Charles Bronson cleared of assaulting Wakefield prison governor

Notorious prisoner Charles Bronson smiled and broke into a celebratory jig after a jury cleared him of trying to seriously harm a prison governor.

Appearing by videolink from HMP Frankland in Durham, he hailed the not guilty verdict and said: “British justice, best in the world. Thank you.”

Bronson, 66, had legally represented himself in the four-day trial at Leeds Crown Court as he cross-examined witnesses and gave evidence in his defence from the dock while flanked by prison officers.

He often brought laughter to the court room as he peppered his defence with frequent quips about witnesses, jurors and the prosecutor, and chanted the oath and kissed the Bible when he was sworn in to give evidence.

But the trial judge, Tom Bayliss QC, told jurors that Bronson, appearing under the name Charles Salvador, was not a lawyer and did not think he meant any disrespect.

He even complimented Bronson for his cross-examination of the alleged victim when asking “pretty pertinent questions”.

Bronson was said to have lunged at Mark Docherty as he entered a room for a welfare meeting at HMP Wakefield on January 25.

He landed on top of Mr Docherty and allegedly screamed “I will bite your f****** nose off and gouge out your eyes”, before prison officers intervened and restrained him.

Representing himself at Leeds Crown Court, Bronson said he intended to give Mr Docherty a “gentle bear hug” and whisper in his ear, but tripped, or was tripped by someone, and fell.

The defendant admitted he partly blamed the governor at Wakefield’s segregation unit after he was told photographs of his prison wedding to actress Paula Williamson two months earlier would no longer be allowed to leave the jail until his release.

He said the authorities had “humiliated a beautiful woman on the greatest day of her life”.

Bronson said he intended to whisper “where’s my wife’s photos?” in what he described as a “wake-up call” to Mr Docherty to not mess with his family.

The court had heard how Mr Docherty suffered swelling to the neck, scratches to the face and whiplash following the incident, but Branson dismissed the injuries as “minor” and said he was “embarrassed to even discuss them”.

Bronson had told jurors that for the first time in his life he was an “innocent man”.

He said: “Since when is it a crime to hug your fellow man? There is not enough man hugs in this insane world today.”

Bronson admitted he had been a “very nasty man” as he described to the jury how in his 44 years in prison he had held 11 hostages in nine different sieges – including governors, doctors, staff and, on one occasion, his solicitor.

He had caused damage to nine prison roofs at an estimated cost of £5 million, he said, but explained he had been making progress at the time of the flare-up at HMP Wakefield in the hope he may earn parole “somewhere down the line”.

He had even passed a violence reduction course on the prison’s segregation unit, he added.

The prosecution had outlined some of Bronson’s previous convictions to show he had a tendency to commit unprovoked acts of violence, including as recently as 2014 when he grabbed the governor of HMP Woodhill in a headlock and punched him after he stopped his mail.

But Bronson, who is serving a life sentence for robbery and kidnap, said that was all in the past.

Jurors found Bronson not guilty of attempting to cause grievous bodily harm with intent, after deliberating for just short of three hours.

Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook said: “I know Charlie, this case was defective from the start, but the CPS obviously thought that his previous well-known violence convictions would see them over the line – that is not the way to objectively view evidence.

“Bringing cases like this, and particularly when there are acquittals, helps no-one.

“It costs the taxpayer money they do not need to spend, it ties up court time in cases that should never get off the ground in the first place and, most of all, it does nothing to bring those who genuinely and seriously assault Prison Officers to justice.”

Prison Officer has part of ear bitten off

HMP Nottingham
HMP Nottingham

A prison officer had part of his ear bitten off by an inmate during an attack at Nottingham Prison.

Nottinghamshire Police said it was called to HMP Nottingham just before 9.30am on Wednesday to reports that an officer had been assaulted by an inmate.

The officer was taken to Queen’s Medical Centre for treatment.

The Ministry of Justice said it has passed the matter to Nottinghamshire Police for investigation.

A spokeswoman for Nottinghamshire Police said: “Police were called to HMP Nottingham at 9.28am on Wednesday (July 30, 2014).

“A prison officer had been assaulted and suffered a wound to his ear. He was taken to Nottingham’s Queen’s Medical Centre.

“An investigation is under way.”

A Prison Service spokesperson said: “Prison staff do an excellent job and their safety and security is of paramount importance. Anyone who is violent towards them – or anyone else in prison – can expect to face severe consequences.

“We have referred this incident to the police and are helping them with their inquiries. We always press for the most serious charges to be laid against anyone who is violent in prison.”

Prison Officer Assaults up by 45%

officerfullsutton

The number of serious assaults on prison officers by offenders has risen significantly under the coalition prompting one prisons expert to predict our prisons are on the verge of serious unrest.

A total of 543 assaults by prisoners on officers in jails were referred to the police in 2012, a 45% rise from the 374 assaults referred to police in 2010 when the coalition came to power, official figures showed.

The figure equated to nearly three assaults every two days in 2012.

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said that dedicated and hard-working prison officers should not have to face violence at work and blamed the Government for allowing jails to become overcrowded.

Mr Khan, who unveiled the figures using a written parliamentary question, said: “How can ministers expect to rehabilitate criminals if prisons are dens of violence?

“On their watch, this Government have presided over prisons becoming more and more overcrowded and violent.

“We’ve seen call outs by the prison riot squad up sharply, and last year saw the highest number of deaths in custody for over a decade.

“And all the time prisoners are spending too much time idling away in their cells or on landings instead of undertaking meaningful activity like work, education or training.

“It’s not an overstatement to say that prisons are in crisis and the Government are either oblivious or simply don’t care.”

Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright said the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) is reviewing policy for managing violence in prisons.

Replying to Mr Khan’s question, he said: “NOMS takes the issue of assaults on prison staff very seriously. It currently has systems in place to deal with perpetrators quickly and robustly, with serious incidents referred to the police for prosecution.

“It is working with the police and Crown Prosecution Service to ensure that prisoners who assault staff are charged and punished appropriately.

“NOMS is committed to exploring options to continue to improve how violence is tackled in prisons to keep both staff and prisoners safe. It is currently reviewing the policy and practice of the management of violence.”

Mark Leech, editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisons in England and Wales said the rise in assaults was largely due to savage budget cuts.

Mr Leech said: “Since 2010 over half a billion pounds has been slashed from prison budgets, resulting in fewer staff being employed and as a result already attenuated regimes being reduced even further.

“You cannot expect prison Governors to do everything with next to nothing, our prisons cannot be run on a shoe-string and while Cameron, Clegg and Osbourne are sitting pretty in their ivory towers our prisons are in increasing danger of exploding – I’d like to see Cameron, Clegg and Osbourne manning the landings at Full Sutton for a day; they’d soon change their tune.”

Six more years for death threat prisoners

Feroz Khan (L) Fuad Awale (R)
Feroz Khan (L) Fuad Awale (R)

Two inmates already serving life for murder have been sentenced to six more years each for threatening to kill a prison officer at a North Yorkshire jail days after the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby.

Feroz Khan and Fuad Awale, both 26, were found guilty at the Old Bailey last week following the incident at HMP Full Sutton on May 26 last year.

Khan was also convicted of inflicting grievous bodily harm on prison officer Richard Thompson after relations between Muslim inmates and guards ”became strained” in the days following Fusilier Rigby’s death.

Judge Michael Topolski QC sentenced Khan to six years for threats to kill and three years for GBH, to run concurrently at the end of his life sentence with a minimum of 20 years.

Awale was also sentenced to six years for threats to kill, to be served at the end of his life sentence, which carries a minimum term of 38 years.

Passing sentence, the judge said: “This was a premeditated, well planned and carefully orchestrated attack on a single and previously identified prison officer, who was, as such, performing a public duty and upon whom it has had a significant impact.

“The events as a whole formed part of a joint enterprise involving force and weapons, committed by men with convictions for murder.

“Both of you carried weapons to the cleaning office.

“Given the context, the level of threats uttered and repeated were truly appalling, causing great anguish, not just to prison officer Thompson but also his colleagues who were convinced he was going to die in horrific circumstances.”

The men were cleared by the jury of charges of false imprisonment during the four and a half hour stand-off along with co-defendant David Watson, 27.

Khan was also found not guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm against another officer.

Their trial earlier this year heard allegations that the defendants called for the release of Abu Qatada and Roshonara Choudhry, a student who attempted to stab MP Stephen Timms to death in 2010.

They were also accused of demanding to be flown to Afghanistan, the jury heard.

Awale had taken knives from a cleaning office cupboard and rubbed them together giving the impression he was “preparing to carve a Sunday joint”, the judge said.

He told Mr Thompson: “Stop struggling – I’ve killed two people, I will kill you, I will kill you.”

The officer said he had “every belief” he would be killed if he did not do as ordered because of the “intensity and seriousness” Awale had displayed.

Awale at one point asked Khan “can I give him one in a non-vital area?” and later said: “I thought his head would have come off by now.”

Khan, for his part, told Mr Thompson that he had more reason to be fearful because he was believed to be ex-military, the court heard.

When hedenied having been in the military, Khan told the officer: “Well, somebody has to make a sacrifice.”

Gerry Adams meeting ‘productive’ say sons of murdered prison officer

brianstack

The family of a murdered prison officer who was widely believed to have been killed by the IRA has held a meeting with Sinn Fein President, Gerry Adams.

Brian Stack, who was Chief Prison Officer at Portlaoise Prison in the Irish Republic, was shot in Dublin in 1983. He died 18 months later.

The IRA never claimed responsibility for the murder, but his family believe he was targeted because of his job.

His son, Austin Stack, described the meeting as very productive and genuine.

Two of the murdered officer’s sons met Mr Adams at the Irish houses of parliament in Dublin on Thursday evening.

Speaking after the meeting, Austin Stack told the Irish state broadcaster RTE that no promises has been made, but that the Sinn Fein president had agreed to help them as best he could.

Mr Stack added that his family felt the offer was genuine and said they are due to meet Mr Adams again in about four weeks.

His father was shot in the back of the neck as he walked along Dublin’s South Circular Road shortly after leaving a boxing tournament.

He was the only prison officer to be assassinated in the Republic of Ireland during the Troubles.

The man who carried out the shooting escaped on a motorbike, driven by an accomplice.

The prison officer was left brain damaged and paralysed from the neck down by the shooting and died from his injuries.

Austin Stack, the eldest of his three children, was 14 at the time of the shooting and is now the assistant governor of Wheatfield Prison in west Dublin.

He said he believes the IRA carried out the attack because his father thwarted a number attempts by members of the paramilitary group to escape from Portlaoise Prison and to smuggle weapons into the high security jail.

Reflect

Mr Stack has said he wants the IRA to admit responsibility for his father’s murder and his family want answers and closure from their discussions with the Sinn Fein president.

They have asked Mr Adams to speak to his contacts about the killing in the hope they can find out who carried it out and why.

“We’re not looking for any form of revenge. We would like to sit down with those people, talk to them and get some form of responsibility.”

Mr Adams, who stepped down as MP for West Belfast to become a member of the Irish parliament two years ago, has consistently denied that he was ever a member of the IRA.

Speaking after the meeting, the Sinn Fein president told RTE it had been a “good” and “comprehensive discussion”.

“There are many families who are looking for closure. It may be that I won’t be able to help but I certainly have the desire to be of assistance,” Mr Adams said.

He added: “We have each agreed to go off and reflect on what was said. And we have agreed to meet again.”