Category Archives: Ex-offenders
Amanda Knox has spoken of her anguish after Italy’s highest criminal court overturned her acquittal for the murder of British student Meredith Kercher.
The American returned to her home in Seattle after she was dramatically cleared following four years in jail in 2011, but now faces the prospect of returning to the country for a new trial.
She said prosecutors should be made to answer for apparent “discrepancies” in their case and called for an “objective investigation” into questions surrounding her alleged involvement in the killing.
The body of Leeds University student Miss Kercher, 21, was found in November 2007 in her bedroom at the house she shared with Miss Knox in the Italian university town of Perugia. Her throat had been slashed.
Prosecutors claimed Miss Kercher, from Coulsdon, Surrey, was the victim of a drug-fuelled sex game gone awry.
Miss Knox, now 25, and her Italian ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, 29, denied wrongdoing. They were convicted following a high-profile trial but were released on appeal and Miss Knox was immediately flown back to America.
She said: “It was painful to receive the news that the Italian Supreme Court decided to send my case back for revision when the prosecution’s theory of my involvement in Meredith’s murder has been repeatedly revealed to be completely unfounded and unfair. I believe that any questions as to my innocence must be examined by an objective investigation and a capable prosecution. The prosecution responsible for the many discrepancies in their work must be made to answer for them, for Raffaele’s sake, my sake, and most especially for the sake of Meredith’s family. Our hearts go out to them. No matter what happens, my family and I will face this continuing legal battle as we always have, confident in the truth and with our heads held high in the face of wrongful accusations and unreasonable adversity.”
Miss Kercher’s older sister Stephanie Kercher, speaking at her Surrey home, told the Press Association: “There are a lot of unanswered questions still. We are very hopeful that it going back to court will help find those answers and find out the truth of what happened that night. Whilst we are not happy about going back to court, and it will not bring her back, we have to make sure we have done all we can for her. We still have a long journey ahead and we are very grateful for the support of the public and in Italy – we just want justice for Mez.”
Italian law cannot compel Knox to return to the country for a fresh trial. She could be found in contempt of court but that carries no additional penalties. It is unclear what would happen if she was convicted following a new appeal.
But the latest developments mean Miss Knox could face the threat of an extradition request from the Italian government. The US and Italy brought an extradition treaty into force in 1984, when Ronald Reagan was president. The treaty obligates each country to extradite anyone charged with or convicted of an extraditable offence – or any offences punishable under the laws of both countries by a jail sentence of more than one year. Italy must provide the US with specific documents to demonstrate they have “probable cause to believe” that Miss Kercher was murdered and Miss Knox committed the offence.
A student jailed for making racist comments on Twitter following the collapse of Premier League footballer Fabrice Muamba could face further punishment – this time from his university.
Liam Stacey, 21, was released from prison at the end of last month – after being told he would serve half of a 56 day custodial sentence behind bars.
But while the third-year biology student has got back his liberty, he still remains suspended from Swansea University.
According to reports, he is still yet to face a disciplinary hearing – with a committee having a range of sanctions at its disposal.
They include letting a student off with a warning, imposing a fine or expulsion.
A university spokeswoman told The South Wales Evening Post newspaper: “The disciplinary proceedings haven’t yet taken place, but we will not be saying when they will be taking place as that is a matter between the university and Liam Stacey.”
Mark Leech, founder and former Chief Executive of the national ex-offenders charity UNLOCK questioned what it had to do with the Unversity.
Mr Leech said: “If a 15 year old boy appears in court for shoplifting he doesn’t then face the Headmaster at his school - and nor should he.
“This is none of the University’s business, Stacey represents no threat to other students and he should be allowed to get on with his life – the University should keep its nose out.”
Stacey, originally from Pontypridd, was arrested on March 18 after making a series of racially offensive comments on Twitter the day before.
They had been prompted after the sports-fan posted a message on the social networking site which appeared to mock Bolton midfielder Mr Muamba’s sudden collapse.
The Congolese-born player suffered a cardiac arrest during an FA Cup match with Tottenham Hotspur.
As paramedics were fighting to save his life, Stacey wrote: “F**k, Muamba. He’s dead. Ha ha.”
It resulted in several other site users, including two people believed to be of Afro-Caribbean origin, to message Stacey in return. Some of these posts contained explicit language directed at Stacey.
He then retorted with a string of racist Tweets – prompting complaints to the police.
During his appearance before magistrates in Swansea, Stacey pleaded guilty to a racially aggravated public order offence but stressed he was not a racist and that he had been drunk when posting the comments online.
Despite his pleas for leniency, and a subsequent appeal, Stacey went to prison.
A court has also previously heard, as well as being suspended from university, Stacey’s dream of becoming a forensic scientist almost certainly lies in tatters because of his criminal conviction for a racially aggravated offence.
Earlier this week, the UK Government’s Attorney General Dominic Grieve issued a warning to Twitter users about what they posted online.
He said: “The idea that you have immunity because you’re an anonymous tweeter is a big mistake.
“If necessary, we will take action.”
A former Taliban commander who plotted scores of attacks against troops in Afghanistan is to become a prison officer after abandoning his old way of life.
Abdul Ghani is currently serving a 20-year sentence in Lashkar Gah prison.
He was jailed after being handed in to the authorities by his Taliban leaders when he refused to carry out a suicide bomb attack.
The defector was described as a “middle manager” with the insurgency in the country’s Helmand province.
The 37-year-old openly admits to being responsible for co-ordinating gun and bomb attacks on coalition troops, but that came to an end when he refused orders to sacrifice his own life.
Now, after more than two years behind bars, he has won the trust of prison authorities and is regularly allowed to leave prison unescorted.
After turning his back on fighting, he hopes to become a prison guard when he is released – joining the ranks he once despised.
Ghani said: “I don’t feel that I’m in prison. I feel like I’m at home.”
He is currently being held in the British-designed high-security prison at Lashkar Gah.
He told how he is allowed out of prison to travel around the provincial capital city and is visited behind bars by his seven-year-old son.
Ghani has even been given use of a motor-tricycle to travel to and from the jail, running errands and collecting supplies.
Speaking about his transformation, Ghani said that when he arrived at the jail he had wanted “to kill all of the staff”.
He has been awarded the special privileges for turning his back on the fighting.
The authorities hope the rewards will act as an incentive to other fighters to turn themselves in.
Phil Robinson, prisons advisor at the Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team, said the change in Ghani’s mindset had been remarkable.
The former head of operations at HMP Wandsworth said: “When he arrived, he was aggressive.
“His attitude was: ‘I want to kill the staff’ and in a matter of months they’ve changed his mindset.”
Nearly half of the prison’s 1,000 inmates are convicted insurgents and they are kept in separate cells from the main population.
Many are undergoing training in subjects such as mechanics, tailoring and computing in order to find alternative employment on their release.
Mark Leech editor of Converse the national prisoners newspaper welcome the move.
“Over here ex-offenders, who probably know more about how to reduce crime than any half-baked politician, are not seen as a potential resource – neither are former prison staff come to that.
“The ill-named ‘independent’ prison inspectorate and the hapless Prisons Ombudsman have never found room for successful ex-offenders or former prison officers, which is why both organizations are in such a mess – at least in this case they recognize people can change their way of life and that former prison staff with decades of experience have much to offer.”
Amanda Knox, the American cleared on appeal of the murder of Leeds University student Meredith Kercher in Italy, has signed a book deal to “share the truth about her terrifying ordeal” – and she every right to do says Mark Leech, Editor of the national prisoners’ newspaper Converse
Publishing giant HarperCollins has acquired world rights to a memoir by Knox which it has tentatively scheduled to come out next year.
The publisher has not said how much it is paying for the memoir but some reports have suggested the Knox deal is worth four million US dollars (£2.5 million).
Mr Leech said: “Look, we all have our story to tell, and out of these books can come good things – take my own case, it was only as a result of a then Crown Prosecutor reading in my book the horrors of physical and sexual abuse that I went through in what was and still is laughingly called ‘care’ that an investigation started into Cheshire Children’s Homes which ultimately saw those guilty of that sexual and physical abuse of eight year old boys like me jailed for those acts.
“I have the right to tell my story, and others have the right to read it – Amanda Knox has an astonishing journey to speak about, she was taken hostage by the Italian justice system for years and that is a journey I personally would find extremely interesting – but I accept that there are of course others, like Ian Huntley, Rose West or Robert Black whose story many would not want to read.
“But even within these books there is the other side of what are horrendous stories and by trying to understand both sides, not condoning, excusing or mitigating, but understanding the story might just help us to understand why these inexplicable events happen – and at the end of the day if you don’t want to read the story don’t buy the book; but please don’t deny me my right to read it if I want to.”
The news comes two days after it was announced that prosecutors have asked Italy’s highest criminal court to reinstate the murder convictions of Knox and her former boyfriend for the murder.
They lodged the appeal more than four months after an appeal court threw out the convictions of Knox, 24, and Raffaele Sollecito, 27.
Prosecutor Giovanni Galati said he was “very convinced” that Sollecito and Knox were responsible for stabbing to death 21-year-old Miss Kercher, who shared an apartment withKnox in Perugia.
The pair were found guilty in a lower court of killing Miss Kercher, from Coulsdon, Surrey, in what prosecutors described as a sex-fuelled attack, and sentenced to 26 years and 25 years respectively.
An appeals court rejected the conviction, freeing Knox to return home to the United States after serving four years in prison. A court-ordered DNA review in the appeal discredited evidence used to convict Knox and Sollecito in 2009.
The appeal court in October said the guilty verdicts against the pair were not corroborated, and the court had not proved they were in the house when Leeds University student Miss Kercher was killed in 2007.
Ivory Coast-born drifter Rudy Guede was convicted in a separate trial of sexually assaulting and stabbing Miss Kercher. His 16-year sentence, reduced on appeal from an initial 30 years, was upheld by Italy’s highest court in 2010.