Prisoners attacked in Wormwood Scrubs

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no.7 November/December 1980

Following the roof-top protest on 9 August, Irish POWs John McCluskey and Paul Norney were savagely attacked by screws in Wormwood Scrubs prison. Two unidentified English prisoners were also attacked.

One of the most striking features of the roof-top protest in August was the display of solidarity between the Irish POWs and the other prisoners. Alongside their banner calling for Victory to the IRA, John McCluskey and Paul Norney also held up banners condemning screw brutality in C Wing. At the same time prisoners in C Wing held out makeshift banners calling for an end to screw brutality and victory to the Irish struggle. Everyone knew that this protest would be quickly followed by acts of revenge – ranging from the petty to the brutal – on the part of the screws. And it was.

John McCluskey, Paul Norney and two unknown English prisoners were put in segregation units. Paul Norney was put in a strip cell for the mentally disturbed. All four were put on closed visits restricted to fifteen minutes. Their supposed hour’s exercise was reduced to 30 minutes or, some days, nothing at all. None of them had appeared before any board or tribunal so none of these punishments had any official basis. In protest against this arbitrary harassment the men broke up their cells. The screws then turned to straightforward brutality.

In a statement from the prison, John McCluskey describes what took place after the screws got him out of his cell:

‘I heard a screw shout “Get him down”. Then they all seemed to jump on me. They were kicking me and hitting me with their fists. . . I was dragged down to the special cell, at the end of the segregation unit, which was about fifteen yards away from where my cell was. They were kicking and punching me all the way down. In the special cell, they ripped the clothes off me with such force that the clothes were torn. They were beating me all the time.’

About twenty screws, armed with staves, took part in the attack. Although John informed the prison doctor, he received no treatment. The screws offered him two blankets smeared with vomit to cover himself with. All four prisoners were viciously beaten.

Alastair Logan, acting for John McCluskey, has said that legal action will be taken against the Home Office and any prison officers that can be identified. The prison authorities, concerned to ensure that justice is done, have charged John McCluskey with attempted assault!

Terry Marlowe


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