By popular request (well, requests from some readers, anyhow!) I thought I’d talk about my time in the slammer, or, if you would prefer a more formal expression, the hoosegow. It was quite an interesting experience.
One reason I haven’t commented on it in detail up until now is that one of my former cellmates was the gay serial killer Stephen Port. He was very properly sentenced on Friday to life without parole for four murders and four male rapes.
It wasn’t a case of not being willing to talk about my time inside, because, e.g., I had to play ‘hide the sausage’, as Jeremy Clarkson so charmingly puts it! On the whole, I was pretty well treated.
Getting slammed in the slammer is a professional hazard of intelligence work. It is much better for the Bad Guys if they can get your own side to do the dirty work and discredit you.
Good Guy assets facing trumpery intelligence-related charges typically encounter five phenomena:
(1) The White Hat agencies they’ve been dealing with run for cover, leaving them swinging in the wind. This is a combination of the strong sense of self-preservation of agency bureaucrats and Black Hat penetration.
(2) They find themselves dealing with dopey policemen and prosecutors, with a cynical disregard for any suggestion that the charges may be intelligence-linked.
(3) The dopey policemen and prosecutors are too egotistical to suppose that the defendant might be smarter than they are, and are very quick to allege insanity, not least if the defendant has grasped concepts too complex for their more limited intellects to master.
(4) They find that the deck has been stacked against them. Typically this will involve the buying-up or blackmailing of police, prosecutors, judges or jurors, or all four, and
(5) Media hostility. The media will publish anything drip-fed to them from the prosecution and ignore anything said by the defense.
Most of these phenomena can be countered easily, if there’s the will to do so. White Hat agencies are slowly coming to realise that leaving their people swinging in the wind suits the Black Hats just fine and damages the White Hats. If other folk see White Hat assets being hung out to dry, they will be reluctant to come forward.
The Intelligence Community (INTELCOM) needs to learn from the US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps: leave no man behind. Cutting and running is a disreputable tactic at the best of times.
There is not much that can be done about recruiting smarter rozzers. Law Enforcement will always be dumber than INTELCOM. However, just as even the dumbest pooch can be trained to perform a few tricks with some gentle taps on the nose (all y’all will understand that this is a family website and we don’t promote animal cruelty), so can rozzers be trained to be more attentive in intelligence cases.
INTELCOM could run training sessions on how to differentiate genuine claims of intelligence involvement from fake. Non-violently smacking about a few rozzers who foul up in intelligence cases would help. In my case, e.g., hopefully there’ll be some police corruption trials, pour encourager les autres.
It should be possible to recruit smarter prosecutors. In the UK this could most easily be done by breaking up the bureaucratic Crown Prosecution Service and depriving salaried state prosecutors of their rights of audience in the higher courts. It ought to be possible to raise the status of American prosecutors, which in turn is linked irretrievably to raising their ethical standards.
Stacked decks can always be leveled, in this context most easily by good counter-intelligence work, coupled with a willingness to actually assist the defense, and not just sit back and watch courtroom disasters unfold. If the judge has a mistress or a boyfriend Mrs Judge doesn’t know about, e,g. then slip his or her name to the defense. If a juror has been leant on, tell the defense, so they can challenge the juror.
Whilst the MSM are largely a lost cause, it is now possible to get the truth out via the alternative media. The Russians are leading the way on this, and we should follow their example. In the long-term we need to clean up the MSM, and that means taking the DVD’s efficient Propaganda Section head-on. If the Hun is coming at you head-on in his Albatros you don’t turn your Camel away. (VT readers being well-informed, I need hardly explain that I am not referring to big birds and dromedaries.)
Being Taken Down to the Cells
As a barrister I am used to going down to the cells, but not in handcuffs. Being cuffed was a new experience for me, and not one I would care to repeat. On the other hand the journey was shorter than usual, and the ‘screws’ offered me a cup of tea, which never happened when I was seeing clients!
Prison officers are called ‘screws’ in England, BTW, as in the old days prisoners doing hard labor would be made to perform pointless tasks, one of which was turning the handle of a crank machine. A screw in the device could be turned to make it easier or harder, usually harder. The crank-machines have gone, thankfully. Prisoners are still made to perform pointless tasks, however.
My arrival at HMP Wandsworth (known affectionately to those incarcerated there as ‘Wanno’) was a bit of a hoot. They weren’t expecting a barrister to turn up in the van from Southwark, let alone one dressed in a black jacket and stripes! I wasn’t expecting to be sent to prison, so to say that I was unprepared is to put it mildly.
The first issue to be addressed was my security. They are a fair number of Islamic radicals in British prisons these days, and I’m just about the only barrister, suspended or otherwise, who has annoyed Al Qaeda. The idea of mixing up a real, live counter-terrorism expert with a bunch of Islamic radicals didn’t seem to appeal to the authorities at Wandsworth. At any rate, I was assigned to the isolation wing, C Wing.
I was rather delighted to learn that this was Oscar Wilde’s old wing! His cell is still there on the ground floor (the ‘ones’), although disappointingly he didn’t scratch ‘OFOWW’ on the walls. If he did, it’s been painted over, although that’s not at all likely, since he was only incarcerated in Wandsworth as recently as 1895. (Oscar was moved to Reading Gaol later that year).
Having had accusations of insanity flung at me by the CPS (a bit of a cheek, with respect, since they are barely sane themselves) it was rather ironic that I was banged up with one of the most unstable prisoners in the wing, a South Korean who was off his meds, had little English and was on suicide watch. I am not giving out his name – aside from Stephen Port, whose name is on the front pages following his conviction – I take the view that fellow-prisoners and prison officers are entitled to anonymity and privacy. The officers, in particular, looked after me whilst I was there. I intend to return the favor now I’m out.
He was a deeply-troubled man, who should have been in a mental hospital, not prison. So far as I can tell, I was put in his cell to keep an eye on him. ‘Wanno’ was – and still is – desperately understaffed. The prison authorities seemed to have a policy of matching up older, more stable prisoners with those likely to take their own lives. I was told we had lost no fewer than six prisoners on C Wing in the previous year, all to suicide.
If that was the policy, it was probably a good one. At any rate, I was able to cut down my cell-mate when he put a noose around his neck when I wasn’t looking and was in the process of strangling himself. It took some time for help to arrive – there were hardly any officers on the wing. Of course as soon as the first officer entered the cell, in response to my ringing the emergency alarm and shouting repeatedly for help, he was quickly yelling ‘Code Blue’ or some-such into his radio. Officers then appeared as if by magic!
We were locked up 22-23 hours a day, so it was rather nice to be allowed out of my cell for a few hours. When my cell-mate returned from the hospital wing, which was full, he glared at me. If you intervene to stop a suicide, don’t expect the person you are saving to thank you. He did later, however – when he was finally transferred to a hospital, where he should have been all along, he gave me all his biscuits. We had become friends by then.
For what it is worth, I think he was entirely innocent of the crimes of which he was accused, by fellow-nationals bearing a grudge. I wasn’t overly impressed at having to explain letters from his lawyers written in English – did they seriously think we had South Korean legal translators on C Wing?
The response of fellow prisoners was heart-warming. A number were most attentive. Word quickly went around the wing about what I had done. For the remainder of my time at Wandsworth I was paired with prisoners on suicide watch or who had real difficulty coping with the frustrations of prison life.
Having a cell-mate on suicide watch didn’t make for a good night’s sleep however, as the light kept being switched on all night! Normally a close watch wasn’t kept on the cells. We had a murder on my last day there, in another wing, after a row about ‘Match of the Day’ got out of hand. It was hours before the crime was discovered. If you’re ever banged up in prison take a tip from me – don’t argue with your cellmates about what to watch on telly!
Sleep was hard to come by anyway. One of the things I quickly learnt was that Category B prisons are noisy. Hollesley Bay was peaceful by comparison. It wasn’t just our wing – for some odd reason the blokes on D Wing seemed to think that they could best communicate with the boys on B Wing by shouting.
The chaplaincy staff at Wandsworth were excellent. They had been helping my South Korean cellmate, which probably helped. The church services were more Baptist Revival than Anglican, with many of the congregation more interested in swapping drugs than singing hymns. It was the only time I’ve ever seen a brawl when leaving church! It was a proper brawl too, with truncheons drawn by the officers who bravely contained it. As I remarked to the chaplain it was probably a mistake to have had Anglicans and Methodists at the same service.
Being the only barrister on the wing I found my services much in demand. I soon found myself drafting bail applications, advising informally on grounds of appeal and so on. I got my revenge on the Court of Appeal anyway for refusing me leave to appeal! The poor level of legal advice given to some prisoners shocked me.
There was TV in the cells – the Department of Justice had done a job-lot some years before on cheap Asian 14” color, cathode-ray tube, tellies. However there was no Sky TV! This meant no live coverage of last summer’s Ashes series, which as a cricket-lover I regarded as cruel and unusual punishment.
We weren’t allowed pets in the cells, either. Being a trained lawyer, I quickly picked up on the anomaly of allowing rats in the cells on the ‘ones’ and no pets on the ‘threes’ (third landing). My request to adopt a rat went unanswered.
After a staggering seven weeks, I was finally categorised as a ‘Cat D’, i.e. the lowest level of security risk, qualifying me for an open prison. I should have thought, with respect, that the Prison Service could have worked out that a 58 year old barrister and former immigration judge, not sentenced for a crime of dishonesty or violence, with no previous apart from the dodgy images conviction, was a good candidate for Cat D inside seven weeks!
Getting your Cat D is one thing. Finding a berth in an open prison is quite another – it took just as long to be transferred. Even then it wasn’t to a proper open prison, but to Brixton, which has an ‘open wing’. Yeah, an open wing surrounded by high walls and barbed wire. At least they had enough doctors at Brixton to look after me – my South Korean cellmate at ‘Wanno’ had suspected TB and the medical officer at Brixton had me tested for TB asap. Thankfully, it was just bronchitis.
I may have caught bronchitis, but the fairly harsh conditions at Wandsworth were beneficial to my health in one way. The food was so bad I lost several stone! We weren’t always sure what type of meat we were eating – a large dead rat in front of the education block one morning seemed to disappear suspiciously quickly! The wine-list wasn’t much to write home about, either. More about Brixton and prison life next week.
Before anybody asks, Stephen Port, one of my cellmates at Brixton, didn’t try to rape or murder me. Thankfully, he was only interested in young, good-looking men. He was a model prisoner, so much so that they let him out early on a tag, allowing him to rape and murder his fourth victim, a whoopsie for which the Probation Service has yet to be held to account. Poor young Jack Taylor joined a tragically long list of victims murdered by prisoners let out on tag.
It was only after Stephen Port was charged with murder that I discovered that the offense of perverting the course of justice he was in Brixton for related to concealing the body of one of his victims. I had understood it was a motoring matter! The second thing you learn in prison is that you don’t probe fellow inmates about their offenses. If they want to tell you, they will. Most are in fact guilty, and don’t want to talk about what landed them in prison. Being entirely innocent and the victim of the biggest stitch-up since ‘Tango and Cash’, I was more than happy to talk about the trumped-up charges against me.
For the avoidance of doubt, my sympathies lie entirely with Stephen Port’s young victims and their grieving families. I strongly support capital punishment for murder and therefore would not have quarreled with a death sentence for Stephen. However, I speak as I find. He wasn’t in the least bit violent towards me, in fact he was quite supportive, and overall he was the nicest serial killer I’ve ever met.
Having slammed Donald Trump for quite properly reserving his position as to the outcome of the election, having regard to credible allegations of Democrat vote-rigging, it is rather amusing to see them refusing to accept the result of the presidential election. My advice to them is to grow up and stop being cry-babies. I nearly suffered an injury this week – I was at serious risk of falling out of my chair when I read that Democrats taking time off to ‘process’ the result.
Donald Trump’s great victories in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin weren’t unexpected – as all ya’ll will recall I predicted the wins in PA and MI. Wisconsin has a Republican governor, Scott Walker. If there was any vote-rigging it was done by Democrats. If anything Trump’s lead could increase as the votes are recounted.
Fidel Castro RIP
My commiserations to the DVD on the loss of Fidel Castro, the ex-dictator of Cuba. He was one of their most important assets in the second half of the 20th century. His ability to persuade so many people and almost all of the media that he was a communist was one of the greatest propaganda triumphs of all time.
My Reading This Week
This has included “The Wreck of the Titan, or Futility” by the brilliant American short-story writer Morgan Robertson (1898, revised 1912). He is said to have predicted the sinking of the Titanic. There are eerie similarities – his fictional ship had triple screws and 19 watertight compartments, sank with heavy loss of life after colliding with an iceberg off Newfoundland in April and had insufficient lifeboats. Many thought that Robertson was clairvoyant.
There are major differences, however. Robertson’s Titan was only 45,000 tons in the original story, revised in 1912 to make it closer to Titanic. The Titan wasn’t on her maiden voyage and was headed eastbound, out of New York, not westbound from Southampton. The original novella, well-written as it was, seems to have given Harry Hun an idea, however. The name of the Titanic was changed, from Gigantic, and German assets in the Liberal Government blocked reform of the outdated lifeboat laws. What’s more there is evidence of pressure on magazines which published Robertson’s stories.
After German Naval Intelligence arranged the sinking of the Titanic, Robertson almost became a non-person. His knowledge of the sea and naval architecture, and brilliant writing skills, mattered not – he was gradually frozen out, in a classic German intelligence tactic, the ruthless but out of sight undermining of their target.
If you want to know really happened, the story of the disgraceful sinking of RMS Titanic is set out on Chapter 13 of Spyhunter. It’s a story the DVD are desperate to suppress. No large publisher anywhere in the world would dare to have printed it, and Hollywood are running scared. There is no way they would ever make a factual move about the wreck of the Titanic.
This Week’s Movie Review: Eye In The Sky (2015, dir. Gavin Hood)
I missed this when it was in theaters. It was Alan Rickman’s last movie, sadly, before he died. He’s on good form in Eye in the Sky, playing an increasingly exasperated general, who knows what needs to be done. There is a fine scene at the end, when he slaps down the silly woman minister, who had been wringing her hands about collateral casualties.
It’s a well-made movie. For dramatic reasons the plot scenario is overly artificial. Yes, counter-terrorist strikes in urban areas risk collateral casualties, but it’s rare that Hellfire missiles are used in urban environments.
The plot turns on a young girl selling bread next to a terrorist safe-house, where a suicide vest is being assembled. At no stage does the producer blame the parents, or pose the obvious question, given that most people in an Islamic neighborhood will know where the Bad Guys hang out: why let your kids go anywhere near a terrorist facility?
Worth watching, but beware: the script was written by liberals!
Michael Shrimpton was a barrister from his call to the Bar in London in 1983 until being disbarred in 2019 over a fraudulently obtained conviction. He is a specialist in National Security and Constitutional Law, Strategic Intelligence and Counter-terrorism. He is a former Adjunct Professor of Intelligence Studies at the American Military University.