Sunday, 30 December 2012

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

JENGbA Activities Update

Sometimes it’s good to get an insight into what goes on behind the scenes of a campaign like JENGbA

Here’s what’s been happening just over the past few months and this list isn’t exhaustive!
  • 20th November Canterbury Uni – Gloria gave talk to Law Students with June and Jesse Parsons who told the students about their son Anthony’s case. The students sent us emails afterwards, asking how they can help JENGbA and thanking us for attending.
  • Anglia Ruskin Uni 26th November 2012 JENGbA talk to Law students was met with disbelief and offers of help.
  • 6th December 2012 – Invitation to the Howard League Conference with DPP in attendance.
  • 13th December Sodiq Film – Gloria invited by Diane Abbott MP – Justice Select committee members also invited.
  • 15th December – Edge Fund Launch party, JENGbA’s input “Prisoners’ Voices”
  • 17th December – Attending Leveson Inquiry Discussion, Bindmans Solicitors invitation.
  • 25th January 2013 This is Not a Gateway Festival
  • After talks by Glo and other volunteer campaigners, we now have links with Birkbeck College, London Law School, NCVYS (National Council for Youth Services).
  • Letters and articles have been published in the Guardian, Socialist Review, Justice Gap.
  • Intelligent Submissions have been made in response to the DPP’s draft guidelines from major organisations all in support of JENGbA. Legal professionals are making themselves available with expertise of the law in support of the innocent.  
  • UniteResist Conference – Deb and Patricia attended and were given donations for stamps.
  • Presence at numerous Court hearings to support families, including Kevan Thakrar’s Judicial Review.
  • Gloria’s contribution to handbook for Community Justice, So We Stand campaign.
  • Awaiting response from requested meeting with Sadiq Khan, Shadow Justice Secretary.
  • Continually supporting new families and prisoners who contact us.
  • Represented at Criminal Cases Review Commission Stakeholders’ Conference on
  • Wednesday, November 28th.
  • Cardiff Uni – support by law students and Pro Bono Unit who have had an overwhelming response from prisoners who want their voices heard.
  • Support of MOJO Scotland – Paddy Hill described JENGbA as the biggest Miscarriage of Justice group in the UK today.
  • Getting the word out via Facebook, Blog, Twitter which are continuously updated.
  • 10th October 2012 - Janet Cunliffe presentation at Manchester Metropolitan University about Jordan Cunliffe, JENGbA and the plight of Kevan Thakrar.
  • Regular meetings with Jeremy Corbyn MP.
  • Attending Deaths in Custody marches.
  • JENGbA campaigner talking about joint enterprise in Tate Modern's Turbine Hall from July to October as part of the Cultural Olympiad in a piece by Tino Sehgal.
  • Generally there is a huge gathering of media interest/attention with major stories pending (Guardian Weekend and a Guardian online film, Private Eye, not to mention the documentary film maker, Anton Califano who is following Janet with a major film producer, who is a trustee for the Sheffield film festival. Another well known filmmaker in London has approached Glo for a JENGbA documentary.
  • Anthony Davis was a main feature on a recent Panorama documentary, exposing the issue of the Supergrass - a follow up to the original expose that allowed Janet Cunliffe and Gloria Morrison to put Joint Enterprise in the public arena.
    The Bradford awareness seminar brought families together on a HUGE scale like never before in one community with a positive local media reaction, covering more than one case all supported by JENGbA.
  • George Galloway MP has asked for more details of the campaign and we believe with more work others will follow suit.
  • There are book deals in the pipeline and Channel 4 News have asked for intimate honest stories.
  • And of course our Patron, Jimmy McGovern after interviewing many of our families, has had his script accepted by the BBC with a film to be shown later next year. We all know that Jimmy’s previous projects and films have included Bloody Sunday and Hillsborough, so we have great faith that his next film will expose the injustice of Joint Enterprise and provoke the same public outrage and path to justice for our wrongfully convicted loved ones.
And all done from our campaigners’ kitchen tables - phew!

Jan's Blog: The harsh truth about Joint Enterprise

I am writing this blog in the hopes that someone will read it and learn something that I was not able to learn in time to help my own son Jordan Cunliffe. Joint Enterprise is a confusing legal principle and without the proper information prior to trial a defendant can find themselves running the wrong defence and then sadly being convicted for a very serious offence they did not commit.

As a Defendant it is up to you to instruct your legal team. It is no good just pleading not guilty to the index offence and proving you were not the perpetrator of a crime. This is not what Joint Enterprise is about. It is not about proving there was no common plan or organisation involved, because people are convicted because of a Prosecutor’s insistence that you had or should have had possible foresight that a crime might be committed. A ludicrous notion especially when talking about a murder trial, and a murder you took no part in, or one you can prove that you had no physical involvement with let alone a plan or verbal agreement. Or in my son’s case no way of even seeing, as he was blind on the night a spontaneous outburst of violence occurred that sadly resulted in a man’s death. They wanted him to prove disengagement from the scene of the crime, but no one explained to the Jury that it is pointless for a blind child to attempt to prove disengagement from a scene that he was not able to engage in because he was not able to see it in the first place.

So what am I trying to tell you? Well I am trying to tell you to forget about logic or all your ideals that a person is innocent until proven guilty or that our "Great British Justice System" would rather 10 guilty men go free than one innocent man be convicted of a crime he did not commit. That is long gone, and our Judges and Prosecutors these days sadly not only believe in the complete opposite, they strive to make that opposite a reality.

A reality that has already destroyed hundreds, if not thousands of innocent lives. Men, women and even children. Not gang members or those involved with organised crime, like armed robbers, drug dealers or gangland killers. The media have and will continue to feed you a false narrative that this in fact is why Joint Enterprise is being used in our Courts today. Maybe this was the origin for its reintroduction and for very good reasons, but of course only if used correctly even in these types of cases, then it may have merit.

Jan campaigning for her son Jordan
But somewhere along the line its easy application and swift non evidential criteria has meant the bar to conviction has been lowered to such murky depths that convictions are now being gained on mere presence alone or through possible foresight that a crime MAY occur. All too often this happens in cases where a spontaneous fight breaks out, no weapon is used and the victim is the original instigator of the aggression.

And because of this dangerously low level of evidence that places a person securely on the route to conviction, it is now more convenient for the Police to charge more than one person for any crime using flimsy evidence, than to gather real, solid concrete evidence and prove exactly who committed that crime, why and how. Imagine how a victim’s family must feel if they knew not only do the Police not care one iota about bringing the person who ruined their lives to justice, but that the Courts care nothing for them either. You will hear MP's bleating on about putting "victims at the heart of the Criminal Justice System", talk is all it is, because all victims really want are answers, the truth, reasons and justice, not appeasement or revenge at all cost, but sadly this is all they are being offered.

Imagine the utter devastation to the family of the innocent person locked away for life, not just a cushy few years, but LIFE. The frustration, the anger, the daily anguish must be worse than any other form of human torture. That could be you and all because you trusted a system that can no longer be relied upon to serve Justice even to the victims, let alone to the public or to the innocent bystander. 

As a society we developed a justice system that was meant to be fair and just, because without it Britain would have remained lawless, with innocent people being blamed and persecuted for crimes they took no part in. Joint Enterprise and the way it is now being applied means Britain may as well be lawless once again, because innocent people are being blamed and persecuted for crimes they took no part in.

Any legal Professional, MP or so called "expert" who claims this law is necessary and condones its use in its current form has NO understanding of the law or why we have laws in the first place, and because of this they should not be allowed to teach, inform or make decisions about the law that will affect the rest of us with such devastating consequences.

If I had known in 2007 all of the things I know now, things that I had to find out for myself, my blind 15 year old son would never have been convicted of a murder he so obviously did not commit. I would still, as I did back then, insist on him telling the "Truth, the Whole truth and nothing but the Truth." But I would have understood that the truth alone was not nearly enough to save him. I would have realised that you have to remove yourself from the "route to conviction" that is cleverly placed upon you before you even go to trial. A route to conviction that conveniently no one tells you about, in which hearsay, speculation, possible foresight, meaningless one-sided text messages, and flimsy evidence from unreliable witnesses that you may have been, what could be considered by some people, of bad character at some point in your past. Not a criminal or police record, but someone giving personal evidence that they do not like you. This route to verdict is then passed to the jury in a bundle of papers like a multiple choice for them to use when deliberating their verdict. Taking away the jury’s autonomy and forcing them to reach a verdict they may not have done otherwise. 

Please if you value your freedom and liberty or that of someone you love, contact JENGbA. None of us are legal professionals so we cannot offer legal advice but we can make you aware of what it was that allowed our innocent loved ones to be convicted of a crime they did not commit. We can show you just how easy it can be for a Prosecutor to gain a conviction on very flimsy, if not no real evidence at all. It will alarm you, I can guarantee that, and if it doesn't we are not doing our jobs properly.

To ignore this issue means you are allowing it to become even worse than it already is, it WILL touch your life at some point because there is no guidance or control in place. Someone who has not murdered anyone should never go to prison for murder. And anyone who believes it is acceptable for innocent people to be used as example to deter others from crime should offer their own sons lives as lambs to the slaughter, not expect me to hand over mine. 

Janet Cunliffe
4th December 2012

Monday, 3 December 2012

Blog For Lizzie Don

Yesterday, Deb Madden and myself, Gloria Morrison were privileged to meet Lizzie Donaghue in HMP Send. We went as representatives of JENGbA, it was important to meet her. It was an emotional meeting and her mum Marion was there also, but I’ve been corresponding with Lizzie for some time now and she has become an integral part of JENGbA’s understanding of the flaws and framework which allows miscarriages of justice to happen.

Before JENGbA was formed in 2010, London Against Injustice (LAI) was the group where Marion found us, looking for support and help for her daughter Lizzie who had been convicted of her husband’s murder via conspiracy and was given a 30 year sentence.  Marion was in her late sixties at the time of her daughter’s conviction, and traumatised by what had happened to her family, but so certain of her daughter’s innocence she simply could not understand how she had been so let down by the Justice system.
Marion Donaghue & Gerry Conlon at TUC Conference
I have visited many men and women in prison since we started our campaign and once again I wonder what prisons are actually for.  I see these women with children, and when reunited with them seem so loving and desperately close.  

A little boy arrived with his sister and his Grandmother, and in the car park he was crying desperately trying to push her out of the visitors’ centre, yet once he saw his mum he ran into her arms screaming with delight. When it was time to leave he was clinging to his young mum so hard it took all his grandma’s strength to prise him away from her.  In the toilets his little sister was crying uncontrollably. But it is not just traumatised children that make me wonder this, does it really make sense to lock a human being into a system that is constantly being proven does not work, at a cost to the tax payer of a minimum of £50,000 a year?

Lizzie has 3 children, who were teenagers when she went to prison 8 years ago.  She is now a grandmother of 3 and one of the most beautiful and brave women I have met in a long time. She has set up ICE (Innocent Connection Enterprise) herself with the help of Inside Time. The idea is that prisoners maintaining innocence can find other prisoners inside to communicate with via letters.  This will be contentious.  The prison system does not want to accept there are innocent people in prison.  JENGbA knows this as we asked several prison governors could we have representatives on the wing to signpost the campaign to other prisoners convicted under JE.  The responses were the same.  We do not recognise your business? Simples we are not a business –we are a force for justice.

Lizzie is another excellent example of why JENGbA exists.  Her mother knew something was profoundly wrong about her conviction, and as she told her story we recognised the same path used by police and CPS to get an innocent person convicted. The ‘framing’  of how a crime happened in court, though it bears no reality to what actually happened in reality and with all the  weight of the Crown against you, you become a mere statistic and perhaps another round in the pub for our brave prosecuters who have ‘won’.

Then once convicted all the resources to keep you in prison are weighted against you. But this mother, grandma and great grandmother, Marion’s conviction and determination to fight for her daughter’s freedom mirrors every mother, father and child in JENGbA. That cannot be bottled, quantified or changed – we will succeed because love means we have no choice.

Anyone who watched ‘I’m a celebrity get me outta here’ and saw how Charlie’s daughter gripped on to her after 3 weeks separation should go into prison and see all the children whose lives are being destroyed by the prison system. Innocent people whose freedom, liberty and choices have been taken away from them. In fact JENGbA has over 350 prisoners now that we are supporting. Many of them fathers and women with children, heartbreakingly many are children themselves, serving life sentences.  If the public and MPs genuinely want to see and learn about prison conditions and wrongful convictions why don’t they visit our inside campaigners.  Not as a politician but as human beings who will easily recognise we have one of the most disgraceful prison systems in Europe. 

Our prisons are business and the people in there nothing more than cattle.  It is a disgrace that must be exposed as long as it costs so much money to get people into a system that enables others to profit from human misery. 

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Kevan Thakrar - judicial review

Kevan Thakrar’s judicial review was held today in Manchester, challenging 14 specific points which Kevan claimed were breaching his human rights.

A videolink with Kevan at HMP Woodhill was half-heartedly attempted but failed.  Another attempt at lunchtime also, unsurprisingly, failed.

It was clear from the start of the hearing that it was going to be a struggle. Claims of having his privilege mail opened, of delays in getting legal numbers added to his PIN, of restricted access to his lawyers, were met with quotes from the very guidelines being challenged.

It was presumed by the Court that prison officers who “accidentally” open privileged mail will record this in a log, that prison officers found to regularly open privileged mail will be written to – and if necessary “re-trained” in the procedures/guidelines. Then of course there’s the Prison Ombudsman to deal with complaints - so Judge Hickinbottom believed.
Kevan in happier times
So every claim of abuse was responded to with quote after quote from the guidelines – plus of course there was always the fallback excuse of  “operational demands on prison staff”,  restrictions on public resources, “operational matters for the Governor” etc etc.

The pattern continued until the Judgement, which predictably concluded that the Guidance was not unlawful. So every challenge raised was lost as there was “no breach of policy”.

However, the Judge then asked for submissions regarding the 153 allegations made by Kev, who has been in segregation for 2 years.

Flo Klause, Kev’s barrister, said, “the next step is to consider the continuing action.  The Judge found the policies lawful – but if they’re lawful, how is it possible that so many incidents are taking place, why are there so many complaints and why is there a campaign of harassment against Kevan?”

Kevan’s legal team now has to make a submission by the end of January 2013 which will be considered by the Secretary of State.  That is when the real issues will be aired, i.e. the 153 incidents of abuse, mistreatment and abuse of privileges that Kev has suffered. They happened in just a one year period, although the incidents and allegations continue.

Throughout the hearing Kev’s Mum and Dad remained stoical in their own dignified way.  His Dad said the “lawful” guidance may exist, but questioned who actually ensured it was adhered to - that question had not been answered or even addressed.

So the fight is not over for Kev and his family, far from it. This was just one hurdle to get over and we as his supporters must do all we can to make sure they win.  It’s the least we can do.

Please send letters of support:

Kevan Thakrar A4907AE
HMP Woodhill
Tattenhoe Street
Milton Keynes

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

My experience of Close Supervision Centres - Kevan Thakrar

My name is Kevan Thakrar and I write to relate my personal experience of Close Supervision Centres (CSCs) and the torture I have been subjected to in prisons. (More details about my case are available here.)
Kevan Thakrar

After officers sustained injuries at HMP Frankland in March 2010, only a sick individual could imagine the level of violence I sustained. This carried on at HMP Wakefield where I spent 13 days of extreme racial, physical and sexual abuse. After I reported this, I was quickly moved to Woodhill CSC. Psychological torture is extremely painful and, some may say, worse than the physical kind.  Orders are barked and failure to jump high enough leads to further abuse and, often, assault. I have on several occasions not jumped at all, like the time I was ordered to move my toothbrush from one clearly visible point in the cell to another, this resulted in no exercise, shower, phone call, food, library, nothing – behavioural modification skills these ex-army prison officers learned out in Afghanistan, Iraq and other wars.

From all the abuse I have suffered from prison staff, I now have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), resulting in severe anxiety, panic attacks, flashbacks, nightmares and constant fear. I have gone through such bad spells that I have been unable to leave my bed for days, as well as having attempted to take my own life on five occasions in the last ten months. 

I am told I require a clinical psychologist to treat my PTSD but ‘none are available’. I therefore have to live an unbearable life, just waiting for the day I am forced to end it, or the staff do it for me and cover it up to make it appear to be a suicide. Either way, I am struggling and need some serious support.

The worst thing is that I am innocent of the crime which I have been imprisoned for in the first place. This resulted in a life sentence of 35 years and I am almost four years into it.

I have been the victim of an unprovoked attack by officers while at HMP Woodhill, resulting in a fractured wrist and six hours in Special Accommodation. I then received a nicking for ‘attempting to commit an assault’ as well as having my unlock level increased and ALL privileges removed.  It’s not the first time this has  happened.

Kevan, after beating by prison officers at HMP Frankland
Close Supervision Centre-Dehumanising, Degrading and Demonising

Prison officials like to claim that the Close Supervision Centre (CSC) exists to remove the most significantly disruptive, challenging and dangerous prisoners from ordinary location and to enable these prisoners an opportunity to develop a more settled and acceptable pattern of behaviour.

The ‘worst of the worst’ designation defines the inhabitants of the CSC as fundamentally ‘other’ and dehumanises, degrades and demonises us as essentially different from other prisoners. It provides an immediate, intuitive and unassailable rationale for the added punishment, extraordinary control and severe deprivation which prevail in the CSC. 

All the discomforts of life in a CSC unit have been brought upon prisoners by ‘our own behaviour’. The Prison Service’s frequent recourse to horror stories about prisoners’ dangerousness also helps to ‘shift’ the blame over anything that happens to us in the CSC onto ourselves. This technique of ‘condemning the condemners’ allows prison workers to further neutralise any criticisms of their policies and practices and to justify, to themselves and others, the harsh treatment of CSC prisoners.

The fact that the design of the CSC is more likely to induce violence than to reduce it is not comprehensible by the corrupt Prison Service management or staff, with whom the temptation is strong to treat us as less than another human being. It is the same process that is brought to bear in wartime – the enemy, soldier and civilian alike, are demonised, and whatever happens to them is of little concern.

Prisoners are more isolated, observed and controlled, afforded less human contact and suffer more sensory deprivation than anywhere in Britain. According to criminologist Anthony Bottoms: ‘to impose additional physical restrictions, especially of a severe character, will almost certainly lead to a legitimacy deficit, and that deficit may well in the end play itself out in enhanced violence’.

So the Prison Service’s claims about the positive impact of the CSC on dangerous and disruptive prisoners are evidently false. It is impossible for any prison trainee psychologist to help CSC prisoners achieve a level to progress to normal location, whilst we are suffering under the conditions of the CSC itself. So why are we here?

Interference with mail

The security department at Woodhill CSC has made itself obstructive in my attempts to contact anyone over the last two and a half years. Mail repeatedly goes missing or is stopped for unlawful excuses; phone numbers are deleted from my PIN and applications to add numbers to call are ignored or rejected; visitors’ approval applications sit for months without any action or are rejected for no reason.

Daniel Guedalla of Birnberg Peirce solicitors issued a letter before action some time ago about this abuse, but the prison didn’t even bother to respond so it seems judicial review is inevitable.

While all CSC prisoners suffer intensely, this particular harassment by security is specific to me. To demonstrate this, I recently received a notice of a stopped incoming letter. The thing about this letter is that it was actually posted by another prisoner in HMP Woodhill. What this means is that the letter is suitable for security checks on one prisoner but not for me. If there was a legitimate issue with the letter, the prison wouldn’t have allowed it out in the first place (all mail must be posted out to Royal Mail and back in, even if it is addressed to the prisoner next door to you!) so I wouldn’t have had cause to complain.

To the many people who have written to me without response, I can only apologise for HMP Woodhill’s corruption. I do respond to all mail which I receive with a return address. If anyone has written without reply, please notify Daniel at Birnbergs so it can be included in my judicial review.

HMP WOODHILL, Tattenhoe Street, Milton Keynes, MK14 4DA

Kevan's case will be heard at the High Court of Justice, Manchester Civil Justice Centre, Bridge St. W. Mancs M60 9DJ, on Thursday 15 and Friday 16 November. 

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Innocent man convicted under Joint Enterprise in court to fight the abuse of his human rights

The British Justice system is once again under scrutiny. The appeal court has decided that Theresa May is not able to extradite Abu Qatada because his human rights will be abused and torture could possibly be used if he is sent to Jordan. However that same principal of torture and abuse does not seem to apply if it is happening in this country.
Kevan Thakrar
Kevan Thakrar is back in court this Thursday and Friday (14 and 15 November 2012) to serve a Judicial Review against the appeal court that his legal and human rights are being ignored.
Kevan is 27 years old and was convicted under joint enterprise for a triple murder he is not responsible for. He has been held in closed supervision (solitary confinement) at HMP Woodhill for two and a half years where he has been made to endure what he deems torturous conditions. 

While at Frankland prison he was seriously assaulted by the staff who then accused him of attempted murder; a court case was held in which Kev was acquitted but no other staff were prosecuted. Since then, perhaps as an act of vindictiveness on behalf of the staff, he continues to be subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment by staff, including severe racial, physical and sexual abuse.

Kevan was and is being denied access to his legal papers to fight his appeal, he is being denied access to his legal advisors as well as his family, friends and supporters. He is not allowed to have his mother’s number on his pin, visitors have to wait months before the prison will process their request to visit him. Visits are held under closed supervision.
His legal post concerning the attempted manslaughter charge brought against him by the Frankland prison officers was continuously illegally opened. Kevan’s case has further implications for all prisoners who rights are being abused.

Kevan’s says that being in CSU is like something out of ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ or bedlam of the Victorian era, although a tie was thrown into his cell recently to help him end his torment. Two sources who have had experience of life inside prison have assured JENGbA this is exactly what these prison officials want; for Kevan to go mad.

Otherwise why would they treat a fit, healthy intelligent and innocent man in such a barbaric way simply because he won a court case against corrupt officers who beat him so severely he was unrecognisable?

Please show your support for Kevan Thakrar:
Write to the prison and demand that this torture stops. Come to the Manchester Court this week and find out exactly how his human rights are being abused. Join other JENGbA campaigners outside the court to support Kevan and his family and demand that the police stop using joint enterprise to convict innocent men, women and children.

Gloria Morrison JENGbA Campaign Co-ordinator. Kevan's case will be heard at the High Court of Justice, Manchester Civil Justice Centre, Bridge St. W. Mancs M60 9DJ, on Thursday 15 and Friday 16 November.