Another criminal trial – another waste of the court’s time – and an even greater waste of public money

The prison system is indefensible, not least in the way that women prisoners are treated. It is acknowledged over and over that those in prison need medical help. Because it is indefensible the government and its agents get tough. They hate to hear the truth. So people like Pauline Cambell are beaten up and taken to trial. Why? Because her daughter died in an inhumane institution, and yes she’s angry.
If people in our prisons are treated like garbage what do we expect the outcome to be? David Blunkett toured South Africa to tell us about using warehouses for prisons – and he’s a member of New Labour!!! Meanwhile in Scandinavia small local prisons are the thing where families can remain in touch more easily, rather than the end of civilisation as we know it.
The following is from Pauline Campbell and now a few day’s old:
Outcome of pre-trial review
Macclesfield Magistrates’ Court, Hibel Road, Macclesfield, Cheshire, SK10 2AB
Wednesday 9 April 2008, 1130-1245 hrs
Defendant: Pauline Campbell
Summary
* Court has today announced a three-day criminal trial, to be held at Knutsford Crown Court, Wednesday 30 July 2008-Friday 1 August 2008.
* Application for legal aid has been refused, on the grounds of ‘interests of justice’.
* The Crown intends to call 13 witnesses to give evidence against me, making a total of 18 witnesses in all.
* Unconditional bail was granted.
Background to case
1. Arrest and charge (obstructing the highway): 5 February 2008, at a prison-death demonstration outside Styal Prison, to protest against the death of the young mother Lisa Marley, who died on 23 January 2008 in the care of the jail. Thirty-two year old Ms Marley was on remand, and therefore legally innocent when she died.
2. Court hearing: 27 February 2008 – ‘not guilty plea’ entered [Macclesfield Magistrates’ Court].
3. A pre-trial review was held on 19 March 2008, also in Macclesfield.
Today’s hearing
* The hearing took place before a panel of lay magistrates: Mrs Saunders (chair); Dr Sharma (male); and Mr Fryer, and I was unrepresented in court today.
* Clerk of the Court (“Senior Legal Adviser”) was Mrs Warren. She declined to answer my question about whether or not she was a qualified solicitor.
* CPS Prosecutor: Mr Jonathan McGahan (solicitor), based at the Crewe office.
* The court agreed to my request for the case to be transferred to another magistrates’ court in Cheshire. The trial will be held in Knutsford; venue: Knutsford Crown Court, Sessions House, Toft Road, Knutsford, Cheshire, WA16 0PB.
* At the start of today’s hearing, my legal aid position was still unclear, and I told the court this would need to be resolved before a trial date was set, to enable me to check if my lawyers were available on the suggested trial date. I further explained that, if my legal aid application was refused, it would be even more important that I speak to lawyers before agreeing to a date, as I would be dependent on lawyers acting pro-bono.
* Hickman and Rose, Solicitors, London, made an application for legal aid on my behalf on 28 February 2008, and again on 7 April 2008. I insisted the “Senior Legal Adviser” make enquiries about my legal aid status. I was told my application had not met the criteria necessary to meet the ‘interests of justice’ test. Despite my earlier request, the court insisted on fixing a trial date.
* The 13 witnesses for the Crown include police officers; Styal Prison staff; GSL prison van staff; and a local authority highways representative. Had these written statements been acceptable to me, fewer witnesses could have attended court. However, I told the court that I was not prepared to accept some of the statements, as they included factual inaccuracies and some outrageous comments about me, which will need to be challenged in court by my lawyers.
* The court has instructed me that legal issues and case law to be argued must be served by 30 June 2008.
* The CPS has still not provided all the necessary statements; two GSL statements are outstanding.
* New information was again handed to me in court today, including a statement from a GSL prisoner escort officer: page one of the statement included a glaring error about my late daughter – that she “had committed suicide [sic] in Styal”. I protested about this factual inaccuracy to the bench, and said the jury did not return a ‘suicide’ verdict at my daughter’s inquest, and I did not want to be confronted with such insensitive and inaccurate statements again in court.


Report
8 April 2008: “Women in custody: a shameful record of deaths in prison”
Comment
“I say again – and told the magistrates in no uncertain terms today – this senseless prosecution is a waste of the court’s time, and a waste of public money. In attempting to criminalise and punish me for protesting against the death of the young mother Lisa Marley, the court shows no compassion and no humanity. I told the bench I am still a deeply grieving mother, and have not been in good health since my daughter Sarah died at the hands of the State in 2003.
“The bench was left in no doubt about my feelings today, and before the hearing ended I said to them: ‘I think it is outrageous that this trial is taking place at all’.
“The case has a vindictive feel about it. I view this prosecution with utter dismay.” [Pauline Campbell]
Pauline Campbell
[Bereaved mother of Sarah Elizabeth Campbell, 18, who died on ‘suicide watch’, Styal Prison’s segregation unit, 2003]
Trustee of The Howard League for Penal Reform
Awarded The 2005 Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize http://www.emmahumphreys.org
9 April 2008
ENDS
Further comment

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