Saturday, 19th January, 2002
THE PRISON RIOT THAT THE PARKHURST ADMINISTRATION WANTED
I am often asked to explain the Parkhurst prison riot where it was alleged I was the ringleader.
These are the facts.
In prison before a serious planned demonstration takes place the unwritten, but mandatory, rule-governing prisoners organising a demonstration is that each inmate in the prison has to be given the option of opting-out. This is because consideration is necessary for those due for immediate release who could be seriously affected, those that had pressing personal domestic problems, the unwell, and any other that had a reason not to join the demonstration.
Despite contradictory false propaganda no one is forced to join in any organised demonstration. The evidence of this is witnessed by the fact that in all prison demonstrations only a minor percentage of the actual prison population takes part.
This democratic rule however, comes with danger. It usually takes about 2 days to spread the word that a demonstration is to be staged, and gain the consent from those who want to participate.
You will understand that a sit-in demonstration depends heavily upon the element of surprise. In prison 'grasses' lurk everywhere. It takes just one Judas to inform the authorities and the valuable weapon of surprise is lost.
We lost the element of surprise as 2 or 3 prisoners did 'shop' us when we planned the demonstration in Parkhurst to take place on the 20th of October 1969. I know this to be true because it came out in evidence at the trial that followed the riot.
THE EVIDENCE THAT THE ADMINISTRATION WANTED A RIOT
The trial evidence also revealed that the Parkhurst Prison administration disregarded the usual methods of a prison administration of immediately defusing an impending demonstration by 'shipping-out' to other prisons those that were believed to be organising a demonstration or, alternatively, overpowering them, and then segregating them in solitary prison strong rooms.
Instead of following the regular practice the Parkhurst administration deliberately made ready for a 'war', and covertly, silently 'ghosted' in during the nights prior to the demonstration some 250/300 prison officers, armed with heavy riot gear, from other prisons.
They were determined to have a confrontation, and draw blood.
If this was not a deliberately planned method of operation, and they wanted to avoid a bloodbath, on the night on which the planned demonstration was to take place they had only to cancel association, and kept all prisoners confined to their cells.
This happens often when too many officers go sick and an insufficient number are available to supervise the association period, it also occurs when the Prison Officer's Association order their members to work to rule, and for a variety of other reasons.
When we called the sit-down demonstration at about 7 p.m. during the association period heavily protected prison officers with special riot weapons came from everywhere. They were obviously ready and waiting. The pent-up frustration and anger of the ill-equipped prisoners exploded.
The riot squads of prison officers were fully prepared, and they were brutal. The display of overwhelming superior strength by the authorities indicated that they wanted a 'war'. It is impossible to come to any other conclusion.
I admit I did my share of violent retaliatory behaviour before succumbing to very heavy punishment from sadistic prison officers whose weight of numbers, and special equipment, were vastly superior to the makeshift weapons of a big-hearted, but very much smaller force of fighting men.
THE SADISTS WERE ON OVERTIME PAY
The sadistic prison officers who were sent to quell the demonstration had the time of their lives, and they were on generous overtime payment for indulging in their sick perversions.
Their viciousness was so callous that it needed to be seen to be believed. It was a miracle a prisoner, or prisoners, was not killed. Some of those injured would take their injuries to the grave.
Even when the sheer weight of the overwhelming numbers of the heavily equipped prison officers had beaten prisoners into a state of unconsciousness the sadistic beatings carried on.
Stalin would have given each and every one of the vicious prison administration and their puppets, the prison officers, the old USSR's highest award, and personally kissed each one of them on both cheeks.
In company with most of the demonstrators I was very badly injured. I spent months in hospital while the authorities decided whether to hold an internal prison inquiry or have the matter heard in an outside court. Finally the Director of Prosecutions decided that the matter should be held in an outside criminal court.
QUESTIONS ON WHY A 1,000 YEAR OLD RULE WAS BROKEN?
For the first time in 1,000 years Hampshire Assizes, county criminal courts were then known as Assizes, was transferred from Winchester, the capital of Hampshire, to the Isle of Wight. The official reason for this was for security purposes.
Was this the real reason? Why not the Assizes of another county were there was a secure prison, or the Old Bailey in London?
The Isle of Wight is a small compact community. Prison staff obviously lived on the island, and the local economy gained benefit from the prison.
With these considerations known was it a harmless reason to hold the trial on the tiny Isle of Wight, and upset a 1,000-year-old tradition? Or was it a deliberate compromise of justice?
I will leave you to answer the questions.
The risk that a jury comprising of jurors drawn from the Isle of Wight might have connections, no matter how loose, with local civilian staff working at the prison, and the fact that the prison provided valuable income for the local economy had to pose the possibility of a serious threat to the impartiality of any juror.
THE COST TO THE TAXPAYER
However the authorities ignored this threat. They had to get convictions at all costs to mask their own criminal activities.
On the other hand maybe the possibility of local prejudice was considered, and accepted with relish by the authorities?
The case took an undue long time to be prepared, and I was in hospital for something like nine months. When I did make an appearance in court I was still hobbling on crutches.
The long delay in coming to trial ideally suited the prosecution because most of the very serious injuries sustained by the prisoners were nearly healed. I was not a young man therefore my deep wounds and injuries took longer to heal. So much so that after the trial I was sent to Wakefield Prison where I was immediately put into the hospital wing.
The Prosecuting Counsel described me as the ringleader of the riot.
The court presiding Judge, Mr Justice Bean sentenced me to five years imprisonment for participating in the riot. Any less a fair man would have, at least, doubled that sentence.
The decision by the authorities to declare 'war' on the demonstrators cost the British taxpayer a great deal of money at a time when the prison authorities, and their political masters, were pleading that lack of money was the reason they could not improve basic human facilities in prisons throughout the country.
The massive cost of repairing the damage to the prison, the disruption in a large prison like Parkhurst, the charge of relocating such a large number of prisoners, the extra burden this placed on other prisons, the expense of collecting prison officers from prisons around the country, billeting costs, the overtime expense of the prison officers, the emergency services, and others. The final bill must have been enormous.
And it called have all been avoided if the proper method to avert a demonstration had been applied by the Parkhurst prison administration.
Some of the prisoners brought civil actions, and the cases were settled out of court. The prison authorities had to settle the claims out of court because they dared not take the risk of having a re-run of the criminal court case in a civil court.
It was remarkable that permission was given for British taxpayers' money to be spent in settling the claims without the reason for the expenditure being properly decided in a court-of-law. None was more surprised than the prisoners and their lawyers until the reason was properly considered.
The prison authorities were afraid of the truth becoming exposed. There is no way that they would have paid out money in damages to the prisoners unless this was the reason.
UNDIVIDED LOYALTY THAT SPELLS-OUT THE TRUTH
When I was in hospital in a serious condition a message was smuggled into me from Ronnie Kray who was in a different wing in Parkhurst. Ronnie at the time of the riot was isolated in a choky strong room.
The message from Ronnie was that he had heard two 'screws' discussing the riot, and one said the order had been to get "Frankie Fraser" and Ronnie is willing to testify to this in court.
I can tell you that no 'magic' orthodox medicine could have had the good effect this display of loyalty had on me. At that time the slightest movement of my body was extremely painful, nevertheless as I mentally digested the message, and nodded my grateful thanks to the messenger the pain never mattered.
The loyalty of Ronnie Kray was a great tonic. I had offered to go as a witness for him and Reggie at their trial, and at the first opportunity he wanted to repay the favour. He was serving a life sentence, with a tariff to serve a minimum of 30 years.
For him to be a witness against the prison authorities had to mean he would be the victim of ongoing victimisation, and he was well aware of this. Nevertheless he still offered his loyal services.
My lawyers did not call Ronnie because there was no corroboration, and with ongoing victimisation certain it would have been unfair to allow him to go into the witness box unless his evidence was essential. On reflection I should have called him because it would have put an end to the nonsense wild stories of our alleged enmity.
This anecdote will come as a big disappointment to those who enjoy spreading the false propaganda that there was bad blood between the Krays and me, and my friends.
WHEN JUSTICE WAS UPHELD
Judge Bean was under heavy political pressure, but he drew the line when the prosecution tried to take too many liberties.
He was also a wise man, and knew that the riot did not take place for the sake of rioting, and that the prison authorities had badly abused their authority.
In his summing up the learned Judge clearly showed his true feelings when in reference to the riot squads made-up of prison officers he said, "More force than was necessary was used". To make this damning comment took courage. Those who believe that jurists, including Judges, are autonomous and free spirits are incredibly naive, especially at that period in time.
His Honour Judge Bean was so right.
It was not unusual when the trial was in progress for Judge Bean to see my then wife Doreen on the ferry that takes you to the Isle of the Wight. Each time he would politely bid her good morning, and according to Doreen he always sounded as if he meant it.
During the trial a son of Judge Bean would come and listen to the evidence. One of the accused in good humour sent him a note requesting him to ask his father to find us not guilty.
With a smile, Mr Bean Jnr sent a note back saying it was unnecessary, if we were not guilty. This was a son that knew his father well.
The problem was we were guilty of violent behaviour, albeit retaliatory.
When it became apparent that Judge Bean intended to conduct a fair trial I tried to show my respect for the Judge. I hope he read well my intention.
5 + 10 + 5 = 20 YEARS
The five years imprisonment had to be added to the five years I received for the alleged affray at Mr. Smith's nightclub and casino in South London, and the ten years I was given by Judge Lawton QC following the ludicrous 'Torture Trial', when the evil Lawton made sure that justice was shanghaied at the Central Criminal Court.
So now, following three court appearances none of which were of my making, and after receiving dreadful injuries in the riot at Parkhurst, I was serving twenty-years in gaol, and in two of the trials justice was deliberately suspended.
Because I refused to admit guilt for the affray charge, and the ridiculous 'Torture Trial' I did not qualify for parole, and served every day of the 20 years imprisonment.
Had I received justice on the alleged affray charge, and had Judge Lawton had the fairness of Mr. Justice Bean then I would not have been in Parkhurst to take part in the riot.
But then, that's life!