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Sunday, 18 October 2015

Post 3 - The Fraud of Justice - or Good Practice - You Decide

There was a very lively discussion with several 'twitterati' Saturday 17 September (in case you want to track back and read the discussions) generally centred around Probation "Good Practice".  So rather than repeat views and comment I thought I would simply give you a question and allow you to form a view and hopefully expand the debate.

Someone is charged with Murder, the case is fully investigated by the authorities, it results in charges being brought and court proceedings begin.  The evidence is supplied to all parties and is thoroughly examined in an open court by experts on both sides.  The decision is made by a jury of 12 having heard all the evidence tested before them in court, they decide guilty and the Judge passes sentence after a full examination of the evidence has taken place.

Cost for process circa £250,000.

The same someone goes to jail for say 20 years.  Throughout that time he is examined by experts, encounters psychological examination, psychiatric assessment, he is monitored closely for years by those trained in such matters.  His letters are examined, his phone calls are listened to, his visitors monitored, searched and vetted.  Copious and numerous reports are written about him during that time, until he is considered ready to be considered for release.

The Parole Board of experts are supplied with hundreds of papers in a dossier to be examined and digested by them, the same dossier is supplied to the prisoner and his lawyer in order for him to prepare and submit his representations and comment on the dossier.  Both parties can call upon experts and witnesses to take part in an oral hearing where all the material is examined and questions can be asked of witnesses and the prisoner, victims can comment in writing or appear in person to make their personal statement.  The Parole Board panel is chaired by a Judge, and following a full examination of the evidence the panel takes a view on risk to the public and the Judge orders release.

Cost for term in prison to release circa £1.2million.

In the community on license and an allegation is made (not always) and then RECALLED on the recommendation of a probation officer.  Done without any thought to the human cost to friends, families, work colleagues, the existence painstakingly built up sometimes over years.  No examination of the evidence in court, without any testing of the evidence, often without sight of the evidence against him, always without the benefit of representations to the courts or the home office before the recall, and NO Judicial input whatsoever, no expert evaluation simply arbitrary imprisonment, the Guantanamo syndrome if you like.  You stand suspected, not charged, not remanded, no simply accused therefore we imprison you? Done in our name by bureaucrats in Probation and NOMS and often with complete disregard to the protocols in place for such a decision to be made. 

Financial and Human Cost to the taxpayer unlimited!

This is arrogance of the highest order by practitioners drunk on power.  Is this process right, Humane and Just in the world we live in today?  How can it be that a probation officer (could be 24 years old) makes a decision which costs us millions of pounds every single year, year in and year out, with no accountability, no transparency?

The core values of our website, are to allow access to Justice for everyone (Accessibility), to create transparent systems and processes where we incarcerate anyone, patient, child, woman or man (Transparency), ensure compliance with the statutory instruments and the integrity of practitioners and those tasked with the care of those who are voiceless in our society (Accountability) and try to ensure that those tasked with the care and responsibility for the voiceless wield their power with human compassion and integrity (Humility).

Go to our website and join us, make a difference and bring real change to a system which costs the tax payer (us) tens of millions year in year out, and do it in a pro-social way.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Post 2 - Author The Solicitors Journal about us on 20th August 2015.

Launched at the Law Society this week, Bolts&Bars is a new access to justice tool on behalf of the 'voiceless'. Designed as a one-stop-shop for those interested in the incarcerated - not necessarily by court order - including immigrants, children, the elderly, and those with mental health conditions, it aims to provide valuable information about the UK's detention centres and offer a transparent forum for the imprisoned to share their experiences.

'Some people deserve to be in prison for their crimes but they still deserve to be heard,' said Bolts&Bars founder. 'But there is no excuse for young children, mentally ill people, or migrants not to be able to access the law.'

One prominent supporter of the project is notable barrister Flo Krause, who successfully acted for former prisoner John Hirst in his high-profile and contentious action against the blanket ban on prisoner voting, which left David Cameron feeling 'physically ill'.

Providing specific examples from two decades of practising prison law, Krause said: 'To be truly voiceless, somebody is not only unheard but unseen. People are put away into institutions and become voiceless. The institutions subsume them. They disappear behind walls and under the weight of rules and regulations. There is no one to witness their plight and no one to record the dramas that go on behind those thick walls.'

Also speaking at the launch, Russell-Cooke partner Peter Cadman observed that even in the 'good-old days of legal aid' there was an element of abandonment of clients by solicitors after conviction. Now, with funding squeezed ever tighter, the ability for firms to provide aftercare to clients is nearly impossible.

'The timing of this venture is excellent,' he added. 'We are at a time when the public purse is not paying lawyers to assist and represent, and at a time when the cost of keeping a prisoner in prison is so astronomic that the balance between the spend and the save is just wrong.'

Cadman said he hopes the project will help offenders navigate the penal system and calm the 'ripple effect' that impacts on a prisoner's family and friends by providing them the information needed to cope with an incarcerated loved one.

Although the Howard League has benefitted greatly from this silliest of seasons, the same cannot be said for Bolts&Bars. The event, which took place within the Law Society's 'magnificent' Common Room, far from reached the venue's attendance capacity. Barring a couple of legal journalists and invested supporters it was empty, despite 'hundreds' of emails declaring an interest in the launch.

The Bolts&Bars team clearly face an uphill battle. If you cannot get lawyers into a room to discuss our rotten prison estate, what hope have you of opening up various important issues to the wider public who are predisposed to thinking prisoners should forfeit their rights upon incarceration. Maybe, as SJ's Kevin Poulter has suggested, solicitors should reflect on the ways they support access to justice, perhaps by giving consideration to the work of Bolts&Bars.  Go to their website

John van der Luit-Drummond is deputy editor for Solicitors Journal