[AMENDED 5th May]
On Friday I at last made it up to Scotland to visit Robert and Rusty
First stop was Peterhead which felt like the edge of the world, with the posh new prison perched on a rocky out-crop surrounded by sea, a kind of Scottish Alcatraz and yet in its lack of the characteristic high walls, at least at the front of the complex, looking from the outside more like a state-of-the art conference-hall or sports centre than a penitentiary. The internal décor was likewise colourful and even on the luxurious side while the staff seemed relaxed and friendly with the regular visitors chatting and cracking jokes with them in the queue to enter the visiting hall.
The accolades end there though as Rusty, a former engineer said £97 million had been cut off the budget for building the prison, with the result that there were a number of crass defects such as for example, the stain-proof glazing of the showpiece all-glass corridor linking the reception area of the complex to the dormitory units having been placed on the inside rather than the outside, hence every bird in Peterhead had by now left its mark on the glass…
As for Prisoner No. 134031 himself, I was concerned that he was noticeably thinner than when I’d last seen him in Aberdeen on 24th February and he confirmed he’d lost 10 lbs. His description of the food was characteristically epigrammatic, “child’s portions of pigswill …if anyone wants to lose weight don’t go to a health-farm, come to Grampian jail!” Other than that he looked reasonably well and was in good spirits. He said he doesn’t mix much with the other prisoners, 90% of whom are young guys on drug-related offences and like Robert spends most of the time reading and writing letters when not on his cleaning-round which he enjoys as it’s a chance to be active rather than vegetating in the cell all day long. He uses the 2 big drums of cleaning-fluid with which he’s issued every morning at the start of his round as dumb-bells to build his arms up so while he was noticeably thinner in the torso he was sporting a pair of very beefy biceps!
We chatted about matters of common interest, Robert, the state of the campaign, the next possible legal steps? He’s not bothering with any kind of review or appeal, he said, he’s just focusing on getting out as fast as possible, preferably well before the half-way date of 11th August. Having realised that his High-Risk status was an impediment to early release he’s now managed to get that reduced to Low-Risk, theoretically at least – this needs recording on not just one but several internal files and it would appear that process is not yet complete but at least it’s underway.
Like Robert, Rusty’s enormously appreciative of people taking the trouble to write to him and trying to send him nettle tea-bags – he’s had 3 so far he says! – but in general there’s not much point in sending anything apart from letters or articles of interest and maybe the odd few stamped envelopes (he seems OK for money but appreciated someone sending him £10 the other day) because anything ‘forbidden’ just gets locked away. He’s also OK for books as the prison library is not bad, for example he’s enjoying ploughing through Lord of the Rings which he always meant to read but never got round to.
Rusty did say a couple of weeks back if anyone wants to write to Ren his wife that would be much appreciated – again as with Robert, Rusty’s main concern is for his family and how they are bearing up without him. Although he was happy for his home address to be published I think it would be better to send any mail for Ren via me Ren Rustige c/o McKenzie 83 Priory Gardens London N6 5QU and I’ll forward it on. Ren is originally from the Philippines, I gather they met through the Prisoner of Conscience work in relation to the Marcos regime.
Leaving HMP Grampian at 2.45 it was a bit touch-and-go getting down to Perth by bus and train in time for the 7pm visit to Robert. As the train drew out of Aberdeen station I took a peek through the window at the old Craiginches prison which has now lost half of its previous 10 metre (? a guess) high walls and re-lived the 3 actions we held there in 2012 which ended with a flourish on the morning of Robert’s release with the consumption of a full Scottish Breakfast cooked on a gas camper-stove under the walls by Arthur resplendent in a white chef’s uniform and hat! Unfortunately our hero himself had no time to eat as he was dashing for the Manchester train, but he’d had rice-crispies in the prison he said, so he was OK.
Waiting in the HMP Perth visiting-hall for Prisoner No. 125799 to appear was a bit nerve-racking because having had one slight shock that day to see Rusty so reduced in weight I feared what state Robert might appear in, in view of his current illness, moreover of all his recent visitors I would see most change in him having not seen him for longest… I was relieved to see him looking outwardly not in bad shape and looking his usual cheerful self however I wasn’t at all happy about his facial colour although didn’t like to say anything out loud. He said his blood pressure had just been taken again the previous day after a gap of 4 weeks and it was still up, also he was still having the chest-pains although the medication had helped a bit. So no way must we stop campaigning to get him out of there – he could still have a heart-attack or stroke any day…
Since Robert phones me almost every day there wasn’t that much ‘new’ news but he did tell me that he’s lodged a complaint with the police concerning the misinformation put into the court about him it would appear by the area Procurator Fiscal himself at the 3rd bail hearing on Wednesday 19th March which must have been what caused bail to be refused a third time. His solicitor attended but he himself was not produced, obviously so that there would be no challenge to the extraordinary allegation that he, Robert Green had been leafleting outside the Sheriff Court. “ I haven’t been anywhere near Aberdeen since I left Craiginches Prison on 17th May 2012 so how could I possibly have been leafleting? If the PF really said that he’s perjured himself.” In fact he’s written to the PF Andrew Shanks 4 times asking whether he did or didn’t make this statement before Lady Wise on 19th March? but there has been no reply from Shanks…
Hence his lodging a complaint with the local police and accordingly on Thursday 1st May Robert was visited by 2 officers of Perth Police, DC Johnstone and DC Stewart who heard his complaint and took a statement but then the older of the two, DC Johnstone told him no action was going to be taken. Robert demanded to know why that was? “Because the Procurator Fiscal is an employee of the Crown Office.” “Do you mean to tell me that an officer of the law can commit an offence but there will be no follow-up because he or she is employed by the Crown – is this written in the law of Scotland?” to which DC Johnstone was unable to reply, so Robert switched onto a different tack. “Officer, can you tell me please, is it a principle in Scotland that everyone is equal under the law?” to which the constable replied “Yes.” ”But can you see, officer,” persisted Robert, “the two statements can’t be true, so what is the actual law of Scotland if it’s different to the universal principle of equality under the law?” to which again DC Johnstone had no answer. “D’you mean to tell me that if the PF had been a bent plumber who’d fitted the wrong pipe there’d be no redress because he was a member of the National Federation of Plumbers?”
By this time the younger officer DC Stewart was starting to look distinctly embarrassed and as neither wished or were able to pursue the discussion any further they left.
Well, this really shows what a state this country’s in, said Robert. That would be Frank Mulholland as usual, telling everyone Hollie’s allegations have been thoroughly investigated when they haven’t and now he’s Lord Advocate playing god almighty with the law. He’s now written to Mulholland, he said, “not that he’ll reply to me – none of them ever want to write to me because they know their letter will soon be all over the internet and everyone will be able to see what’s going on. They’re all just digging themselves in deeper and deeper and I can’t believe at times just how stupid they are! At the same time there are some very clever Scots including top legal people who know exactly what’s going on and are not going to let them get away with it for much longer. That’s why it’s so important I keep hammering away at them and also now so many supporters are joining in it’s really getting harder and harder for them, the people who are writing are serious people, they send me copies of the letters and some of them are excellent.”
So his message to everyone is a huge thanks for all this letter-writing you are doing and please keep it up – there is no doubt whatsoever it is having a huge impact!
Just before time was up I made Robert’s day by telling him that the membership of the Violate Club is known – I wasn’t at liberty to tell him who has the list but someone does and in due course the names will be revealed.
It was helpful to get a phone-call this morning (Monday 5th) from Robert and be able to jot down more accurately the sequence of his interview with Perth police last Thursday, see above the amendments from the version I put out yesterday evening. The significance of this very brief exchange between Robert and the police cannot be underestimated as it would appear to have shown up in glaring relief a major anomaly in Scottish law, if indeed these two mutually contradictory principles of immunity of the Crown and equality under the law do exist side-by-side in Scotland.
If anyone reading this blog happens to be a Scottish lawyer or knows your law we would be very grateful if you could answer the question Robert asked DC Johnstone on Thursday – where is it actually written into Scottish law that the Crown Office and all employees thereof are exempt from the normal liabilities?
Robert also told me today he’s not letting Salmond off the hook regarding his Freedom of Information transgressions and he has put in another FOI request to know the actual number of times between January and July 2011 that Salmond failed to answer FOI Commissioner Kevin Dunion’s request for information regarding the Hollie Greig case – the article in The Firm indicates there were “repeated” requests, so, exactly how many times was the request for information re-sent to Salmond and there was no reply?
Original Article at Free Robert Green http://www.freerobertgreen.co.uk/visit-to-robert-and-rusty-friday-2nd-may/