- Created: Wednesday, 13 May 2009 15:02
- Written by Jim Wills
My only child, Sarah Elizabeth Campbell, 18, died on 18 January 2003, whilst in the so-called care of HM Prison & YOI, Styal, Cheshire. She had spent six months on remand in 2002 and, on 17 January 2003, was sentenced to a term of imprisonment and returned to Styal. The following day Sarah was taken, unconscious, to a Manchester hospital, and died later that evening without regaining consciousness. I had no idea that anything was wrong until a police officer telephoned, four hours later, to say that she was dead.
This year I have organised and led a series of demonstrations, as a public protest against the disturbing increase in the number of women prisoners who have taken their own lives whilst in the ‘care’ of HM Prisons. I must stress that I am equally concerned about the deaths of male prisoners but as a one-woman campaigner, and entirely self-funding, there is a limit to what I can do.
On 13 April 2004, a demonstration was held outside Brockhill Prison, following the death of Sheena Kotecha, 22, clinically depressed, and beginning her first prison sentence.
The second demonstration was held outside Holloway Prison on 26 April 2004, following the death of remand prisoner Julie Hope, 35.
Deaths of women prisoners continued and, on 4 May 2004, a third demonstration took place outside New Hall Prison – Louise Davis, 32, died in April 2004. I was arrested for breach of the peace and released without charge.
The fourth demonstration, at Send Prison, Surrey, was held on 11 May 2004. Victoria Paige Tapp, 23, a severely-depressed mother of two, died, despite having been on ‘suicide watch’.
On 17 May 2004, the fifth demonstration took place outside Durham Prison, as a protest against the death of Sharon Miller, 45. I was again arrested for breach of the peace and released without charge.
Each demonstration has resulted in media coverage, and has been successful in raising public awareness about the shocking death toll of women prisoners. The next demonstration will be at Holloway prison in protest at the death there of Heather Waite, who died on the same day as Sharon Miller.
Yarl’s Wood Inquiry: Ombudsman lets racists off the hook
On 14 February 2002 immigration prisoners at the newly opened Detention Centre at Yarl’s Wood revolted against their incarceration and treatment. The ‘state-of-the-art’ centre was burned to the ground and unusable for over a year and a half. Prison Ombudsman Stephen Shaw was commissioned by the government to inquire into the uprising and report to it on ways to stop such embarrassing incidents happening again. Yarl’s Wood re-opened in autumn 2003, with the first detainees being 60 single women and the long-term plan being to house 400 families awaiting deportation. In December 2003 an undercover journalist reported that these women were being subject to racial abuse and mistreatment. Again the government asked Shaw to investigate. JOHN BOWDEN reports.
Shaw’s investigation heard disturbing claims by an undercover journalist that staff at Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre had racially abused and brutalised women awaiting deportation. The journalist claimed that guards employed by the private security firm Group 4 bragged openly of beating prisoners and referred to women detainees as ‘bitches’ and ‘useless scrubbers’. Women prisoners were on occasion forcibly restrained and stripped naked by male guards. The journalist described how guards were routinely racist in language and behaviour towards the 60 women detainees in Yarl’s Wood, which was all very reminiscent of complaints made by prisoners at the Group 4 owned prison following the uprising there in 2002.
Information and evidence provided by the Mirror reporter was unassailable and Shaw had little choice but to accept it as fact. However, in his final report he made the amazing claim that he uncovered ‘no culture of racism or abuse at the centre’ and recommended only superficial changes to the regime.
The civil rights organisation Liberty said it found Shaw’s conclusion ‘staggering’ and went on to say: ‘The concern is that this will cause distress to families and lead to allegations of a whitewash...’
Loraine Bayley, of the Campaign to Stop Arbitrary Detentions at Yarl’s Wood, called for Group 4 to be stripped of responsi-
bility for running the centre and said Shaw’s report was being used to protect the company from the consequences of its own failings.
Stephen Shaw, one time liberal and head of the Prison Reform Trust, has always been known for his willingness to act as a PR man for the Home Office, as well as for his single-minded devotion to his own career. It was therefore inevitable that the Home Office would choose him as Prisons Ombudsman, safe in the knowledge he wouldn’t rock the boat or fail to do his master’s bidding. And he never has. However, the total lack of integrity in attempting to deny the systematic and endemic abuse of inmates at Yarl’s Wood was truly astonishing and has now irredeemably discredited the office of Prison Ombudsman as an impartial arbiter of prisoners’ complaints.
Campaign Against Prison Slavery
The Campaign Against Prison Slavery (CAPS) was formed in February 2003 to fight against the exploitation of forced labour in British prisons. Our inaugural conference decided to target the ubiquitous high-street chain Wilkinson’s, which uses slave labour in a number of English and Welsh prisons to package its goods. This company is owned by Tony Wilkinson, one of the country’s richest men, worth around £300m.
CAPS has organised at least a hundred pickets outside Wilkinson’s stores around the country, with leafleting carried out most weekends. CAPS has also leafleted several prisons to let prisoners’ families know about the campaign. Other anti-Wilkinson’s actions have ranged from graffiti, sit-ins, and trolley runs (groups of people loading up trolleys and then refusing to pay) to more playful ideas like shopping in handcuffs. CAPS even made a short film with a ‘guard’ and ‘prisoner’ shopping and looking for work in the store. Two designs of stickers have also been produced: one a facsimile of Wilko’s own yellow ‘Low Price’ label informing potential customers just how little the company is paying its prison slaves; the other reads ‘This product may have been packed by slave labour in British prisons’.
Wilkinson’s first reaction was to deny it used prison labour at all; then it admitted it, but claimed only a minority of products are packed by prisoners, and that it was helping ‘rehabilitate prisoners and increase employment skills’. A recent internal report on Prison Industries admits that contract labour shops have little rehabilitative value, that the work is mind-numbing and offers no useable employment skills. Furthermore, the profits of the private companies exploiting prison labour are being subsidised by the taxpayer to the tune of over £7m a year.
With regular actions and pickets of their stores, and growing public awareness of their involvement in prison slavery, Wilkinson’s is certainly beginning to backpeddle. Its press spokesperson told a journalist that if CAPS could prove prisoners were forced to work they’d cease their use of prison labour. The proof is in the Prison Rules – prisoners can be forced to work for as much as 10 hours per day. So far Wilkinson’s boast to withdraw has been an empty one, but CAPS is growing daily, and we’re constantly thinking of new ways to target this greedy company.
Prisoners have a part to play in CAPS and we encourage all actions and initiatives that undermine their role as slaves for slave-labour companies. We also need accurate and up to date information on the companies making profits out of prisoners, and the best source of information for that is prisoners and their families.
Review: Who killed Patrick Quinn?
The framing of Malcolm Kennedy
This little book would make a cracking good murder mystery, except that it isn’t fiction. It’s an account of a real brutal murder and a frame-up of an innocent man who was sentenced to nine years after three trials. The guilty have got off scot-free. The innocent man is still being persecuted by the Metropolitan Police and not being allowed to rebuild his life.
On the night of 23/24 December 1990 Patrick Quinn, 56, was beaten to death in Hammersmith Police Station. Officers allege that they found him lying in a pool of blood and that Malcolm Kennedy was sat on a bench in the cell. The police claim that only Kennedy could have broken 33 of Quinn’s ribs, crushed his heart and larynx and killed him. Kennedy, who had been arrested for his own protection, as he was very drunk and incapable, tells a very different story. He says he awoke to see a police officer attacking a man in the cell. He tried to intervene but the officer knocked him unconscious. There was an injury to his head that was consistent with his account.
Quinn was an Irish Republican who was openly vocal about his political opinions. He had been arrested by PC Paul Giles, a Belfast Catholic who was openly anti-republican and expressed ambitions of joining the Special Branch. Giles’s ex-wife, another partner and a neighbour claim he is violent. His ex-wife gave evidence that she washed his shirt, which was splattered with blood. Giles has left the police after allegedly having a mental breakdown and avoiding giving evidence. Another officer involved, PC Emlyn Welsh, has a record of an uncontrollable temper and domestic violence, with police having to attend when he assaulted his fiancée. Yet another officer, ex-Sergeant Edward Henery, has also left the police, avoiding 17 disciplinary charges including allegations of bullying and sexual harassment.
The book tells not only a story of what appears to be a police murder but of corruption and conspiracy and it exposes Britain’s judicial system as thoroughly rotten. A police log-book has disappeared. A computerised record of police communications went missing for three years. Police uniforms were dry-cleaned before they went for forensic tests. One of the witnesses, Sgt Henery, was fined £500 for contempt of court for refusing to answer defence questions at one of the trials.
The real service this book does for the tragic Patsy Quinn and the innocent Malcolm Kennedy is that it makes public a hitherto unknown, possible police motive for this brutal killing. What didn’t come out in the trials was that Quinn was known to Hammersmith police – a staunch Republican known for sticking up for himself. But there is an added twist to this almost unbelievable story, Patsy Quinn was the best friend of Joseph Fallon who had been killed by having his liver ruptured in Hammersmith Police Station three years earlier
Who Killed Patrick Quinn? The Framing of Malcolm Kennedy is published by Revolutions Per Minute, BCM Box 3328, London WC1N 3XX. £5
FRFI 179 June / July 2004