Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Wainwright & Cummins News

We had a significant victory for Wainwright & Cummins last week with the news that a client of ours was, along with his ten co-defendants, found not guilty in a jury trial of the charge of prison mutiny.

The defendants were at the time of the incident all inmates at HMP High Down, a prison in Surrey. In protest at the Ministry of Justice cuts and intolerable conditions at HMP High Down, the eleven men barricaded themselves into a cell for seven and a half hours in October 2013.

Despite their actions being a protest against conditions at the prison, the police and CPS chose to charge our client and his co-defendants with prison mutiny, a very serious charge leading to additional custodial time if convicted.

Over the course of the three-week trial, there were many revelations about the horrific regime in HMP High Down, and the Governor of the prison even admitted that they had ‘got it wrong’.

This not guilty verdict was not only a victory for the defendants but a resounding demonstration of the danger and damage caused by the cuts to the safe and humane running of the Prison Service. Staffing levels are so low in some prisons that prisoners are not only unable to visit the library or the gym but can even be stopped from showering, as there are not enough staff to safely allow prisoners out of their cells.

Another aspect of this case that should be considered is the money that was spent on it. With eleven defendants, all of whom required legal representation because of the seriousness of the charge, plus the court time (a three-week trial) and the costs of prosecuting, between the police investigation and the CPS, it is certain that hundreds of thousands of pounds were spent overall in this matter. Wouldn’t it have been better to invest those hundreds of thousands of pounds back into the prison system, to lessen the impact of the cuts and stop prisoners like the defendants needing to protest their inhumane circumstances in the first place?

But in the government’s rush to seem ‘tough on crime’, these common-sense calculations are lost, and the cuts actually end up costing more money than they save.


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