Eric Allison's comments and Pauline Campbell's letter to FRFI

Eric Allison writes: I was fortunate enough to consider Pauline Campbell as a close friend. Since her death, I have been inundated with phone calls from people bereft at her passing - from a woman in her late seventies, who joined Pauline on the campaign trail and mourns the loss of a passionate and dedicated leader, to a young ex-prisoner, who viewed her as a surrogate mother. Because, despite her personal grief at the loss of an only child, Pauline always found room to console and comfort the relatives of others who had died in custody and to guide them through the legal minefield that obstructs the search for the truth.

Few in the new Ministry of Justice will mourn her passing. She met the criminal justice system head on and became a constant, sharp thorn in its side. Her direct action, in blocking the progress of a wretched sweat box into the prison she was demonstrating outside created a huge dilemma for the system; should it prosecute her and make her a martyr; or release her without charge, knowing full well that, come the death of another woman in prison, Pauline would be back, to confront the system at full tilt? When she was arrested, the police would often employ dirty tactics, such as keeping her in a cell until the early hours of the morning. (For the heinous offence of obstructing the highway) If they thought would deter her from demonstrating in the future they badly miscalculated her strength and determination.

During the five years that Pauline took on the system, it was easy to forget that she was a grieving mother, who had lost her only child. They say that time is the great healer, but in Pauline’s case, the pain of her loss must have attacked her every day; for every single day that she carried the banner, was a day that her grief was stirred up yet again. I suspect that, in the end, she was simply very tired.

Rest in peace Pauline, you were a true warrior.


CPS backs down

My letter published in FRFI No. 202, April/May 2008 ("Protest against prison deaths") urged readers to write to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in Crewe, Cheshire, to question how the prosecution against me could possibly be in the public interest.

Following written representations to both the CPS and the Attorney General, I can report that the charge against me has been dropped, and my three-day criminal trial scheduled for July 2008 has been cancelled. I am aware that FRFI readers have written letters to protest against this senseless prosecution, and I should like to place on record my thanks to those who have put pen to paper on my behalf.

This prosecution should never have reached court in the first place. Both the CPS and the court were made aware that I am a bereaved mother, and that my only child had died at the hands of the state. This particular attempt to criminalise and punish me was especially cruel, as I was arrested outside Styal the prison responsible for my daughter's death in 2003. Lisa Marley, a young mother held on remand at Styal, died on 23 January 2008, and I was arrested and charged with obstructing the highway - a charge which I denied - at the demonstration to protest against her death.

Aside from the vindictive nature of this prosecution, the case has raised a number of issues and, for reasons of openness and transparency, it is important to highlight this iniquity.

All along, the Crown had argued that the case was in the public interest. At each of my three court appearances, and in a three-page letter to the CPS in March 2008, I argued to the contrary, and challenged their assertion that the case had passed the public interest test. After three months they caved in, but it is unclear to me why it took so long for them to see the light.

The case also highlights difficulties defendants face when applying for legal aid. My application for legal aid had been refused, apparently on the grounds that it had not met the criteria necessary to meet the 'interests of justice' test. At each hearing, I had to attend court without a solicitor, which was enormously stressful. I am not a lawyer, and have had no legal training. It is an affront to the principle of access to justice that anyone should have to stand criminal trial, and attend pre-trial reviews, without legal representation. Yet whenever I attended court, the Crown was represented by a lawyer. I fail to understand how a defendant in a criminal trial can adequately represent themselves. It defies common sense. How can justice be achieved when there is clear inequality of arms?

There is a growing loss of confidence in our criminal justice system, which is hardly surprising. When laid bare, the system is frequently revealed as unjust and unfair, and it is crucial that people speak out against this injustice.

But bringing pressure to bear on the authorities can and does work, as my case illustrates. The idiom 'the pen is mightier than the sword' tells us that words and communication are more powerful than wars and fighting. When faced with a prosecution, and an attempt to criminalise me, I will always fight my corner with strong words, and an even stronger determination to ensure that justice prevails.

Pauline Campbell Bereaved mother of Sarah Elizabeth Campbell, 18, who died on 'suicide watch' in Styal Prison's segregation unit, 2003