Act now to support Alan Porter!

My name is Alan Porter and I am from Scotland. I am serving a life sentence in a prison in England. I am trying to persuade the Prison Service of England and Wales to transfer me to a Scottish prison. I think that as a Scottish national this should be my right but they are refusing to accept my application. I am therefore writing to ask for your help.

I was born on 10 December 1955 and brought up in Renfrewshire. I lived in Scotland until 1985, when I moved down to England. Four years later on 3 July 1989 Lewes Crown Court sentenced me to life imprisonment for killing a man in Brighton. It was a stupid, senseless act. I have never denied committing this murder or tried to blame anyone else for it, and of course I regret it terribly.

My life at the time was a bit chaotic, to say the least, and even part of the time I’d spent in England prior to getting life had been spent in prison for another offence. My intention was always to return to Scotland, where I had a council house that had previously been my grandfather’s. I started my sentence at HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs. I petitioned for a transfer then but it was refused.

I have every intention of going back to Scotland when I am eventually released and nobody seems to dispute that this will happen. But they won’t allow me to transfer prior to then to serve my sentence. The short period of time spent in England prior to this sentence (and the fact that part of this time was passed in prison) means I have no friends, family or other connections outside of prison in England. But this is not the point. I am Scottish – ethnically and culturally.

I have repeatedly applied to the authorities in London to authorise my transfer to Scotland as such an application would have to be agreed in England first and then in Scotland. I can’t even clear the first hurdle as the Prison Service of England and Wales says that because I wasn’t living in Scotland directly before my arrest and don’t have family there who are lobbying for my return, I have to stay here. And the Scottish Prison Service won’t even look at my application until it has been cleared in London.

I think that Scottish people are discriminated against by the legislation that allows them to decide my case on this basis (and the Race Relations Act accepts Scottish people as a distinct group who can suffer discrimination). A barrister here agrees with me; however we have been refused legal aid to take the case to court.

I am in a Catch-22 situation. I was refused a transfer to Scotland on the basis that I am not in touch with family and friends there. But I can only realistically establish any links once I’m there. At present I’m refusing to co-operate with the English prison system (ie to participate in offending behaviour courses, sentence planning etc) as a move to Scotland is all I am really concerned about.

Overseas prisoners can apply for repatriation to any country that has an agreement with Britain regarding transfer of prisoners under various conventions and treaties. Indeed the British government is seeking ways to speed up such transfers and increase their use, even to the extent of making them non-voluntary. These transfers can proceed purely on the basis of nationality and a prisoner from a country outside the United Kingdom only has to prove that he or she is from the other country. They don’t need to have been ordinarily resident or have family or friends in the country. But I can’t go to Scotland unless I can prove these things.

On the other hand, Welsh prisoners in prison in England can apply to transfer to prisons in Wales within the ordinary transfer system as the two parts of the UK form part of a single jurisdiction.

So prisoners from Scotland are in a no-man’s-land, between the options open to Welsh prisoners and those open to prisoners of nationalities that are not part of the United Kingdom. This is clearly discriminatory and unfair.

I would therefore urge anyone who reads this letter and is concerned about this situation, both as it affects me personally, and in its wider implications for Scottish people’s rights, to take the matter up by writing to the Scottish Parliament, MSPs, the Scottish press and anyone else who can lobby on my behalf.

Alan Porter NF1580
HMP Rye Hill, Willoughby,
Warwickshire CV23 8SZ

Alan has been an FRFI reader for most of his sentence. He has written to us on many previous occasions, but never about himself. All his previous letters have highlighted injustices in the system or campaigns for other prisoners being brutalised. We ask FRFI readers to return this solidarity and support Alan’s campaign for transfer to Scotland. Applications for transfer from English to Scottish prisons are dealt with in England by the: Ministry of Justice Policy and Rights Unit Cross Border Transfer Section, 1st Floor, Fry Building, 2 Marsham Street, LONDON SW1P 4DF and in Scotland by: Scottish Prison Service Headquarters, Room 305, Calton House, 5 Redheughs Rigg, Edinburgh EH12 9HW.

FRFI 200 December 2007 / January 2008