.
Kevan's Statement following the verdict:
I will be forever thankful to every member of the jury, as well as those that supported and believed in me. I owe a great amount to my barrister , Joe Stone of Doughty Street Chambers, and my solicitor Marie Bourke of Bark and Co and her team. Also great appreciation goes out to all those who appeared on my behalf and spoke the truth, I understand how difficult this must have been for them.
I am deeply sorry for the part I have played in the horror that has been my life inside prison. I hope urgent scrutiny of the appalling treatment and abuse which mounts to nothing short of torture, within the English prison system, is taken.
My sympathies go out to all victims of Her Majesties Prison Service, especially those wrongly imprisoned like myself.
Kev Thakrar A4907AE, HMP WOODHILL, Tattenhoe Street, Milton Keynes
For background to this case see: