- Created: Monday, 11 May 2009 19:59
- Written by Eric Allison
The news that innocent life sentence prisoner Ray Gilbert has been sent back to Woodhill prison from the therapeutic regime at Grendon came as a blow to his supporters, who had hoped that Grendon might have been a sign that he was on his way out after serving 26 years.
At least Ray is on normal location at Woodhill, instead of the intense and punitive Close Supervision Unit, where he spent some years before his move. Prior to that, he had been passed around like a parcel from one segregation unit to another for much of the quarter a century he has been in prison. He is now 11 years over the 15-year tariff he was given.
Ray pleaded guilty under duress to the murder of a Liverpool betting shop manager in 1981. His co-accused, John Kamara, pleaded not guilty but was convicted. John was released by the court of Appeal in 2000 after serving 21 years. John had protested his innocence throughout, written in the region of 337,000 letters to MPs, lawyers, supporters and anyone who would listen, and spent in total approximately 16 years in segregation for refusing to work or co-operate with the prison regime.
Upholding John Kamara’s appeal, the court stated that Merseyside Police had withheld over 100 statements that would have helped the defence. The prosecution case was that Ray and John had acted together and anybody reading the evidence would have little doubt that if John Kamara was innocent, then Ray Gilbert must be equally so.
A distinguished consultant psychologist has examined Ray’s confession and has indicated that it should not be relied on. In a 29-page report, she cites his youth, limited education, high state of anxiety and lack of legal assistance as factors that may have gone towards him admitting to a crime he had not committed.
Ray’s character has developed during his incarceration and he is now a strong-minded man. The main reason he is still inside is that the Prison Service and Parole Board continue to hold his denial of the offence against him. In 2004, the Board said ‘You deny your guilt, but that does not mean that the conviction goes away or that the risks disappear’. What they ought to be asking is why would a man go on denying his guilt for over a quarter of a century when, by completing all the courses and saying that he was guilty, he might have been freed years earlier?
Write to Ray Gilbert H10111, HMP Woodhill, Tattenhoe Street, Milton Keynes MK14 4DA
FRFI 193 October / November 2006