Media

What are our prisoners suffering read Nick Hardwick’s evidence on line

Getting Rid of Nick Hardwick – Just Shooting The Messenger

What has Nick Hardwick done to potentially be denied a second term? Simply told the truth about the crisis in prisons. The prison system is in meltdown and Hardwick tells it as it is. There has been a series of damning inspection reports on prisons and young offender institutions since Nick Hardwick was appointed in 2010.

Recently I had a conversation with a man I admire greatly, the former chief inspector of prisons, Lord David Ramsbotham. The phone call was depressing. We both agreed that the prison system is in a worse state now than at any time we have known it. And that is saying something, given he was the author of many scathing inspection reports and once described conditions at Holloway jail as “unspeakable”. I have direct experience of poor jail conditions, having served a lengthy sentence in the 1960s, when many prisons were run by thugs in uniform and a bread and water diet was on the punishment menu.

I had called Ramsbotham to discuss whether the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) would decide not to give the current chief inspector, Nick Hardwick, a second term when his present five-year contract runs out next June.

A reliable source had told me Chris Grayling, the justice minister, wanted rid of Hardwick following a series of damning inspection reports on prisons and young offender institutions (YOIs), since he was appointed in 2010. Whereas predecessors had often been critical, unusually, every recent inspection by Hardwick was damning.

My source indicated Hardwick wanted to serve a second term, as did his predecessor, Anne Owers. But a spokesperson for the MoJ says that Hardwick’s tenure expires next June and that “it is simply policy to readvertise the role at the end of the five-year appointment”: no decision has been made. But they did not readvertise Owers’ second contract. So I trust my source more than I do the MoJ, and my belief is that Grayling wants Hardwick out.
Eric Allison, The Guardian, 08/10/14

Taken from the Miscarriage of Justice Newsletter


Press Releases and Media
02/05/2014
Constance Briscoe

Anyone who has been convicted in a trial, where Constance Briscoe was the Crown Prosecution Barrister or convicted in a trial where Constance Brisoce was the judge, may have good cause to find appropriate legal help to review their prosecution and conviction.
In particular if you know of anyone falsely accused/convicted of sexual offences, ask them to contact, Helga Speck of P.A.F.A.A. / S.O.F.A.P.

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Constance Briscoe Guilty: High-Flying Barrister Jailed for Lying

Paul Peachey, Indpendent, 01/05/14

Scotland Yard has launched a new criminal inquiry into one of Britain’s best-known barristers, as her high-flying career ended Friday 2nd May with an sixteen month prison term.

Once feted as a black role model and champion of the abused, part-time judge Constance Briscoe was damned over her role in the political destruction of the former Energy Secretary Chris Huhne – and portrayed as a manipulative fantasist whose own family had warned the authorities for years that she had lied and falsified documents on her path to legal success.

Briscoe, 56, the author of a bestselling memoir of her unhappy childhood, is the first judge to be jailed for nearly two decades, after a jury found her guilty of lying to officers investigating the former Cabinet Minister for swapping speeding points with his then-wife to avoid a driving ban.

Her conviction comes 15 years after the Bar Council declined to investigate allegations made by the barrister’s mother into Briscoe’s fitness to practice over a litany of allegations, which included forging signatures and falsifying information on official documents.

The Crown Prosecution Service said it would not review cases for potential miscarriages of justice during her 29-year career at the bar, despite demands by Mr Huhne, who was jailed for perverting the course of justice after his ex-wife and Briscoe exposed his crime to the media.

“We have no plans to review cases involving Constance Briscoe as counsel,” it said in a statement. Mr Huhne – whose rising political career was ended by the revelations of the point-swapping and subsequent cover-up – said: “Constance Briscoe has been revealed as a compulsive and self-publicising fantasistŠ The Bar, the Crown Prosecution Service and the judiciary went on entrusting her with responsibility for people’s lives because they were not prepared to blow the whistle on one of their own.”

Her conviction means it can now be revealed that police are investigating allegations that Briscoe tampered with documents used in her successful libel battle against her mother in 2008. The case was sparked by the disgraced judge’s unflinching depiction of a violent childhood in her book Ugly but members of her family said her claims were lies. Briscoe and her publishers, Hodder and Stoughton, have pursued 80-year-old Carmen Briscoe-Mitchell for costs of more than £500,000 as a result of the case, but a plan to evict her from her home was put on hold pending the outcome of the barrister’s two trials. The publisher failed to respond to requests for a comment. Ms Briscoe-Mitchell told The Independent that she was preparing to restart the legal battle and demanded an apology after Briscoe claimed in the book that her mother cut her with a knife, beat her for wetting the bed and taunted her about her appearance. “Of course she’ll have to go to prison for lying all the time,” she said. The libel battle divided the family and Ms Briscoe-Mitchell has contended that her daughter won the case based on tampered documents and her status as a senior legal professional.

Scotland Yard confirmed on Thursday that it would be looking into her allegations. “We were contacted in September last year regarding an allegation of fraud, which relates to documents that were allegedly fraudulently obtained from Southwark Council. The matter is being investigated by Lewisham CID,” said a spokesman.

The guilty verdicts brought an end to the second trial of the suspended barrister for misleading police about her central role in exposing Mr Huhne’s crime of passing speeding points to his then wife, former government economist Vicky Pryce, and then tampering with documents to cover up her deception. Briscoe was found guilty of three counts of perverting the course of justice in acting as the fixer for Pryce, her friend and neighbour. Pryce wanted to get revenge on her husband who had been having an affair with an aide by arranging for a newspaper to reveal in 2010 that they had lied about who was driving when he was caught speeding 11 years ago. However, the revelation meant they were both jailed for six months.

Briscoe had claimed that she was told in 2003 about the points swap. Phone records revealed that she was involved in passing the story to newspapers despite her denials to police. She was removed as the main prosecution witness in the Huhne trial – throwing the whole case into jeopardy – and was subsequently charged with three counts of perverting the course of justice. Briscoe’s legal team had claimed that she had become enmeshed in a personal and political manoeuvrings between the feuding politician and the economist after the break-up of the marriage in 2010 and got herself into the “most frightful mess”. However, her story unravelled when the scale of her contacts with the newspaper emerged through emails and telephone calls. During a covertly recorded phone call between Huhne and Pryce, the former minister suspected Briscoe was behind the leaks to the media. “The only person batty enough to go on this sort of vendetta is Constance,” he said.

One journalist wrote to a colleague that Ms Briscoe “is determined to go for the kill. Unlike VP [Vicky Pryce] she is nicely out of the spotlight and just wants Huhne to get his comeuppance, ie, to lose his position as Energy Secretary and be exposed as a liar”. Meanwhile, lawyers for Ms Briscoe-Mitchell, 80, have pored over fresh allegations of dishonesty heard at the trial including claims that she forged of a signature of a friend, an Australian judge, so she could skip a course, fly home and collect an award.

Ms Briscoe-Mitchell wrote a nine-page letter to the Bar Council in 1999, seen by The Independent, saying her daughter should be barred from the profession because of alleged dishonesty and financial wrong-doing. Her letter included a claim that her daughter forged the signature of a relative to obtain a council flat and falsified information on a passport application. The Bar Council declined to act, saying it was a result of “inter family discord” and there was no evidence to substantiate the allegation, according to documents seen by The Independent. The Bar Council failed to respond to inquiries last night.
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R v Constance Briscoe – Sentencing Remarks

Constance Briscoe, you are the third individual to have been convicted of criminal offences arising out of a saga whose origin goes back to 2003, when both Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce lied about who had driven a speeding motor vehicle, and extends to you in 2011, when you sought to hide your true motive and role in the exposure of that story. You then compounded your position by deliberately fabricating evidence when you thought that you might be exposed. If there is a common thread between you all, then, from the insights I have had into the character of the each of you during this case, I regret that it is one of arrogance by educated individuals who considered that respect for the law was for others.

I am only too conscious that your convictions mark a personal tragedy for both you and your children. You are an individual who unsurprisingly has been something of a role model to others. Although blessed with intelligence, you did not have every advantage in life. However you worked hard at school and were the first person in your family to go to university. Having gained a degree in law, you joined the Bar and over the years established a successful criminal practice, and had the privilege of being appointed a Crown Court Recorder. You have done all of this whilst raising your two much loved children.

However, over the years you have also courted a significant degree of self publicity, and therefore built up a familiarity with the workings of the media. I have no doubt that it was this familiarity which led you to offer to assist Vicky Pryce to disseminate her story about taking Chris Huhne’s penalty points. It is clear from the email and phone evidence, that you were intimately involved in the negotiations between Vicky Pryce and the press, both in relation to her requirement for a confidentiality clause and, for the corroboration and dissemination of her story that she had been subjected to pressure; motivated, as was Vicky Pryce, by a joint desire to ensure the downfall of Chris Huhne. In contrast to the true position, when you came to provide your two witness statements to the police, you painted a wholly misleading picture of impartiality and lack of involvement with the press, in order to enhance your credibility as a witness in the criminal proceedings involving them.

Subsequently, when your true attitude and role was exposed by the disclosure of the emails from the Mail on Sunday, you sought to cover your tracks by manufacturing a false witness statement, which admitted to a limited amount of contact with that newspaper. Unfortunately the matter did not stop there, because after this deception had been uncovered, and you had been charged with the offences at counts 1 and 2 on the indictment, you proceeded to manufacture a second false statement, which you provided to a defence expert in order to obtain an innocent explanation for the existence of the first one. It was only after that expert opinion had been served on the Crown Prosecution Service, and they had in turn obtained their own expert evidence, that this further deception was exposed.

I am sure that you realise only too well that such conduct strikes at the heart of our much cherished system of criminal justice, which is integral and invaluable to the good order of society. In those circumstances I regret that I do not consider that any other sentence can be justified, but one involving the deprivation of your liberty. I of course take into account, amongst other matters, your good character, and the devastating effect that these convictions will have upon your career at the Bar. However, your conduct not only involved deliberately seeking to paint a false picture of your role and attitude for the purposes of enhancing your credibility in the Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce prosecution, but was compounded by the deliberate manufacturing of evidence so as to avoid your own detection. The last of these deceptions taking place during the period leading towards your own trial. In those circumstances, and having regard to the principle of totality, I consider that the least sentence which can properly be passed upon you is one of 16 months imprisonment. That total will be reached by consecutive sentences of 4, 5 and 7 months custody respectively, upon counts 1, 2 and 3. You know that you will be released half way through that term, but will remain on licence for the full term and liable to recall if you were to commit any further offence or otherwise breach the conditions of your licence.

Source CrimeLine, 02/05/14

May 2014

A Place to have your say for those maintaining Innocence
The following is a letter to Inside Times, Prison Newspaper from issue May 2014
No proof whatsoever – From The Parents and Family of an Innocent Man

As the parents of a wrongly convicted man in his 50s we would like to know when the government is going to do something about the men accused of sex allegations where there is no proof whatsoever? Why can’t we be like Scotland which have a ‘no evidence, no conviction’ rule? Why is it that courts just judge on the accuser’s say so with no other tangible evidence? A lot of these people are just out for compensation from the courts. You do not know the devastating effect these cases have on the person accused and their loved ones. The stress and upset it causes to the families is irreparable.

How would you feel if you were accused of something you did not do, and were then told that if you plead guilty you will get a light sentence, ie 5 years, but if you plead not guilty, when you know you did not commit these terrible crimes, you are found guilty on the word of your accuser and sentenced to 12 years. Just think for one minute how you would feel if that happened to one of your family. Where is the justice?

There are many publicised incidents of accusers who have been lying and are then found out. One ‘victim’ recently alleged her boyfriend had raped her only to later reveal that she’d had sex with two different men and her boyfriend was innocent. There has also been a story in the media about one woman finding her ex-boyfriends on Facebook and then accusing them of raping her. It was eventually proved that she was lying but not before the damage had been done.

These accusers should be jailed for many years when they are found to be lying, but they rarely are. The damage these cases do to a man’s good name and character is horrific and will follow the accused for the rest of his life. Cap the time limit on historical sex allegations and make it so that anyone who comes forward after 5 years without proof should not be allowed to get to court.

Editorial note: The link below is to a petition to the government calling for a reform of the law and the introduction of a statute of limitations on historical sexual offences. There was such a law in place up until 2003, when it was scrapped by Tony Blair’s government.
www.epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/63867

Independent On Sunday Looking For Falsely Accused

13/12/2012

I am a reporter with the Independent on Sunday and am investigating the issues surrounding wrong allegations and the extremely damaging effects this has on the individual and their family and friends. I would be very interested to hear from anyone with first hand experience of suffering false accusations and realise this is a very sensitive issue so please be reassured that no information will be published without your express permission.

For a preliminary discussion, or just to ask questions or find out more about the article, do please either email me or call me on the number below:
0203 6152396 or email
p.gallagher@independent.co.uk

02/12/2012
Balance, Fairness and the Burden of Proof:A Christmas Gift Worth Treasuring – press release from South Wales Against Wrongful Conviction (SWAWC), Falsely Accused Carers and Teachers (FACT), and False Accusation Support Organisation (FASO).

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