Monday, 20 June 2016

Armed Forces Day - Bodelwyddan

I wanted to demonstrate on Armed Forces Day in solidarity with assassinated MP Jo Cox. She stood for everything I believe in.

When we hear about the work that Jo did, it is clear that she cared deeply about the welfare of children, all over the world, whatever their situation. Events like Armed Forces Day are used to target British children as potential future recruits. Shamefully, Britain is the only country in Europe that still recruits 16 year old children into its armed forces. Meanwhile, in other parts of the world, the British army has been involved in military action that has led to the maiming and killing of countless innocent children, and sells arms to other countries around the world, leading to even more child deaths.

To see the rest of the pictures from the day, click here.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Remembering Pauline and her campaign.

Pauline ,I think, would be horrified to find how little progress has been made in prison reform since she died eight years ago yesterday  15 / 5 / 08 .Only today there are reports of more violence, more suicides and drug abuse than ever in prisons.Prison staff are attacked daily. There is a general consensus that private companies are not maintaining decent standards or  providing value for money. All prisons should be in the public sector. They should not be run to make a profit.
The dreadful documentary by Panorama of the abuse and mistreatment of children in the Medway Secure Training  Centre.  in Rochester, Kent  was shocking and should have brought shame on G4S and the Youth Justice Board,especially since other damning reports had been   published on other Secure Training Centres.Over 200 children are in the supposed care of G4S.Pauline hated the mantra "-lessons will be learned-"when ever it became known that anyone had been abused in prison. She would have given a wry smile to know that Mr Neilson of the Howard League expressed a hope that the forthcoming  Ministry of Justice review of youth justice would take a hard look at what companies like G4S are doing to our children.
She would have said the evidence is already there.

Vulnerable people and children are suffering in our prisons at this very minute. Mr Gove where are you?

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Not Forgotten

Last week I renewed the flowers on Sarah and Pauline's grave. I am so sad that I can no longer travel down to London on the last Saturday in October  to walk from Trafalgar Square slowly down to Downing Street. Meeting other members of the United Family and Friends  was always such a moving experience,So little progress is made on prison reform - Pauline would have said abolition.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Remembering Sarah

If Pauline Campbell had been alive today she, with a group of friends, would have held a vigil outside Styal Women's Prison in remembrance of her daughter Sarah . Sarah died in the prison  in January 2003 while in the care of the state.
Pauline would find it hard to believe that there still has been no inquiry into the death of a child in custody and that children are still being locked up and being restrained in prison  . She would be incensed  to learn of the tragic death, following police custody, of Kesia Leatherbarrow in 2013 ten years after Sarah's death.Kesia's inquest took place in Stockport on the 5th January 2015. How is it possible that vulnerable children go on losing their lives in this tragic way?
Pauline so despised the mantra," lessons will be learned".
Flowers for Sarah were. laid on Pauline and Sarah's grave today.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Remembering Pauline Campbell

Pauline Campbell died six years ago this week on 15th May 2008. .Her struggle for the abolition of the imprisonment of women and children should never be forgotten. She would find it hard to believe how  little progress has been made towards prison reform since then. So many recommendations made by the Corston Report have been sidelined. Vulnerable, mentally ill women are still sent to prison. She would be furious to know that inspection after inspection of children's prisons show that they are still places of abuse, where so called restraint, a  euphemism for torture, is still practised. The suffering of the families is still ignored. Inquests take just as long. Young children are still being abused, restrained and continue to die in badly run, Secure Training Centres. Young children's deaths are not even thought to be worth an inquiry. Pauline wanted to see prisons abolished and would have fought the proposed building of the largest prison in Europe at Wrexham.

In 2003, Pauline and I travelled to London to protest at the United Family and Friends Demonstration against deaths in custody and continued to do this every year until her death in 2008. She spoke eloquently and passionately in Trafalgar Square and outside Downing St. about the plight of prisoners caught up in our rotten justice system. I continued to attend this event after her death and I was upset that ill health prevented me from going to the demonstration in 2013 to remind everyone about Pauline's singular commitment to her campaign against prisons.We all need to go on and on highlighting the deaths in custody. In 2011 protesters were prevented, by the police, from handing in a letter to 10 Downing St. at the end of the annual march.They then tried to tie it to  the gates. But the police stopped them. The atmosphere turned very tense, then the protesters sat down and the police tried to kettle them but failed.  Pauline would have supported this direct action. Tension mounted further when an elderly lady, a relative of a man who had died in custody, was dragged by police out of Whitehall. Where was our freedom  to protest?

If incidents like this can happen in Downing Street, we should not be complacent about anything that takes place behind locked doors in our privatised prisons.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Pauline Campbell - 5 years

It is so sad to think that it is five years since Pauline so tragically died on her daughter's grave.She was so fearless and passionate about the shameful and cruel way our prisons are run.According to official figures three hundred and thirty three people died between 1998 and 2009 . Even though juries have returned verdicts of unlawful killing no one has ever been called to account.Today the Morning Star reported  the appeal of Janet Alder and Marcia Rigg  to trade unionists in Glasgow to join them in their fight for justice. They both had a brother  who had died in custody, one fifteen years ago and the other in 2008.Janet and Marcia urged every one to support the United Families and Friends Campaign against police brutality and join in the annual  march to Downing Street in October. Pauline always spoke so well and never missed this opportunity  to voice her disgust Home Office and the justice system.
She was a suffragette for penal reform and is sorely missed.    

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Glenda Jackson MP

It was  so good to hear the truth about Margaret Thatcher's time in office as Prime Minister. I thought Glenda Jackson was magnificent when she spoke yesterday in the House of Commons about the legacy left by Margaret Thatcher.Greed and selfishness was certainly turned into a virtue by her. I remember old and tattered first reading books held together by sellotape and having to be shared in the reception classes during those years.We need to be reminded of the disasterous so-called Community Care, homeless people sleeping in shop doorways, young people coming out of universities with no prospect of a job. Mining communities are still suffering from her policies even today.Her indifference and contempt for working people  was incredible.She was not a woman on any ones terms as Glenda so rightly said. I was glad to hear a woman MP put the record straight

Thursday, 1 November 2012

United Family and Friends Demonstration London 2012

United Family and Friends Demonstration London 2012

On Saturday October 27th I went to the United Family and Friends annual demonstration in London.Families gathered in Trafalgar Square and walked slowly to Downing Street with bannres of their loved ones I, with two very good friends, carried the banner of Sarah Campbell. It was heartbreaking to  remember that  Sarah,s mother, Pauline, died in 2008 after her hardfought campaign for prisons to be abolished.She was instrumental in the publication of the Corston Report. It is shameful that so few of those recommendations have been put into practice. The article in yesterday's Guardian about Newhall Prison shows how little things have changed
The most poignant moment of the day for me was when a young black boy, possibly fifteen years old,stood by Sarah's banner and asked me to tell him her story.He listened  gravely with his head bent. and when I finished he looked straight at me and said " I'm sorry."

Monday, 6 August 2012

Hiroshima Day 6th August 2012

Father George Zabelka, who was the American Catholic Chaplain to the USAF bomber crews who dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Ngasakisi said,
            "to fail to speak to the utter moral corruption of the mass destruction of civilians was to fail as a Christian and as a priest. As I seeit, Hiroshima and Nagasaki happened in and to a world  and a Christian Church that has asked for it-- that has prepared the moral consciousness of humanity to do and justify the unthinkable. I was there, and I'll tell you that the operative moral atmosphere in the Church in relation to mass bombing of enemy civilians was totally indifferent, silent, corrupt at best; at worst it was religiously supportive of these activities by blessing those who did them.I like the pilot of the Nagasaki plane, was heir to a Christianity that had for1700 years engaged in revenge, murder,torture,the pursuit of power and prerogative violence- allinthe name of the Lord. Jesus authorised none of his followersto substitute violence for love- not me, or you; not Jimmy Carter nor the Pope, nor the Vatican Council or even an ecumenical Council---Christians the world over should be taught that to love their enemies is not optional."

(see Altrenatives To War    Owen Hardwicke     page57)

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Pauline Campbell

It is four years today since Pauline died. Her campaign began when her daughter Sarah was one of six women who died in the notorious prison Styal between 2002and 2003. grave concerns were expressed at that time by Prison Minister, Paul Goggins.He undertook a review of vulnerable women in the Criminal Justice System. Baroness Corston was to be responsible for this  review.It reported its findings and recommendations in March 2007.Radical changes in the treatment of women in prison were urgently needed.
I had accompanied Pauline on 5 May 2008 to a court hearing in Macclesfield where the date for a three day trial was fixed to take place in Knutsford crown court this trial was subsequently called off. Pauline sent me a copy of a report that she had put on line on 3 May2008-- Criminal Trial Abandoned As CPS Comes Under Fire Referring to the Corston Report this is what she said "Demonstrations will continue because where there is injustice there will be protest. The unjust sentencing of vulnerable women; their suffering and deaths - that is the injustice. The way forward is to implement the recommendations of the Corston report but Ministers ' feeble response (December 2007) was to say the recommendations  couldn't be funded, yet it seems money is available to build three new Titan prisons. Forty one women prisoners have died from self inflicted injuries since my daughter's death in January 2003- unless reform is introduced more women will die.""
Five years after Corston  Clive Chatterton who went to Styal as governor at the end of a thirty five year career in men's prisons wrote in the Observer as recently as February 11th 2012 that he was scarred by his experience of running Styal. Nick Hardwick , Chief Inspector of Prisons confirmed this saying he found the plight of women there more shocking and distressing than anything he had ever seen. In the Independent 1 May also 2012 he thought the state of women's jails shames Britain!

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Deaths in custody

As I listened to Deborah Coles of Inquest, speaking about two more deaths of children in custody on BBC Womens Hour this morning I thought "Will things never change?"
Since 1990 thirty three children have died. It is ten years since Joseph Scholes died in Stoke Heath
Young Offenders Institution. His family is still grieving. At Joseph's inquest the coroner called for an inquiry. This morning that was one of the issues brought up by Deborah. There has never been an inquiry into the death of a child who has died in the care of state.
It is obvious from evidence given by reports and by evidence at coroners inquests that young people are being sent to dreadful places run by poorly trained staff without the right resources. It is beyond belief that in the twenty first century restraning techniques are being used by staff and causing children to die.I think that restaint is a euphamism for torture.
It would seem that nobody really cares about failing these children.Locking them away is cruel and not the aswer.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Feminist Webs

It was with great pleasure that I took part I a residential weekend last Saturday 10th September at a youth centre near Oldham. The weekend was sponsored by Children, England and Children’s Workforce Development Council. The weekend was part of a year long project. At the end of the project the young women involved will produce an exhibition in the Peoples Museum Manchester and also publish a book about themselves and their journey throughout the year.
The two themes they considered over the weekend were “feminism” and” resilience”. They listened to the stories of three resilient women of today, Pauline Pearce who confronted young people looting in the recent riots in Hackney, Helen John, one of the thirty six women who walked from Cardiff to Green ham in 1981 and who has set up a Peace Camp earlier this month outside RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire to protest against the use of Drones and Vedanta Shiva who is striving for a better deal for the starving poor of India. The young women showed a lively interest and a grasp of what is happening in the world around them that I am sure would have astonished Mr. Gove.
They were members of three separate Youth Clubs and came together with a real spirit of friendship and tolerance. Their demeanour, thoughtfulness and eagerness to learn defied any description of feral youth. I am eighty two years old and I found being with them inspiring and a privilege.