Tag Archives: John Bowden

Is the Parole Board deciding on the continued detention of life sentence prisoner?

From: UK IMC

The review process itself, known as an ‘Oral Hearing’, at which the lifer is present, is conducted like a semi-judicial hearing where reports by social workers, prison staff and psychologists are considered and assessed, and the lifer is given the opportunity to present their own case for release.

Is the Parole Board deciding on the continued detention of life sentence prisoners before their hearings?

Periodically reviewing life sentences by the Parole Board is a process required by law and such reviews, known as Tribunals, are intended to assess the current level of risk presented by life-sentence prisoners at the expiry of Tariff point of their sentence; Tariffs are the minimum length of time trial judges specify a lifer should spend in prison to satisfy the interests of retribution and punishment. Once the tariff point has been reached or exceeded by the lifer then the Parole Board has a legal duty to review and make an informed decision on the lifer’s continued imprisonment.

The review process itself, known as an ‘Oral Hearing’, at which the lifer is present, is conducted like a semi-judicial hearing where reports by social workers, prison staff and psychologists are considered and assessed, and the lifer is given the opportunity to present their own case for release. It is from these hearings, or Tribunals, that the critically important decisions are made about the lifer’s future, especially the one regarding whether to release or not. It would be absolutely wrong, as well as unlawful, if a decision regarding release was made BEFORE the ‘Oral Hearing’ had taken place and the paper work regarding that decision was written up to convey the impression that the decision had been made following such a hearing. In the case of a lifer called Malcolm Legget there exists indisputable evidence that such an unlawful practice took place and its discovery was purely by accident and incompetence on the part of the Parole Board.

On the 6 February 2012 a parole hearing took place at Shotts prison in Scotland to consider the case for release of Malcolm Legget who has been in jail since 1986. During the hearing Mr Legget asked that a prison-based psychologist, Sharron McAllister, be produced as a witness at the hearing to explain what Mr Legget claimed were significant inaccuracies in her report regarding him. The panel agreed to Mr Legget’s request and the hearing was adjourned for a period of six months.

On the 21 February the Parole Board for Scotland wrote to Mr Legget saying the panel had made a definite decision regarding his continued imprisonment and had decided not to direct his release. It claimed the reason for its decision was that it still considered Mr Legget a risk to the community. Understandably, Mr Legget was concerned and confused by what appeared to be a final decision of the Parole Board when in fact his hearing had been adjourned and not yet concluded. Then on the 24 February Mr Legget received a second letter from the Parole Board informing him that the information in the previous letter had been what it called ‘an error’. Mr Legget is convinced that in fact the letter from the Parole Board of the 21 February was a pre-prepared decision made before the hearing on the 6 February and the real ‘error’ was that it was delivered to Mr Legget before the definitive conclusion of his hearing.

If Mr Legget’s suspicion is true, and the letter from the board on the 21 February suggest it is, then it indicates a serious and unlawful abuse of Parole Board procedure and power, and the rubber-stamping of the continued imprisonment of life sentence prisoners without proper procedure.

It also constitutes a clear breach of human rights under Article 5[4] which states that, “Everyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings by which the lawfulness of his detention shall be decided speedily by a court and his release ordered if the detention is not lawful”. This clearly stipulates that a proper, legally-based hearing should take place to sanction the prisoner’s detention, and in the case of the lifer the parole hearing is constituted to consider the continued detention, or not, of the life sentence prisoner who has reached or exceeded the time stipulated he should remain in jail. The so-called Oral Hearing is the forum where reports and evidence is considered by the panel, which is usually composed of a judge or legally qualified person, and a psychologist and senior probation officer or criminologist. It is from the evidence presented at these hearings, conducted in the presence of the lifer, that the final decision to release or detain is made. The letter Malcolm Legget received from the Parole Board on the 21 February would suggest that a decision to continue detaining Mr Legget was made in private and before the Oral Hearing itself. Clearly, if this did happen then ether a unique and unlawful precedent was created, or the rubber-stamping in private of the continued detention of life sentence prisoners is an established practice and the Parole Board is operating on an unlawful basis.

John Bowden 6729
HMP Shotts
April 2012

Sack Brenden Barnett

from: support john bowden

Militant long-term prisoner John Bowden continues not only to get shit from the prison authorities, but also from ‘social workers’ acting as their lackeys (see  http://leedsabc.org/another-attempt-to-sabotage-john-bowdens-parole-by-prison-hired-social-worker/ and  http://leedsabc.org/update-from-john-bowden-about-lies-written-by-prison-hired-social -worker-2/ ).

Regular Indymedia readers may recall that a few years ago the System used stooge social worker Mathew Stillman to smear the Anarchist Black Cross as a “terrorist organisation” with whom John was in contact. Eventually Stillman was totally discredited, but now another State lackey, Brenden Barnett, is doing their dirty work for them.

John’s official complaint against Barnett has only brought further repression. There is a need for a sustained campaign to expose Barnett’s lies and to expose the fact that two years after the Parole Board recommended John Bowden be moved to an open prison, he continues to be held in a Scottish high security jail, and for no other reason than his political writings exposing injustice and repression in British prisons.

Please read John’s articles on this latest situation (see link above) and take some time to at least write to Michelle Miller, Chief Social Worker, Grindlay Court Social Work Centre, Criminal Justice Services, 2-4 Grindlay Court, Edinburgh, EH3 9AR.

For just £2.16 postage you could even send a card like the one pictured above, which Leeds ABC posted on Saturday 21st April.
You can also write to John Bowden at:

John Bowden – 6729, HMP Shotts, Cantrell Road, Shotts, Scotland, ML7 4LE.

Update From John Bowden About Lies Written In A Report By Prison Hired Social Worker – April 2012

Update From John Bowden About Lies Written In A Report By Prison Hired Social Worker

Brendon Barnett, a criminal justice social worker in Edinburgh, has so compromised himself by writing blatant lies in a report to the parole board to try and sabotage my release that his employers should seriously consider his suitability as a social work professional.

Social Work Advice and Complaints Service in Edinburgh are currently investigating my complaint that in a report submitted to the parole board in February Barnett wrote what he knew to be total lies and did so without any concern that his lies would inevitably be found out. This suggests either a serious personality disorder on Barnett’s part or a belief that whatever he wrote the system would support him and never hold him properly
accountable. It will therefore be interesting to see how my complaint is treated by the social work complaints service and how the system deals with someone who thinks it’s completely acceptable to use their position to destroy the lives of people considered too marginalised, powerless and stigmatised to defend themselves.

In response to an article that I wrote exposing the lies in Barnett’s report, Barnett submitted a second report to the parole board obviously motivated by a determination to inflict greater punishment for my having the temerity to speak out. In his second report submitted on the 22nd March he accuses me of being ‘very selective’ in my use of quotes from his first report and ‘manipulative’ in my ‘editing’ of them. He claimed that I wrote and distributed the article as a ‘crude attempt to intimidate and cow’ him. He also made reference to a warning or threat in his first report that my continuing to use the internet as a means of exposing dishonest reporting by social workers should be considered by the parole board as sufficient reason to deny my release.

In terms of my reason for writing and distributing the article about the lies in Barnett’s first report, my actual motive was to try and highlight a pattern of behaviour on the part of prison-based psychologists and social workers that compromises their professional integrity by blurring the boundaries between an often vindictive prison system and the supposed professional independence of ‘criminal justice workers’ like Barnett. Although not formally employed by the prison system Barnett clearly had contact with and was influenced by senior prison staff whilst writing his first report and obviously believed he now shared with them such total power over me that I would be completely defenceless
to his lies; in fact what he actually succeeded in doing was undermining the basic integrity of his report and illustrating how so-called criminal justice professionals like social workers and probation officers are often used by prison staff to legitimise the otherwise blatant victimization of prisoners. Either way, my essential motive in writing and distributing my article was to bring attention to a clear abuse of power by Barnett and also to an obvious and repetitive pattern of lies in social work reports written on me for the parole board. In fact, Barnett’s lies, although uniquely unbelievable, fit a consistent pattern of dishonesty and lies in reports submitted to the parole board since at least 2007. The motive is clear: to prevent my release by any means necessary.

Barnett claims that in my article exposing his lies I was selective in my choice of quotes from his first report and manipulative in my editing of them. In fact, I lifted the quotes verbatim from his report and selected those that were obviously untrue in the extreme, such as the claim that I was convicted of hate crimes against ethnic minorities and gay people. In a typical example of this he wrote, “Bowden has not only used a political analysis of his own history but also those of his victims suggesting they were individuals easily discriminated against on the basis of race or sexuality”. This is EXACTLY what Barnett wrote free of any manipulation or editing by me. He also wrote, “Bowden has suggested that his victims were easily discriminated against on the basis or race or sexuality” and “There has been no investigation of the values and beliefs that informed Bowden’s targeting of individuals, i.e. what particular characteristics deemed a person worthy of attack: ethnic background, deviant sexuality”. Despite a mountain of official reports and evidence relating to my life before prison and the circumstances of my ‘offending behaviour’, which Barnett would have been familiar with, he decided to introduce a racist and homophobic dimension to my case that has absolutely no basis in fact or reality. The question therefore has to be asked why?

Prison-based social workers often exaggerate, distort and misrepresent facts when writing reports for the parole board, but rarely are naked lies written in reports that are examined by a judicial body  like the parole board. In 2007 a prison-based social worker, Matthew Stillman, wrote a report for the parole board preparing to consider my release in which he described a prisoner support group, Anarchist Black Cross, as a ‘terrorist organisation’ and my connection with it as sufficient reason to deny my release. Stillman, a right-wing American, claimed that ABC’s politics were ‘Terroristic’ in his opinion, though would subsequently also claim that he was encouraged by senior prison staff to use the term ‘terrorist’ in his report to the parole board. Political definitions, no matter how distorted,  are however completely different to blatant lies, there are only two explanations for Barnett writing  such outrageous lies in his report to the parole board, either plain incompetence [difficult to believe when one considers his otherwise forensic eye for detail in the report] or straight forward malevolence. Either explanation is almost secondary to the imperative that he should be sacked or removed from a job where he is able to inflict serious damage on people’s live.

John Bowden – HMP Shotts – April 2012

Indefinite Internment Without Trial – John Bowden – March 2012

Indefinite Internment Without Trial’If they come for me tonight they will come for you in the morning’– Angela Davis

In Britain today there are a group of men held in prison without trial or any form of due legal process, and they are being detained indefinitely. These men have committed no crimes in Britain and are being held at the behest of a foreign state, the U.S., whilst their extradition to that country has been ruled unlawful by the British court. Their continued imprisonment, in breach of the most elemental civil and human rights, has clear implications for every citizen in the U.K. because if the rule of law is suspended in the case of any unpopular minority then dangerous precedents are set that will eventually be used against anyone or any group viewed as worthy of ‘special measures’.

There are currently seven men, all of Middle Eastern and Asian extraction, being held in a small isolation unit at Long Lartin maximum-security prison in Worcestershire, some of whom have been there for almost ten years. Originally designed and used as a prison punishment unit, the Detainee unit is very much a prison and it’s inhabitants are kept strictly separated and isolated from other prisoners in the jail. Methods of small-group isolation and control are applied which over a prolonged period of time are known to have a seriously damaging effect on the mind and personality. In June of 2011 the Chief Inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick, was extremely critical of the situation of the prisoners confined to the Detainee unit and in a report on the unit wrote, “The Detainee unit at HMP Long Lartin is a prison within a high-security prison. It holds a small number of individuals suspected but not convicted of involvement in international terrorism and held under immigration or extradition law. Some have been held for many years as they fight removal from the UK and all are held in the highest security conditions. We have previously raised concerns about holding a small number of detainees, who already inhabit a kind of legal limbo, in a severely restricted environment for a potentially indefinite period. The risks to the mental and physical health of detainees of such lengthy, ill-defined and isolated confinement are significant.”

The existence of this group of prisoners is proof that none of our legal traditions and rights are safe from serious compromise and surrender, and their continued detention in conditions of virtual solitary confinement makes a complete mockery of the belief that anyone is truly safe from arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, especially when the state decides to widen the focus of it’s ‘War on Terror’.

The attorney general, Dominic Grieve, claimed in response to the release of Abu Qatada that ‘indefinite internment without trial’ does not exist in the U.K. This is a lie. He is fully aware that in the Detainee unit at Long Lartin a group of men are currently being held in exactly that unlawful situation as a gesture of acquiescence to American power.

John Bowden
March 2012
HMP Shotts

Another Attempt To Sabotage John Bowden’s Parole By Prison Hired Social Worker

Another Attempt To Sabotage John Bowden’s Parole By Prison Hired Social Worker March 2012

The changed role of probation officers, and in Scotland social workers, from ‘client centered’ liberal professionals into ‘criminal justice workers’ focused essentially on ‘public protection’ and ‘managing risk’ has in many cases led to serious abuses of power as what were once considered vocations of social conscience have been transformed into little more than the revenge of the middle class.

Nowhere more is this so than in the case of prison-based social workers and criminal justice probational/supervision officers who are little more than appendages of repressive state power and act as a legitimizing and respectable cover for that power.

The collaboration of prison hired social workers in the victimization of prisoners labelled ‘control problems’ was exemplified by Matthew Stillman, a social worker employed by Perth and Kinross Council in Scotland, who in 2007 whilst on placement at Castle Huntley open prison in Dundee wrote a social work report for the Parole Board in which he described the Anarchist Black Cross support group (ABC) as a ‘terrorist organisation’ and my support of it as sufficient reason to deny my release after 30 years in jail. As a direct consequence of Stillman’s report I was removed from Castle Huntley open jail where I was preparing for release and returned to maximum security conditions. Following a public campaign by the ABC and an internal investigation by Perth and Kinross Council, Stillman’s claim was exposed as a deliberate lie and he was quietly moved to another job. Stillman would subsequently claim that senior management as Castle Huntley jail had encouraged him to make the terrorist claim in his report. What the episode actually illustrated was the malleability of ‘criminal justice professionals’ by a vindictive prison management and how willing such ‘professionals’ compromise their integrity in the interests of career and power.

This was again illustrated in February of this year before another scheduled parole hearing to consider my release when the Parole Board asked a community based social worker in Edinburgh, Brendon Barnett, to prepare a post release supervision plan report. Told by the prison authorities that I was refusing to co-operate with an assessment for psychology based behaviour modification programmes, Barnett wrote a report clearly intended to influence the parole board to deny my release indefinitely. Like Stillman, he also wrote lies in his report, but this time the lies really did defy belief.

When claiming to describe my original offence in 1980 and my ‘patterns of behaviour’ at the time of the offence, Barnett wrote in his report: “His victims were individuals easily discriminated against on the basis of race and sexuality”. “There was a pattern of behaviour that allowed for the predatory targeting of vulnerable human beings defined by race or sexuality”. “Individuals were deemed worthy of attack on the basis of ethnic background and deviant sexuality”. “There has been no investigation of the values and beliefs that informed Bowden’s targeting of individuals, i.e. what particular characteristics deemed a person worth of attack: ethnic background, deviant sexuality?” Incredibly, without any reference to official records, i.e. police reports or trial transcripts, Barnett committed his outrageous lies to a report intended for the Parole Board, a body thoroughly conversant with the facts of my original offence.

The actual facts are these. In November 1980, during a drunken party at a flat in South London, Donald Ryan, a white Caucasian, heterosexual man was killed by 3 other white Caucasian, heterosexual men, one of whom was me. The police who investigated the case, the prosecution authorities and trial judge who tried the case, have never claimed or suggested there was a racist or homophobic dimension to the case, and why would they? Barnett’s claims were a complete invention. In the preamble to his report Barnett claimed that all his information was derived from ‘core documents’ and ‘source material’; this was also a lie.  An explanation as to Barnett’s motives in writing such reckless lies is possibly provided by other parts of his report. Under a heading he terms “Compliance” he writes: “Bowden’s time in custody has been characterised as a sustained and deliberate war of attrition with the prison service. It is reported that earlier in his sentence he often began riots, dirty protests and hunger strikes. As his sentence progressed Bowden developed a strategy of intellectual analysis of the system he is subject to. He appears to conceptualize his activities in the light of a particular ideological awareness and as part of a wider struggle”. He then provides the Parole Board with website references for various articles I’ve written criticising the prison system and cites Stillman’s report as a reference source. He concludes this part of his report with – “Bowden questions the whole validity of the prison system and the honesty, professionalism and impartiality of those charged with his assessment and supervision”.

The core motive for Barnett’s lies are clearly revenge for Stillman, and this is made explicit in a paragraph of the report entitled “Professional Boundaries”. Under this he writes: “Bowden is known to have aired grievances on the internet with regard to particular professionals involved in the assessment of his level of risk. He appears to have authored articles that have been forwarded to various websites naming professionals involved in the parole process, suggesting readers contact them directly. He has suggested a named social worker’s “right wing views” (Stillman) influenced his assessment of Bowden”. He then issues a clear threat: “Should he repeat these actions (publicising the names of social workers) this could be deemed a rejection of the conditions of release”. What Barnett is actually saying is that should I dare to expose and publicise his outrageous lies then I risk imprisonment until death.

Brendon Barnett is supposedly a social worker employed by the Criminal Justice Services in Edinburgh who last year was instructed by his employers to prepare a post release supervision plan for me and present it’s features in a report for the Parole Board. Instead he abused his position by collaborating with the prison system to prejudice the parole process and sabotage my release. Rather stupidly, instead of basing his disgusting allegations on historical fact and official record, he obviously regurgitated lies from Micheal Mansfield’s “Memoirs Of A Radical Lawyer”, that Mansfield himself has now publicly admitted were completely untrue. Brendon Barnett should be sacked.

Please write letters of complaint to:

Michelle Miller Chief Social Worker Officer
Grindlay Court Social Work Centre
Criminal Justice Services
2-4 Grindlay Court
Fax: 0131 2298628    
Please send letters of support to: 
John Bowden 6729
HMP Shotts
Canthill Road

John Bowden in Solitary Confinement in HMP Shotts

UPDATE: John is now out of solitary and has been transfered to yet another wing of the prison as he still refuses to submit to the prison authorities vindictive attempts at coercion. He would gladly receive any messages of support or other correspondence.

From UK Indymedia:

Last week John Bowden was put in solitary confinement in HMP Shotts. He continues to receive mail so please keep in touch and send him messages of support:
John Bowden – 6729,
HMP Shotts
Cantrell Road

John Bowden has been put into solitary confinement in HMP Shotts in Scotland. This was done after allegations that he was part of the “jail-wide” organisation of a sit down protest in the exercise yard, despite the fact that there was no evidence, the apparent protest did not take place and no-one else was punished for the “jail-wide threat”.

Despite the recent recommendation by the parole board that John Bowden be moved back to an open prison, the Scottish Prison Service, earlier this year, transferred him to Shotts, the most secure prison in the country. This was a blatant punishment move, one of hundreds John Bowden has undergone since he was imprisoned in 1978 – YES 1978!

By ‘coincidence’ the governor of Shotts, Ian Whitehead, was previously governor of Castle Huntley open jail, where John Bowden (and the Anarchist Black Cross) was the victim of an orchestrated campaign of lies in which an American psychologist, Matt Stillman, smeared the ABC as a “terrorist organisation” with which John was in contact.

After a robust campaign led by Leeds ABC, and by John himself of course, the Scottish Prison Service were forced to climb down, and Stillman’s career was ruined. John has never been forgiven for having the courage and integrity to stand his ground, and the SPS have not forgotten how they were humiliated.

Once again, we ask comrades to help shine an international spotlight on SPS abuse, and to support John in his long battle for freedom.

Please send letters of support to John at the following address:

John Bowden
HMP Shotts
Cantrell Road

And letters of protest to:

Ian Whitehead
HMP Shotts
Cantrell Road

Scottish Prison Service HQ
Calton House
5 Redheughs Rigg
EH12 9HW

The Parole Board
Grenadier House
99-105 Horseferry Road

More info:
John on the Prison System:  http://leedsabc.org/?page_id=116
Another Punishment Move:  http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2011/08/483649.html
Interview with John:  http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2007/05/369954.html
John on the Scottish Prison Service:  http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2011/05/479691.html
The Price You Pay for Speaking Out:  http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2007/05/369431.html

John has also been working very hard to expose the torture of inmates in Close Supervision Centres, the use of prison psychologists in the repression of prisoners, and behaviour modification techniques against prisoners with serious mental health problems.
John on CSCs:  http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2011/03/476629.html