We seem to have a permanent section of criminal society that is marked ‘untouchable’, a niche corner where no one is responsible for their actions, where those suitably labelled are accorded automatic victim status regardless of their part in their current imbroglio. Who ‘lives’ in the untouchable niche changes with passing fashions.
Within my lifetime, it started with women. Women could do anything a man could do – so went the mantra. That included criminal actions. Murder even. There were howls of protest when Ruth Ellis was hanged. Yes, she had committed murder, but she was a woman. That was different. This was refined into a creed whereby women were apparently driven by their hormones at times to commit murder; entirely understandable. The role of testosterone in driving men to murder was not so explored. Then again, women could be goaded by lengthy verbal or physical abuse to ‘defend themselves’ by killing their male partner. Again entirely understandable – the idea that men could be so goaded was poo-pood, they should have risen above such provocation.
We diverted from women as permanent victims to those of African descent as permanent victims. Their grandparents had been slaves, you could not but understand that sometimes they couldn’t be expected to obey the law. The lawlessness came from being oppressed for generations. Soft shoe policing became the name of the game.
In turn, the Irish, Gypsies, homosexuals, children, and Muslims have all occupied the untouchable niche. Each clan being elbowed out of place by a vociferous and professional protest campaign on their behalf. Currently the most fashionable victims are the disabled. Perhaps it is the Paralympic effect.
I was sent an e-mail this week asking me to campaign on behalf of a severely disabled man who ‘was being tortured by the British government’. Surely not I thought? Tortured? Time to read further. There was no reason given in the e-mail as to why he might be being tortured, beyond the fact that he was ‘incarcerated in a medieval and insanitary jail for a crime he was physically incapable of having committed’. He was now ‘fighting for his life in an intensive care unit’ and it was essential that I bring this ‘truth’ to the British public because the main stream media had been ‘ordered’ not to publicise it…Blimey!
Surprisingly, the left-wing press appear to have ignored this ‘order’ not to publicise the case. They have been happily littering their pages with information about it. Odd. The Guardian, New Statesman, various left-wing blogs – I soon had a collection of articles to read. They were remarkably hazy about the details as to how this man ended up in a medieval insanitary jail, but full of emotive phrases concerning his current condition. Nobody wanted to talk about his life leading up to his incarceration – they would prefer that I concentrate on the utter inhumanity of his treatment by the British government.
There was a Facebook page, an e-petition, all the essentials of modern protest; I was on a mailing list along with the Independent, The Guardian, New Statesman and Chanel 4 news – strange bed fellows for a Raccoon! I had to ‘act quickly to save his life‘. We have all responded.
The Guardian came thundering out with ‘The scandal of seriously ill prisoners denied basic healthcare‘ a story ‘exemplified’ by the treatment of this young man – denied basic healthcare eh? That is a serious allegation. Especially since his Mother has gone on record as saying ‘his family say he has received nothing more than basic care‘. Well? Has he or hasn’t he received basic healthcare folks? Make your minds up.
The New Statesman ‘investigated’, not just reported, the “physical and mental torture” of a disabled man in prison. It’s that torture word again.
Now the young man in question undoubtedly suffers from a distressing condition. Freidrich’s Ataxia. Like all such conditions it is a spectrum – some will suffer from all the possible effects, some will escape relatively lightly at first only to succumb later. It generally means a shortened life span of 40 years. Nasty. Daniel Roque Hall, for that is his name, we are told requires 24-hour care, including two carers to transfer him from chair to chair with a mobile hoist; insulin injections; five tests of blood glucose a day; toileting; turning in bed to avoid pressure sores; someone present when drinking to stop him choking; an exercise regime to prevent the development of contractions; the drug Warfarin; help with dressing himself; and manipulation and exercise to maintain muscle activity. Importantly, despite the common belief that anyone in a wheelchair is mentally sub normal, it has no effect on intellectual abilities, but scarcely surprisingly, can result in extreme depression.
Now you may be wondering how someone who requires two carers in full-time attendance, lifting with a mobile hoist, and such constant medical intervention could possibly get themselves in a position where they end up in prison. Yes, I do know, Mr E-mail correspondent, that I am not supposed to be dwelling on this facet, that I should be whipping up my readers into a heightened sense of emotive outrage at the alleged lack of the prison service being able to provide an effective 24 hour intensive care regime, but you should know by now that the Raccoon likes to have her facts in place before campaigning, so I want to know the answer to this one.
It seems that last autumn, Daniel’s Ataxia was sufficiently mild, and his family sufficiently unconcerned about him being away from an intensive care unit or liable to die at any moment, to take off travelling. Not just travelling, but, some would say, off the beaten track travelling, to a country where the medical facilities in a British prison would seem like heaven on earth. He took with him a female ‘carer’. He seems to have managed just fine. He got on and off planes without a hoist, didn’t ‘deteriorate rapidly’ when spending time without an intensive care unit in close attendance, and judging by the photograph here, looks to have had a fine time high up in the Peruvian mountains. Personally, although a keen traveller in the past, it would not cross my mind to travel to Peru in my state of health, so I take my hat off to him for his adventurous spirit, courage and fortitude. Unfamiliar foods, most of the time having no idea what you are eating, lack of Doctors, rudimentary travel facilities, changing planes, a thoroughly upset inner time clock, it’s on par with going up Everest minus one leg. Well done Daniel. I’ve managed to find a picture of Daniel on holiday last autumn. On your left now. It was difficult to find because it is not the picture his supporters would like me to use.
So what happened? Weeeell, somehow, despite his 24 hour watchful carers, someone, somebody, managed to stuff 3 kilos of Cocaine in the seat of his wheelchair. Well I never! The perils of travelling to Peru. It must have been whilst he was in that hoist which is essential to move him eh? I don’t know, those generous foreigners, turn your back for an instant and they stuff £370,000 grands worth of Coke in yer wheelchair and disappear without a trace….
After an arduous journey back to the UK via Paris, Daniel and UK Border Force came face to face, or shall we say sniffer dog to wheelchair. Contrary to popular wishes, they don’t treat everyone in a wheelchair as being a sainted soul, especially when they’ve just flown in from Peru. They found the Cocaine. They take a dim view of people who bring into the country a drug which has been known to leave people in genuine need of an intensive care unit…
Daniel, to his credit, despite a rear guard attempt by his counsel to claim that he had been ‘groomed and manipulated’, did own up and admit that the drug was his responsibility. After six months at home, owing to a lenient judge who granted him bail, he was sentenced at the end of June to 3 and a half years in prison for smuggling a Class’A’ drug.
Prison seems to have achieved something which the rigours of travelling in Peru could not. He was left ‘unattended’ on a trolley in the hospital wing, and can you believe his luck, he ‘fell off’ the trolley owing to the ‘intensive and debilitating spasms’ he had borne so bravely in his time in Peru. Well, it has had a devastating effect on his health, he has ‘deteriorated rapidly’ owing to this ‘torture’ by the British Prison authorities, and in no time at all he was complaining of heart trouble, a swing in his insulin owing to being provided with food that ‘did not suit’ his diabetic requirements (What! No roast guinea pig in Wormwood Scrubs?) and by the time he came to see his Mother, he was complaining that:
“he was kept in a cell that was overwhelmingly hot, with no air conditioning.”
Whatever is prison coming to? No air conditioning! It was a sharp come down from travel in third world Peru! He had ‘abrasions on his feet’ from the prison slippers he had thoughtfully been provided with. He had been ‘placed in his wheelchair in the wrong position’. Ha! The torture of British prisoners continues!
Mother had arrived armed with a letter from his GP which explained that owing to his insulin dependence, there is “a risk he will have hypoglycemia resulting in a coma” and that his incarceration “will result in his demise”. A full month after his arrival in prison and after the GPs letter, Daniel remembered that he has an enlarged heart and claimed to be in urgent need of a cardiologist. The prison transferred him to hospital for further tests. Daniel was outraged at finding himself, standard procedure, handcuffed to two prison officers whilst in hospital, where he remains today. Meanwhile, the experts in this disease, rather than the local General Practitioner, have issued a suitably deadpan statement listing the full effects of Freidrich’s Ataxia when it reaches its climax – a list I note that has been dutifully copied and pasted by virtually every journalist to cover this story as though it all applies currently to Daniel – noting in a non-hysterical manner, that ‘Daniel’s balance, co-ordination and mobility is already significantly compromised by his FA, and it is vital to his future welfare that he is provided with necessary care’.
The prison service have noted that “We have a duty of care to those sentenced to custody by the courts. As part of that duty of care, we ensure that prisoners have access to the same level of NHS services as those in the community.”
Meanwhile, a mere six weeks after he entered the rigours of the hospital wing at Wormwood Scrubs, noisy supporters are gathering outside, the Facebook campaign gathers strength from the army of disability activists, on-line campaigners are begging you to ‘save the life of a severely disabled man ‘fighting for his life in intensive care because of lies and neglect by the authorities‘, or Prison is killing disabled man Daniel Roque. His mother, Anne Hall, states,
“Daniel has been tortured and the prison has ignored repeated calls to send Daniel to hospital.”
Daniel is now in hospital being assessed in the intensive care unit of University Hospital – one of the top hospitals in London, but lawyers are fighting for him to be released from prison while his medical needs are assessed. He has two warders now. “I asked the nurse to put him out of their sight because when he woke up and saw them he was very upset,” says Anne.