Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Report on the Third Mandatory Lifer Panel oral hearing, Thursday March 12th 2009

Present in addition to the Panel (which included Chairwoman, Psychologist and Independent member) were the following:
Franklyn Wilkinson
Abigail Smith LIP, representing Franklyn Wilkinson
Officer Steve Wright, representing the Secretary of State
Joanne Wallace, Northumbria Probation Service
Jamie Calico, Whitemoor Psychology Department
Paul Marson, Personal Officer of Franklyn Wilkinson

The hearing began with introductions and a discussion between the Chair and Ms Smith of a procedural nature.

Ms Smith began the proceedings generally by pointing out to the panel that Wilkinson had not been involved in any acts of violence since 1993 and had never used a weapon, nor had he been on any discipline report since 2001.

The Chair then called Officer Steve Wright and questioned him on several aspects of the matter in hand. He reported that the official stance was that Wilkinson should remain as Category A. He could give no reason for this and the Chair was fully aware of the Judicial Review on the subject scheduled for March 24th in the High Court. Officer Wright conceded that the adjudication record was excellent and had nothing bad to say regarding Wilkinson. When asked about assessments for courses, Officer Wright admitted that none had been carried out. He explained that the CSCP course, which it has been recommended that Wilkinson be assessed for, runs in Long Lartin, Swaleside and Gartree but that there were long waiting lists and limited places. He finally conceded that Wilkinson might be unsuitable anyway.

Wilkinson pointed out that 'unsuitable' was the wrong word to use here in that it gave the impression that there was something wrong with him that made him unsuitable when a more accurate phrase would be that the courses are unnecessary. The Panel agreed that negative language was used by the prison service when the same thing could be expressed positively.

Officer Wright agreed that courses and assessments could just as easily be done in lower category conditions. When asked if he agreed with the assessments of others who judged that Wilkinson's risk levels had gone down, Officer Wright could not answer but agreed that there had been no increase in risk levels. It was suggested that the last two years could mean a further reduction in risk levels because of the adjudication-free period and other aspects of Wilkinson's behaviour but Wright simply refused to agree although he could give no justification for his disagreement.

Paul Marson stated that Wilkinson got along with everybody and anybody. The Chair seemed fully aware of the website and asked Paul Marson ahout Wilkinson's access to the internet. Marson informed the Chair that the website was conducted by someone in the community and that Wilkinson had no access at all. Marson said that Wilkinson showed advanced thinking and was a calming influence on other, younger prisoners and often calmed situations down, the latest incident being the previous week when a younger inmate had become excited and aggressive. Wilkinson had come out of his cell, spoken to the inmate for a few minutes and the inmate had calmed down and returned to his cell. Marson said that Wilkinson gave advice to the younger prisoners. He seemed to be of the opinion that Wilkinson should be downgraded and sent to a much less secure establishment.

Joanne Wallace discussed various aspects, the most telling being that she considered that Wilkinson's risk levels could be managed in the community and would be happy to see Wilkinson moved to open conditions or released. Wilkinson's management requirement level would be the lowest, in her opinion. When asked if Wilkinson might run off if put into open conditions, Wallace said, 'No', explaining that there was no evidence of impulsive behaviour, drunkenness or substance misuse of any sort and that Wilkinson had done enough courses. Wallace stated that Wilkinson could be released and then take part in courses in the community and that risk levels must have been reduced, as demonstrated clearly by Wilkinson's behaviour. Finally, Wallace stated that it was very unlikely that Wilkinson would return to any form of criminal life-style.
Officer Wright asked Wallace about offending behaviour courses and Wallace was adamant in stating that Wilkinson had done suffic­ient but could always be assessed for further work.

Jamie Calico offered very little of any value. She admitted that she had never met Wilkinson nor spoken to him and knew nothing other than what was in the reports she had read. She insisted that Wilkinson had been offered assessments in 2007 but admitted that she had no proof of that fact and that the Psychology Department had made no attempt to engage Wilkinson since that time. When pressed on the matter, she admitted that the department had been busy and explained that there were other, more important things to do. She then stated that the courses already completed by Wilkinson were sufficient but said that she had concerns about him. Calico then admitted that Wilkinson had been offered nothing for over two years.

The Chair then discussed with Abigail Smith the forthcoming Judicial Review and the application before the CCRC. It was not made clear how the panel were aware of these matters.

The panel then took turns to question Wilkinson on various topics including courses, criminal associates and lifestyle, future prospects, education and aspirations. Wilkinson gave a good account of himself and the hearing drew to an end.

Afterwards Abigail Smith was satisfied that Wilkinson had done extremely well and had come across as entirely honest to the panel.

The panel will issue its report within the coming week or so.

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