HMP Rye Hill – 15/11/08
It’s time for me to go to court for my confiscation hearing. I’ve been told it’s going to be a formality by solicitor, but I must attend. Need to pretend that I don’t want to leave this horrible place. In prison, if you want something the opposite always happens. So I’m telling everyone I see that I’ll be back and will see them soon. The reception manager has told me if I’m not back today I’ll be back within three or four days. I asked her if she was sure.
‘Look,’ she said ‘you’ll have to leave some of your stuff here as they will only let you take four bags with you to court.’ She’d labelled the rest and wrote on them ‘Not to be sent to Branston.’ This is the general storage place for prisoners’ belongings. If you have the misfortune of having your stuff sent there then you can kiss goodbye to it for at least two years.
‘What about my CDs?’ I asked.
‘Don’t worry they are in your stored property,’ she replied.
‘May I see them with my own eyes before I go please, I want to be sure
they are there before I admit to or sign any forms.’
She headed off round the back and came out with a big basket with all my stuff in it. There was loads of stuff in there, stuff that I had asked to be thrown out ages ago.
‘Get rid of half of that crap,’ I said.
Off we went through all my stuff and she filled out a new property sheet. One of the officers who was standing behind me says
‘Is this going to take much longer?’
‘What’s your problem,’ I said ‘the transport isn’t even here yet.’He was obviously late for his breakfast or something and just wanted to get me processed and back to whatever he should have been doing. I’d met him on a few occasions on the wing. He was new and a bit of an ass hole. He knew I didn’t like him, but I didn’t care, he meant nothing to me.
After a very long wait the transport turned up. It was half past eight and I was due in court in London in an hour and a half. There was no way we were going to make it and I voiced my protest at having to leave.
‘They don’t need me at the court and I’m sure if you ring them the court the Judge will carry out the hearing without me.’ I remembered that, at my trial, the Judge had said he thought a confiscation hearing – in my case – was a waste of time and the tax payers money.
That’s another thing you get labelled with in prison; you’re in court, you’re a criminal, guilty until proven innocent. So, you’ve obviously been one all your life, never had a job therefore never paid taxes. I’ve paid more taxes in one week than these guys earn in a month.
Just before I left the officer who was sorting out my property said ‘don’t worry if you’re not back within a week we’ll send your stuff on to you. As you can see it’s all here.’ I thanked her and headed off into the back of the van and plonked myself down in the seat. The door was closed by the driver. The impatient officer gets in and starts to go through his procedure and said ‘are you Michael Irwin?’ ‘Do you know where you’re going?’ I replied ‘Yes,’ to my name and then said ‘I don’t know why I’m being sent to court so late.’
To which he replied ‘shut the fuck up you cunt!’ By this stage I was locked in the cell in the back in the van.
He put his face right up to the window.
‘I hope they take all your money off you and your families too.’
‘I hope they make you suffer, you bastard.’ With that he was gone. I just sat there dumbfounded. The venom with which this man spoke was quite hard to believe – frightening. It’s amazing how these brave men always wait until you’re locked up or in handcuffs before they abuse you.
‘Just remember, I’m coming back,’ I roared. The van door was then slammed shut and when the driver got into the front seat he said ‘fuckin ell mate he’s calling you all the names under the sun out there.’ ‘Do you want to make a complaint?’ I asked them if I could have their names and if they would back me up. The passenger guy shouted in ‘don’t worry mate our names or on the log and if anyone asks us we will remember what he said.’ So, off we went heading for London. Not so. We pulled into the car park of HMP Onley, which is a young offender centre next to Rye Hill.
‘We’ve just got to pick one up here,’ the driver shouts.
Now I definitely know there is no way we are going to make it in time. forty minutes later we leave Onley. I ask them to phone control and ask if I’m still required in court. If they can sort it out fast enough they can take me back to where I just came from.
No such luck. We’re half way to London and they get a phone call saying that the trial will be going ahead without me, but they still need me at court. What a load of bollocks. I bet you they don’t need me and someone just wants to speak to me or something daft like that. Mind you it was probably just as well as I could have gotten into some serious shit the next time I saw that officer. I don’t mind having to deal with abuse, but my family has done nothing and this man knew what he was saying. There is no excuse for what he did. I just wish I could remember his name.
We have to take the guy we picked up at Onley to Southwark magistrates first. It turns out he’s being released, knew fuck all about it and left all of his gear back at Onley. We arrive at Croydon Crown Court at twelve thirtyish. When I get into the reception area one of the officers comes up to me and says ‘it’s OK they’ve already had the hearing and they’ve dropped the confiscation order.’
What a relief I felt a lot lighter. Asked him why I was still brought to court.
‘Oh, your barrister wants a quick word,’ came the reply.
I bloody well knew it! Why on earth couldn’t I have spoken by phone or letter, after all the trial was done and dusted?
In Croydon – my solicitor had already left and I spent ten minutes with the barrister and was taken back to the same green cell in which I’d spent the days during my trial. Déjà vu, not quite, but it did feel as if I was going to have to endure another long and meaningless day. The barrister wanted to talk to me about appealing my sentence as it was now painfully obvious that I wasn’t the mass drug baron customs and excise had previously thought. The barrister did say that she thought my sentence was a bit excessive, but the Judge, the right honourable Judge Josey Wales was the same Judge who conducted my trial and it was unlikely that he would change the length of my sentence as the sentence he had handed down was still well within sentencing guidelines for the offence I was charged with. I hear all of these prison experts inside and outside slaggin off Judges, but have they ever stopped to listen to themselves? Agreed, there are a lot of miscarriages of justice, but the stem from the police and customs, not the Judge and in the majority of cases, mine included, it was me who got into trouble and I know that a Judge has to do his job.
So, for fucks sake if you’re guilt, be a man and dry your fuckin eyes and get on with it. I still hear guys five or six years into their sentence saying ‘there’s another day up the Judges arse!’ Is the Judge on that particular day thinking ‘oh good there’s another day done for wee Johnny I hope he suffered,’ I think not. Wise up and stop trying to attribute blame. I digress, my barrister went on to tell me that if I appealed and lost I would have to start my sentence all over again.
‘The Law,’ is mad. Can see how they play their games, justice has nothing to do with it. I told the truth, but I didn’t follow the correct procedures, didn’t admit guilt at the earliest opportunity. If I had I’d have received around eight years.
At least I’m free now, to get on with my time and my life as best as I can.
Next stop, HMP High Down.