The National Prisoners Newspaper

8th August 2011 – No Embargo


The Prison Service has increased its security state to amber in light of the riots that have hit London in the last two days – but it may be a double-edged sword said Mark Leech, editor of Converse, the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales.

Mr Leech said:  “It is right that the Prison Service are aware that what is happening on the streets could spill over into the prisons – particularly if those currently arrested end up in prison themselves.

“But they have a difficult line to tread between pre-empting unrest on one hand, and not seeking to incite it on the other.

“Politicians inflame the situation by just dismissing those who have caused this rioting as ‘mindless thugs’, rioting cannot be condoned, of course not, but equally politicians must strive to understand why it has happened even if they cannot explain it.


Lib Dems: “Decriminalise all personal drug use” policy

Liberal Democrats are poised to call for the decriminalisation of the possession of all drugs, insisting that current laws are “harmful” and “ineffective”.

Party members are almost certain to back a motion at next month’s conference urging the Government to set up an expert panel to consider the decriminalisation of personal drug use.

The motion will become party policy if it wins support at the conference in Birmingham, which is likely to provoke tensions with the party’s Conservative coalition partners.

The Lib Dems would like to see drug law reforms based on legislation in Portugal, where the personal use of any controlled drug is no longer a criminal offence.

Drug users would no longer face a prison sentence or fine but would instead be required to go for treatment or counselling. The current penalties for dealing drugs would not change.

The motion states that there is “increasing evidence that the UK’s drugs policy is not only ineffective and not cost-effective but actually harmful, impacting particularly severely on the poor and marginalised”.

It points out that those countries which have decriminalised possession of drugs have not seen increased use of those drugs relative to their neighbours.

“Individuals, especially young people, can be damaged both by the imposition of criminal records and by a drug habit, and … the priority for those addicted to all substances must be healthcare, education and rehabilitation, not punishment,” the motion says.

“One of the key barriers to developing better drugs policy has been the previous Labour government’s persistent refusal to take on board scientific advice, and the absence of an overall evaluative framework of the UK’s drugs strategy.”

Lib Dem members believe that an evidence-based policy could produce large savings for the Home Office and Ministry of Justice, which could be reinvested in education, treatment and rehabilitation programmes.

The motion will be moved by Ewan Hoyle, founder of Liberal Democrats for Drug Policy Reform, and supported by Lib Dem MEP Sir Graham Watson.

Party members can submit amendments to the motion by September 5, ahead of the conference on September 17-21.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman dismissed a similar call from Labour ex-Cabinet minister Bob Ainsworth to legalise hard drugs last year.

Mr Ainsworth said the war on drugs had been “nothing but a disaster” and switching the trade from the hands of criminals to doctors and pharmacies appeared to be the best solution.

Asked whether David Cameron thought Mr Ainsworth’s ideas merited consideration, his spokesman said simply: “No.”

He added: “The Government is not in favour of legalisation of drugs because we don’t think it is the right approach.

“Drugs cause a lot of harm in society and we don’t think legalising them would be consistent with minimising that harm.”

But Mr Ainsworth claimed that the PM privately believed there should be a “full debate” on drug decriminalisation.

In a Westminster Hall debate in December, Mr Ainsworth said Mr Cameron had supported a Home Affairs Select Committee report in 2002 that called on the Government to reclassify Ecstasy from A to B.

The Labour MP added: “More importantly, it asked us to have a full debate on the alternatives to prohibition and the Member (Mr Cameron) went along with it. He supported it and he advocated it – and he was right to do so.

“But when he became the leader of the Conservative Party, for reasons best known to himself, he felt he needed to recant, and he said that he had been wrong to support that policy.

“I think that shines a light on exactly what the problem is here.”



Five officers from Merseyside Police’s elite gun crime unit have been sacked after a photograph emerged of them “behaving inappropriately” inside a house they were supposed to be searching.

The force confirmed that the five officers were dismissed from the force, without notice, having been found guilty of gross misconduct.

Police said all five constables worked within the Matrix team and were found guilty of gross misconduct after the image came to light during a professional standards investigation earlier in the year.

The mobile phone photograph, published in the Liverpool Echo, appears to show officers “fooling around” during a raid on a suspect’s home.

The investigation has already seen one sergeant from the team get the sack.

Deputy Chief Constable Bernard Lawson said: “We expect the highest standards from our officers and these officers fell far short of that expectation.

“Our residents and communities have the right to expect our officers to act professionally and with integrity at all times so that they can have confidence in the work that we do.”

There are also allegations that items seized during search operations later appeared on the internet auction site eBay.

The sergeant who was sacked in May and two constables remain on police bail in relation to the eBay probe.

Matrix leads Merseyside Police’s fight against drug-related gun and gang crime, having played a major role in targeting the gangs associated with the murder of 11-year-old Rhys Jones, shot in Croxteth in August 2007.


Human rights groups and lawyers intend to pull out of the inquiry into British complicity in allegations of torture because it does not have “credibility or transparency”, they said today.

In a joint letter to the solicitor for the inquiry, 10 groups including Liberty, Reprieve and Amnesty International said they did not intend to submit any evidence or attend any further meetings with the inquiry team.

It follows the publication of the inquiry’s protocols which show the final decision on whether material uncovered by the inquiry, led by Sir Peter Gibson, can be made public will rest with the Cabinet Secretary.

The protocols also stated that former detainees and their lawyers will not be able to question intelligence officials and all evidence from current or former members of the security and intelligence agencies, below the level of head, will be heard in private.

In the letter, the campaigners wrote: “Plainly an inquiry conducted in the way that you describe and in accordance with the protocol would not comply with Article Three of the European Convention on Human Rights.

“We are particularly disappointed that the issue of what material may be disclosed to the public will not be determined independently of Government and, further, that there will be no meaningful participation of the former and current detainees and other interested third parties.

“As you know, we were keen to assist the inquiry in the vital work of establishing the truth about allegations that UK authorities were involved in the mistreatment of detainees held abroad.

“Our strong view, however, is that the process currently proposed does not have the credibility or transparency to achieve this.

“If the inquiry proceeds on this basis, therefore, and in light of indications from the lawyers acting for former detainees that they will not be participating, we do not intend to submit any evidence or attend any further meetings with the inquiry team.”

The letter was signed by campaigners the Aire centre, Amnesty International, British Irish Rights Watch, Cageprisoners, Freedom from Torture, Human Rights Watch, Justice, Liberty, Redress and Reprieve.

A second letter written jointly by Imran Khan and solicitors who represent former Guantanamo Bay detainees also confirmed their intention to pull out.

“We consider it impossible to advise those whom we represent that the structure and protocols now confirmed for the Gibson inquiry can achieve what are essential ingredients for a public inquiry into grave state crimes,” it said.

“What is proposed is a ‘Detainee Inquiry’ in which there will be no constructive participation by the detainees.

“The detainees will not be able to ask questions or see or hear the key evidence which is to be considered only in secret session.

“They will not even know if the individuals being questioned are the right ones.”

They added that human rights obligations and international law for an inquiry “have been deliberately avoided”.

The lack of input for detainees, “simply serves to demonstrate that there is no comprehension on the part of the Government of the gravity of the crimes which representatives of the state may have committed”, they said.

“We had hoped as lawyers to assist in a transparent exercise of vital importance.

“It is a matter of profound regret that our assessment is that the inquiry does not provide the means by which this can be realised.

“In the absence of there being any alteration to the protocols, our advice is compelled to be that it is inappropriate for our clients to submit evidence.”

A series of high-profile human rights lawyers signed the letter, including Louise Christian, Irene Nembhard, Gareth Peirce, Tayab Ali and Imran Khan.

Solicitor Gareth Peirce, who has signed the letter to the inquiry, represents 11 current or former Guantanamo Bay detainees.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said: “If this inquiry proceeds without the participation of the victims it will be nothing more than a waste of time and public money.

“Until a credible, independent process is established this shameful chapter of the war on terror continues.

“A year ago the Government accepted praise for the promise of a public inquiry – but the result, involving sidelining victims and a presumption of secrecy, is nothing of the kind.”

Tim Cooke-Hurle, an investigator with Reprieve, added: “Since the torture inquiry was announced a year ago, we have tried repeatedly to make it work.

“It is frustrating that the Government has instead chosen to proceed with a secretive and toothless review.

“By ignoring the concerns of torture victims and major human rights organisations, the Government risks a pointless whitewash.”

Prime Minister David Cameron announced the inquiry a year ago after claims that former Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed was tortured with the knowledge of the British security services while held by the CIA in Pakistan.

A number of other former detainees have since brought legal action against the UK Government, claiming they were subjected to similar mistreatment with the knowledge of MI5 or MI6.

Allegations have also been made of UK involvement in the extra-judicial transfer, or rendition, of terror suspects between countries since the 9/11 attacks on the US.

Last November, Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke said secret payouts to 16 former detainees held at Guantanamo Bay were necessary to enable the security services to concentrate on protecting Britain and pave the way for the inquiry.

Weeks of negotiations led to a settlement which will avoid the need for protracted legal battles that could have run up a bill of £50 million over five years, Mr Clarke said.

An inquiry spokeswoman insisted it would still go ahead.

“The inquiry regrets the decision announced today by the solicitors to the detainees and the NGOs not to participate in the inquiry,” she said.

“The inquiry’s parameters were laid down by the Prime Minister and made public on 6 July 2010.

“No one has challenged in court proceedings the legality of the inquiry.

“The inquiry will go ahead. It will examine the relevant documentation held by Government. It will hear the key Government witnesses.

“The inquiry offers the detainees and anyone else with evidence relevant to its terms of reference the only opportunity for them to give evidence to an independent inquiry.

“The detainees and the NGOs have alleged the involvement or awareness of the UK Government and its security and intelligence services in relation to the mistreatment and rendition of detainees held by other countries. The inquiry would welcome such evidence. We hope they will reconsider their decision.”

Tara Lyle, a policy adviser with Amnesty International UK, said: “This is a desperately needed inquiry into extremely serious allegations but the arrangements for it are secretive, unfair and deeply flawed.

“We need an inquiry that is as open and effective as possible, not this semi-secret process that lacks scope and ambition.

“Those that suffered terrible abuse are set to be let down by this inquiry, while the general public is likely to be denied the opportunity to learn what went wrong during this dark chapter in our history.”

Chief Constable and Deputy Arrested

The Chief Constable of Cleveland and his deputy have been arrested by detectives investigating allegations of misconduct, abuse of position and corrupt practice.

Sean Price and deputy Derek Bonnard are being questioned at a police station in North Yorkshire. A woman was also arrested.

The inquiry is being conducted by Warwickshire Police Chief Constable Keith Bristow. He is being assisted by senior detectives from North Yorkshire Police.

In May, the Warwickshire force was brought in to oversee a wide-ranging corruption investigation after allegations were made against present and former members of Cleveland Police Authority.

A statement from Warwickshire Police said: “Police officers conducting a criminal investigation into a number of people with current or past associations with Cleveland Police Authority and the manner in which the authority may have conducted some of its business have arrested three people on suspicion of misconduct in a public office, fraud by abuse of position and corrupt practice.

“Two men and a woman were arrested and have been taken to a police station in North Yorkshire where they will be interviewed.

“A number of premises are being searched in connection with these arrests.”

A spokesman for the Independent Police Complaints Commission said the IPCC is not involved in the investigation but has been informed of the arrests.

The Home Office has also been informed of the arrests. A spokesman said a statement will be made later on Wednesday (3/8/2011).

More than 10 million people in jail worldwide!


Key points 

More than 10.1 million people are held in penal institutions throughout the world, mostly as pre-trial detainees/remand prisoners or as sentenced prisoners. Almost half of these are in the United States (2.29m), Russia (0.81m) or China (1.65m sentenced prisoners). In addition more than 650,000 are in ‘detention centres’ in China; if these are included the overall Chinese total is over 2.3 million and the world total more than 10.75 million.

The United States has the highest prison population rate in the world, 743 per 100,000 of the national population, followed by Rwanda (c. 595), Russia (568), Georgia (547), U.S. Virgin Is. (539), Seychelles (507), St Kitts & Nevis (495), British Virgin Is. (468), Belize (439), Dominica (431), Bermuda (428), Grenada (423) and Curacao (422).

However, more than half the countries and territories (54%) have rates below 150 per 100,000.

The world population at mid-2010 was estimated at 6.9 billion (United Nations); if set against the world prison population of 10.1 million this would produce a world prison population rate of 146 per 100,000 (156 per 100,000 if set against a world prison population of 10.75 million).

Prison population rates vary considerably between different regions of the world, and between different parts of the same continent. For example:

••in Africa the median rate for western African countries is 47.5 whereas for southern African countries it is 219;

••in the Americas the median rate for south American countries is 175 whereas for Caribbean countries it is 357.5;

••in Asia the median rate for south central Asian countries (mainly the Indian sub-continent) is 42 whereas for eastern Asian countries it is 155.5;

••in Europe the median rate for western European countries is 96 whereas for the countries spanning Europe and Asia (e.g. Russia & Turkey) it is 228.

••in Oceania (including Australia and New Zealand) the median rate is 135.

Prison populations are growing in all five continents.

Updated information on countries included in previous editions of the World Prison Population List shows that prison populations have risen in 78% of countries (in 71% of countries in Africa, 82% in the Americas, 80% in Asia, 74% in Europe and 80% in Oceania).

Lockerbie Bomber in Libyan Demo Parade

The  Lockerbie bomber has shown his support for beleaguered Libyan President Colonel Gaddafi –  appearing at a government rally broadcast on state TV; causing Converse to ask why he is still on licence.

Wheelchair-bound Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi was pictured at the demonstration  in Tripoli, two years after being freed from prison in Scotland, when it was said he only had three months to live.

Mark Leech editor of Converse told the BBC that al-Megrahi was released on temporary licence when it was believed he was within days of death.

Mr Leech said: “Clearly the medical information on which that licence was based was flawed.

“What’s more a condition of his licence was that he would not flaunt his freedom – had this been any other prisoner in the UK, still alive two years after they should have died, and appearing across the world’s media sticking two fingers up to his hundreds of victims, their feet would not touch.

“They won’t get al-Megrahi back now, no matter what the law technically says can happen – but it should act as a warning about releasing notorious terrorists in the future no matter how close the medical experts claims they are to the proverbial ‘deaths door’.”


Norway’s ‘Solitary Confinement’ That Couldn’t Happen Here


The National Prisoners Newspaper

26th July 2011 – No Embargo

Anders Behring Breivik – The Solitary Confinement That Would Be Illegal Here

Norway, for all its claim to respect for human rights, imposed four weeks of solitary confinement on the alleged mass killer, Anders Behring Breivik, which would be illegal in UK prisons says Mark Leech, Editor of Converse, the national prisoners’ newspaper.

Mr Leech said:  “Neither judges nor magistrates have any power to stipulate what happens to a prisoner once they arrive at the jail, that is for the prison Governor to decide; not even the Secretary of State for Justice, Ken Clarke, could order a Governor to put a prisoner in solitary confinement; it would be illegal.

“In England and Wales solitary confinement of a prisoner, known technically here as Cellular Confinement – or ‘CC’- can only happen after the prisoner has been found guilty of a disciplinary offence in the jail, but even then the absolute maximum, no matter how many charges he has been found guilty of, is three weeks – and even that is subject to the assessment of a medical officer who can call it off at any time.

“What’s more, even when a prisoner is undergoing ‘CC’ he is still entitled to visits from his solicitor, is he not stopped from receiving or writing letters, and even his family visits should not ordinarily be postponed if he is on CC unless there are good grounds for doing so.”



1. Converse is the national monthly newspaper for prisons in England and Wales, published by Prisons org uk Limited, ( it has a circulation of around 60,000 copies.

2. Its editor is Mark Leech (

3. Contact Mark Leech: 08450 660011


CONVERSE NEWS REPORT: 26/7/2011: 11:56hrs

Police officers engaged in a “prolonged, persistent and pervasive conspiracy to pervert the course of justice” as it emerged a key murder trial witness had sex with a policewoman, was taken to a brothel and allowed to take drugs, a Supreme Court ruling has revealed.

The “shocking and disgraceful” police misconduct also revealed that Karl Chapman, a professional criminal and supergrass, socialised at officers’ homes and visited pubs as West Yorkshire Police sought to secure his continued co-operation.

The Supreme Court judgment, published yesterday, reveals the “variety of wholly inappropriate benefits” bestowed on Chapman by West Yorkshire officers.

One judge, Lord Brown, found that a large number of officers, including “several of very high rank”, were engaged in a “prolonged, persistent and pervasive conspiracy to pervert the course of justice”.

The force also ignored a number of violent crimes allegedly committed by Chapman, including the brutal rape of his cellmate and the vicious stabbing of a fellow prisoner with broken glass bound with twine.

Chapman received special treatment because he was the main prosecution witness in the case of Paul Maxwell, who last month admitted murdering 85-year-old Joe Smales in Wakefield in 1996. Maxwell received a 17-and-a-half-year jail term.

Maxwell and his brother, Daniel Mansell, were originally found guilty of the attack after a Leeds Crown Court trial in 1998, but the convictions were quashed by the Court of Appeal in 2009 on the grounds that the convictions had been “procured by gross prosecutorialmisconduct”.

Five Supreme Court judges ruled by a majority of three to two that Maxwell should face a retrial, with the judgment published yesterday.

Lord Brown stated: “To describe police misconduct on this scale merely as shocking and disgraceful is to understate the gravity of its impact on the prosecution process.

“It is hard to imagine a worse case of sustained prosecutorial dishonesty designed to secure and hold a conviction at all costs.”

The full extent of the officers’ behaviour was uncovered by a North Yorkshire Police investigation on behalf of the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), which probes potential miscarriages of justice.

Referring to the CCRC report, Lord Brown said: “The unchallenged findings of this report are not just disturbing but quite frankly astonishing.”

He said: “They were benefits which both contravened the controls designed to preserve the integrity of Chapman’s evidence and were in addition inherently improper.

“Amongst the more surprising were that whilst in police custody Chapman was at various times permitted to visit a brothel, to engage in sexual relations with a woman police constable, to visit public houses, to consume not merely alcohol but also cannabis and even heroin, to socialise at police officers’ homes, to enjoy unsupervised periods of freedom.

“And indeed, throughout the actual period of the appellant’s trial, whilst threatening not to give evidence after all, he was permitted long periods of leisure (hours at a time) in places of his choice, ostensibly as “exercise”, and in addition phone calls and visits from his own solicitor.”

Lord Brown said a detective mentioned the brothel outing to the female police officer with whom Chapman was enjoying sexual relations. Chapman wrote to her apologising: “I was drunk and stoned on weed, they paraded a dozen beautiful women in front of me and said take your pick.”

Lord Brown said: “A large number of police officers involved in the investigation and prosecution of the Smales robbery and murder case, including several of very high rank, engaged in a prolonged, persistent and pervasive conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

He went on: “To describe police misconduct on this scale merely as shocking and disgraceful is to understate the gravity of its impact upon the integrity of the prosecution process.

“It is hard to imagine a worse case of sustained prosecutorial dishonesty designed to secure and hold a conviction at all costs.”

Lord Brown said: “Scarcely less remarkable and deplorable than this catalogue ofmisconduct, moreover, is the fact that, notwithstanding its emergence through the subsequent investigation, not a single one of the many police officers involved has since been disciplined or prosecuted for what he did.”

West Yorkshire Police deputy chief constable David Crompton said the recent re-investigation of the case had been praised for its “thoroughness and professionalism” and the “honesty, thoroughness and integrity of the officers”.

But he said “in light of the criticism levelled by the Supreme Court judges, we feel it now appropriate to re-examine the previous decisions made several years ago”.

The senior police officer said: “In relation to the original investigation back in 1996, the methods used to deal with the main witness were wholly unacceptable and cannot be condoned in any way whatsoever.

“As a result, the matter was highlighted to the Criminal Cases Review Commission and, for transparency, North Yorkshire Police were brought in to conduct an inquiry.

“As a result of that extensive and lengthy investigation, the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) decided there should be no criminal proceedings in relation to any officer.

“Nevertheless, in light of the criticism levelled by the Supreme Court judges, we feel it now appropriate to re-examine the previous decisions made several years ago which were based upon the outcome of both the criminal and disciplinary investigations conducted by North Yorkshire Police.

“Since the original investigation was carried out 16 years ago, there has been a complete root and branch overhaul of procedures to safeguard against such failings and to prevent them from ever happening again.”