Mackerel and Mutiny.

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by Anna Raccoon on November 27, 2014

Back in September 2013, Chris Grayling was spawning Cod at a rate of knots. He would protect young girls from sexual abuse whilst in his care by incarcerating them in ‘secure colleges’ along with hundreds of 17 year old males…all in the name of efficiency.

Grayling was asked by the Treasury to cut the Ministry of Justice budget by 1%. That would be £142 million. The man who had already switched parties to ensure his speedy progress up the political ladder responded by offering to cut £220 million. Has any other Minister volunteered to cut 50% more than he was asked to?

He introduced a programme to the prison service known as ‘New Ways of Working’ – a euphemism much like the ‘Liverpool Pathway‘. It involved locking up prisoners in their cells for twice as long, halving the number of staff available, and expecting everyone to be delighted about the obvious outcome of this move.

Martin Prince, Cory Stewart, Peter Gafney, Oshane Gayle, Callum Hollingsworth, Sam Davies, Anuar Niyongaba, Jordan Rowe, Charlie Dempster, Nathaniel Johnson and Nicholas Carlton, all guests of Her Majesty in High Down Category B prison in Banstead – were less than amused.

Prison was supposed to be their punishment for crimes that were not in the highest category of danger to the public. Not isolation without access to a shower, cigarettes and the company of other human beings from time to time. They complained. And complained again.

Nobody listened.

So they locked themselves in one cell, on one of the rare excursions outside their cells, and in a faintly humorous manner, pushed a letter under the door saying that they would not come out until they were given ‘Mackerel and dumplings’ for their tea. One can only imagine how poor their diet must have been up until then that they should consider Mackerel and dumplings an improvement.

Actually, you don’t have to imagine; their two hot meals a day had been cut down to one – both the local MP, Crispin Blunt and the Independent Monitoring Board had voiced their concerns about conditions inside the prison.

The ‘Custodial Officer’ – a lady – was deputised to come and speak to the 11 men through a hatch in the cell door. The men told her to ‘Fu*k off – “We don’t want to speak to the monkey, we want to speak to the organ grinder” – another two ‘trained negotiators’ were spat at through said hatch.

Now you might think that it would have been wise for the Governor to put in an appearance around now – the men had sent him a note directly:

It read: ‘The reason for these capers is we are not getting enough food, exercise, showers or gym and we want to see the governor lively’ and that they were ‘not getting any association and banged up like kippers’.”

Instead of the Governor, some 40 members of the riot squad known as the Tornado Team were assembled outside the door. The men had broken the sink in the cell – “The cell was totally trashed. The furniture in the cell was totally destroyed through to the sink which had been smashed off the wall leaving shards of porcelain everywhere.”

So in order to show the men how they should be behaving – the Tornado Team smashed the door off its hinges, and with four heavily protected riot squad members to each prisoner, returned them to their own cells. That’s the way lads….

The CPS continued with this heavy handed approach, and instead of disciplinary proceedings which usually result in time added to a sentence for the dastardly crime of demanding Mackerel for your tea and smashing up the sink in your cell – all 11 defendants were charged with Mutiny under Section 1 of the Prison Security Act (1992).

Mutiny on the High Down rather than Mutiny on the High seas….

The Chief prosecution witness was Ian Bickers – the Prison Governor. Surely he told the court how the prisoners were utterly unreasonable and had overreacted to a minor change in procedure. Er, no actually.

“Prison governors to some degree have less discretion about what they can do and when. They follow a standard process and every prison is benchmarked against another. The core day is 7.30am to 7.30pm. Less prisoners are actively involved in work or education and they spend more time locked up.” Prison governor Ian Bickers told the court during the three week trial that the prison moved from serving two hot meals a day to one, prisoners spent more time locked up and staff numbers had dropped. Earlier this year a damning report revealed a prison “pared to the bone and beyond” where staff cuts had sparked safety fears, undermined rehabilitation and left prisoners in their cells for long periods. The report, by the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB), described 2013 as “a dreadful year” and said many changes had produced an “unhappy prison”.

They were in fact 28 staff short. Even the Prison Governor conceded that the ‘protestors’ did have a point that made it difficult for a jury to believe that this was a mutiny ‘intended to make a prison, or part of prison, ungovernable’.

The men have been found ‘not guilty’. The trial took up three weeks of court time at Blackfriars court. All eleven men were entitled to legal representation at the State’s expense. The Prosecution also employ expensive legal brains – or expensive legal entities anyways.  Half a million quid you reckon?

Every prison in the country will be buzzing with the news that you can smash the sink in your cell and demand Mackerel for your tea – and it doesn’t constitute a Mutiny – just a ‘protest’.

Now that Chris Grayling has achieved the impossible – and got the entire legal establishment and the prisoners on the same side, I wonder who he thinks is going to support him?

Why aren’t the main stream media covering this?  I never thought I’d be singing the praises of the Sutton Guardian of all papers, but they are to be commended on this occasion.

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