Terror prisoners segregation was unlawful

Kamel Bourgass
Kamel Bourgass

Two high-profile terrorist prisoners, including one held in Cambridgeshire, who were segregated for extended periods have won challenges at the UK’s highest court.

Five Supreme Court justices in London allowed appeals by Ricin plot conspirator Kamel Bourgass, detained at HMP Whitemoor, and ”liquid bomber” Tanvir Hussain.

In March 2012 the pair failed to persuade appeal judges that their treatment was unlawful.

They were alleged to have intimidated and bullied other inmates over matters of faith, and authorities in their respective jails had considered it was necessary to separate them from other prisoners ”for good order and discipline”.

Both men denied accusations that they tried to influence and dictate the beliefs of other prisoners.

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that their segregation was not lawful after initial periods of 72 hours.

The judges granted declarations in each case that the “appellant’s segregation beyond the initial period of 72 hours was not authorised, so was unlawful”.

The pair had also raised human rights issues – they claimed their rights had been violated – but that aspect of their case was rejected by the Supreme Court.

Bourgass, an Algerian, is serving 17 years for conspiracy to commit public nuisance by using poisons or explosives in relation to the 2002 Ricin terrorist plot.

He is also serving a life sentence for murdering Detective Constable Stephen Oake, 40, with a kitchen knife during his 2003 arrest at a flat in Manchester.

He injured four other officers during that attack and is serving sentences for attempted murder of two officers and wounding a third.

Hussain was one of three men convicted of a plot to launch suicide attacks on flights from Heathrow to America and Canada using liquid bombs made of hydrogen peroxide hidden in soft drink bottles. He is serving life with a minimum tariff of 32 years.

While detained at HMP Whitemoor, Bourgass was segregated from March 10 2010 until April 22 and again from April 23 until October or November of that year.

Hussain was segregated at HMP Frankland in County Durham from April 24 2010 until October 2010.

Mark Leech editor of the national prisons newspaper Converse said this was an important judgement with far reaching consequences.

Mr Leech said: “Put aside the understandable distaste that we all have for terrorist prisoners, this case is about fairness and an independent process.

“Of course its right that we should be able to segregate those who pose a threat to good order and discipline inside our prisons – but a part of that process must be that the prisoner concerned has the right to know why he is being segregated and have the opportunity to contest the case against him – that doesn’t happen and has now been ruled unlawful.

“I once spent the best part of two years in this kind of segregation, solitary confinement, which has devastating emotional and mental health effect on a person and certainly did so on me.

“There are segregation review boards which meet to consider whether the segregation should continue, but it is not independent, it doesn’t examine the original allegations and the prisoner has no opportunity to answer or contest the case against him – which cannot as a matter of basic human rights be right.”