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Friday, January 13, 2012

I don't mind taking part but...(part 2)

I don't mind taking part but...(part 2)

Hi John -

Thanks for your email. The background info and the links you sent through earlier are useful.

As discussed on the phone this programme is a documentary, so able to dig deeper than a soundbite on the news.

Thus, in the course of the programme we will be covering issues such as the lack of a written constitution in the UK and the question of UK compliance with decisions of the ECHR. However, as I am sure you appreciate a programme for a general audience can never go into the level of detail that a specialist such as yourself might wish.

I can assure you we will be making clear that you won your case in Strasbourg and that the issue now is that a reluctant British Government has to comply or face sanctions from the ECHR.

As we also talked about on the phone the format of the programme is such that - unlike most news reports - we don't have two people on opposite 'sides' talking about the same issue. Instead with each of our contributors Andrew necessarily has to ask questions that challenge the interviewees standpoint - the audience would expect nothing less.

But I can assure you he will be equally challenging with Phillip Davies MP and Geoffrey Robertson QC, who are we also interviewing next week, as he will with you. Again, as discussed you will understand that we can't omit discussion of your background - which is clearly highly pertinent to the issue - but I can assure you that in your conversation with Andrew you will have ample opportunity to put your views forward as you did very forcefully when we spoke.

We would like to film at 11-30 on Tues (17th Jan). It will be a location in central Hull. I know you are not well at the moment - would you like us to book you a cab ?

Let me know.

Thanks for your help.

Hi Matthew

I am aware that I am a specialist and that this is a specialist area and that the general audience would have difficulty grasping the esoteric points.

You miss the point, it’s not just the British Government which has to comply but the State, that is, the Executive, Parliament and Judiciary.

I don’t have a problem with Andrew asking questions that challenge my standpoint. Playing the ball is acceptable , fouling the player is not. I still await your assurance in this respect. A probation officer emails me “I saw your last interview with Andrew Neil and it was most unedifying. I think you are very wise in being extremely cautious of a 'rematch' with Andrew as I'm fairly sure you are being 'setup' - and I speak as someone not at all sympathetic with the cause of giving prisoners the right to vote. In my view if you take part in the proposed interview it will only serve to strengthen public opinion against prisoner voting rights. But I can fully understand that the offer of further media exposure is extremely tempting indeed.....”. As you can see there is a lack of trust in your motives.

Phillip Davies MP and Geoffrey Robertson QC I fit into the those who are clowns category. I don’t mind you telling them I said that.

My background is not only not highly pertinent to the issue of convicted prisoners human right to the vote, it is irrelevant under English law see the Wednesbury principle. Any deviation from the 2 quoted passages in Hirst v UK (No2) printed below, will, in my view, be totally unacceptable and susceptible to judicial review. The BBC is a public authority and any attempt to abuse my human rights will be challenged in court see s.6(1) HRA 1998. I suspect that you will not be discussing the backgrounds of Phillip Davies MP and Geoffrey Robertson QC.

12. On 11 February 1980, the applicant pleaded guilty to manslaughter
on ground of diminished responsibility. His plea of guilty was accepted on
the basis of medical evidence that the applicant was a man with a gross
personality disorder to such a degree that he was amoral. He was sentenced
to a term of discretionary life imprisonment.

13. The applicant’s tariff (that part of the sentence relating to retribution
and deterrence) expired on 25 June 1994. His continued detention was based
on considerations relating to risk and dangerousness, the Parole Board
considering that he continued to present a risk of serious harm to the public.

I do put my views across very forcefully, I am a heavy hitter who does not pull his punches. It is no good you saying I will have ample opportunity to respond to Andrew’s unjustified attacks upon me. That eats into my time to get my message across. I have no time for distraction politics. I will need to see these so-called background questions beforehand.

The doctor has passed me fit and well, although I have to go for a blood test and chest X-Ray next week.

Nevertheless, I will need a cab both to and from the location. I am 20-30 minutes walking distance from the city centre.

Best wishes


I don't mind taking part but...


Sophie J said...

John, be careful.

What email address do you use?

I would like to email you, no biggie, I've just got a few ideas for consideration.

jailhouselawyer said...

Jim Brown said...


I've thought long and hard about saying something further and in the end feel it might be helpful to make an observation.

Writing as I do about the criminal justice system from a probation officers point of view, I was struck by the way Andrew went for you during the last tv interview, but also how you responded. To repeat, the result was most unedifying, but sadly possibly regarded as one of those 'golden' tv moments by media folk.

What seems to have been forgotten in all this is that the Crown accepted expert medical opinion that at the time of the Index Offence, you were suffering an abnormality of the mind that amounted to diminished responsibility. As a result, that fact was reflected in a discretionary Life Sentence with a tariff of 15 years.

In my view, all subsequent questions about the Index Offence, including that of remorse, have to take this into account, not least because expert opinion at the time was of the view that the condition was 'untreatable'.

For this reason I feel Andrew was out of line. However, it's a question that will be at the back of many peoples minds, fairly or not and in many ways completely irrelevant to the merits of your case against the United Kingdom.

But as we all know, or should know, life is not always fair and you need to have an answer prepared for such occasions. If not, in my view the merits of your case will forever be clouded or drowned out by this issue.

I have no idea if you are a man who takes advice easily or not, but this is meant genuinely and in good faith. Take a long think before going into the lions den again, unless you feel fully prepared, have some assurances, or have no regard at all for public opinion.

Tim said...

You're quite right to be careful John. From experience, I find that the BBC are extremely right-wing biased and are a very pro-Tory State-media.

They have no problem lying about and kicking disabled people, so I doubt either they or this Neil character will behave themselves and provide responsible coverage of this issue.

Charles Cowling said...

Of course your background has no relevance. The issue is the human rights of prisoners. I suspect that Neil may be seeking to downgrade the moral force of the ECHR judgement to junk status on the grounds of something you once did. There is no connection, therefore no relevance.

Either this was the heroic achievement of a man who turned his life around in a way most people couldn't (inspiring but irrelevant backstory) or no reference is allowable.

Because, in objective terms, this was a ruling waiting to be made. And in saying that, I hope you see that I'm taking nothing away from you, John. I don't want to embarrass you, but I am a huge admirer of what you have achieved and who you are. Sorry to get personal. Don't publish this by all means.

jailhouselawyer said...


They make the mistake of planning the questions to try to make me feel uncomfortable. However, I am in my comfort zone and the attacks failed to penetrate. They also made the mistake of underestimating me. My dear departed friend Paul Foot wrote a book called Words as Weapons. I am a wordsmith. The trick is to stick to my own area of expertise, and not be drawn into their game with their rules. The episode of the Dead Ginger Rat on Andrew Neil's head has become a legend. The previous interviews were live, and they could not edit them. This one is pre-recorded which means by cutting and pasting a different impression can be created. I will be on my guard throughout.

It is true about the diminished responsibility, however, the amoral, psychopath, and lack of remorse elements were false. My beliefs echo the hitman Leon "No women, no kids" But for the unbalanced state of my mind I would have kept to this moral code. That I did not is between me and my conscience. Even with the gangsters who normally shun women killers, there was an acceptance that the diminished responsibility was a mitigating factor in my case.

Andrew Neil was bang out of order.

I remember reading a book in which the father gives his son 2 pieces of advice "Life's not fair" and "Don't be late". They have stuck in my mind. Inside is the ideal world and outside is the real world. The problem arises when the 2 worlds collide. I used to be a Boy Scout and the motto was Be Prepared.

I don't always take advice easily. However, I listen and weigh things up to see if it is good or bad advice before following it. I am not one to blindly accept advice. I have a questioning mind. I have thought about it and will play it by ear. I hold the trump card, I can always walk away if I am not happy. As for public opinion, I think it is largely formed out of ignorance, prejudice and fear. I have never set out to win a popularity contest. The UK tried to shield behind public opinion at Strasbourg, but the Court said that human rights trump public opinion. I will stick with the Court's view, and exclude public opinion from the issue.

jailhouselawyer said...


I have the image in my mind of me being in the village stocks as the village idiot Andrew Neil comes along with his rotten vegetables to throw at me.

jailhouselawyer said...


The UK had argued that by comitting their offences and being imprisoned convicted prisoners had lost the moral authority to vote. The ECtHR rejected this argument on the gorund that moral authority has never been a criterion for the franchise.

Subsequently, we had the expenses scandal and Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, opined that Parliament had lost the moral authority to govern.

I laid claim to the moral high ground for prisoners, and the unjustified attacks upon me and the case are from the low moral ground. In spite of attempts to diminish my achievement, I stand firm and look down upon my attackers and pity their stupidity.

It cannot be taken away from me that I reformed and turned my life around. Whilst praise is heaped upon the likes of Jimmie Boyle and Erwin James, because I dared to attack the system it would appear as though I am deemed fair game and open to attack. I have broad shoulders and just pour boiling oil down upon those attacking my stronghold.

I agree it was a ruling waiting to be made. There had been a couple of judgments of individuals denied the franchise, but the Court stated this was the first of its kind whereby so many were disenfranchised by a blanket policy. I spotted the opportunity and went for it.

I would not dream of not publishing your thoughts which I value.