Nicholls & Nicholls were referred to a client accused of assaulting a prison officer. In custody for almost 15 years on an indeterminate IPP sentence for a single offence of arson, our client has been denied parole on countless occasions despite the Judge saying she should be considered for release after just 6 months of receiving the prison sentence all those years ago.
With her latest parole review due around the same time as this case was scheduled, we were tasked with proving her version of events. An incident occurred whilst she was locked in her cell. A prison officer had a verbal confrontation through the cell hatch and then proceeded to have physical contact with her hand causing a fractured finger. We requested CCTV footage of the cell door, and the full internal adjudication file based on our client’s instructions. The prison, however, stated neither existed. After numerous internal enquiries with other organisations involved in the prison, it was proven our client was telling the truth.
This meant our chosen barrister, Miss Laura Miller of Trinity Chambers, had a tough job of legal arguments that continued for many months. Eventually, the Crown Prosecution Service had no option other than to withdraw the proceedings after eventually accepting the prison had not given accurate information.
What is highly unusual about this case is the general regard of institutions who house detained individuals, being blasé about evidence and their legal obligations. We were told on numerous occasions there was no CCTV on the wing. This is highly unusual. We then undertook significant research into this situation and were able to rely on other evidence to prove there was a camera directly looking at our client’s cell door. Once we proved this, we were then told that the camera was newly fitted and wasn’t recording at the time. Once we proved this was also not the case and the camera had been fitted much earlier and was working, they then stated that it had not recorded. The defence team eventually obtained documents proving that it had recorded the incident and that it had been seen by a senior member of staff during an internal adjudication of the incident.
To date, the footage has not been disclosed. Although we eventually won this case, we are in the process of taking further action because to Nicholls & Nicholls, it causes great concern finding that prisons and organisations given power over people’s liberty and freedoms, are manipulating or hiding evidence to protect institutionalised behaviour by those with responsibility.
Lucinda Nicholls, managing partner, commented following the client being found not guilty, “It’s a big deal when you have someone’s future balancing on the decisions you make. It’s crucial to ensure justice is done and that no stone is left unturned. The Criminal Justice System is based on evidence and making sure that the truth comes out. Our job is to make sure that happens and in this case, it did but not without a lengthy fight on our hands. I’m very lucky to have such a supporting team and know they care as much as I do about what happens to our clients.”
To see how we could provide assistance to you, your friends or family, take a look at our practice areas here.