Wednesday, June 01, 2011

A day in Purgatory

I think I'd better state right away that Purgatory has been abolished by the Catholic Church and therefore the title must not be taken TOO seriously. Neither should any religious fanatic take umbrage. Having said all that, let me tell you about yesterday.

Yesterday was 26th May, Thursday, a day long awaited by several protagonists, not the least being Boudica - so no doubt she will read this through her usual gritted teeth as her mutt chews the door off yet another spin drier, or whatever it is Cassie has taken to vandalising lately.

Thursday, May 26th and the day of my parole oral hearing at last! I shall tell it as I saw it. I had intended to make a kind of coherent report, the sort solicitors like to put in front of courts during Judicial Reviews, but they can be a bit boring so I'm going to tell it my own way. It may seem flippant but the underlying facts will be apparent and unalterable. No doubt I will ramble and digress - I usually do - but I am equally sure that Andrew will be composing a more sober effort, if he hasn't already done so. Anyway, let's get on with it, no point sitting here waffling.

I went down to the visits area at about 9:15, and the first person I saw was the world famous Wallace - who doesn't like me calling her that but who has, with great grace, decided that objecting was, and is, a complete waste of breath and just ignores me now.

So, there was I, sitting chatting to The Wallace, and then my barrister arrived - yet another nice person, like The Wallace. That put three of us in a little room that, if you kept rabbits in there, you'd be arrested for cruelty. My barrister told us that the Judge intended to start proceedings at 10:30 and would brook no dissent. Sounded fair to me.

Then I saw Andrew sitting outside and gave him a wave, and the excellent Blodwyn arrived around then too, as did our independent psychologist. This all meant that the cast was assembled - time to raise the curtain and get on with the show, so to speak.

I managed to get a quick five minutes with Andrew but I have to say that I could sit and chat to him for hours, and no doubt probably will at some stage in the (hopefully) not too distant future. Andrew is what his Mum would have called "a good egg".

Anyway, everyone was introduced to everyone else and people who had only been names to each other could now put faces to those names. And it occurred to me, as I looked around at all of the faces, that each and every one of them was "a good egg" - it can't be stated otherwise.

Anyway, the panel arrived a few minutes before ten thirty and we all marched in there like good soldiers.

Inside the fairly small room stood a large table surrounded by eight chairs. The chairman, a Judge, sat at the centre of the far side of the table flanked by the two other panel members - an independent member on his left and a clinical psychologist on his right. That was the panel on one side of the table.

I sat directly across from the Judge with my barrister on my right and our independent psychologist on my left. At the end of the table to my right sat The Wallace and at the other end sat Blodwyn. Andrew, as an observer, sat behind our independent psychologist and there was a huge, hulking kangaroo seated behind me. Ostensibly he was there being trained to become a member of the OMU (Offender Management Unit) but I've got my doubts - a sourer-faced sod would be hard to find. Put it this way - if he is going to be responsible for any report-writing, may God have mercy on the poor bastards he writes about, that's all I can say.

The Judge started things off by introducing everyone in the room to everyone else and then asked if there was any objection to Lurch behind me sitting in. We didn't object. The Judge then went on to explain the purpose of the hearing - an inquisitorial exercise to ascertain what should be done with me.

When all of the preliminaries were out of the way, the first one up for grilling was The Wallace. I don't intend to reproduce anything said verbatim but the general gist was that she wanted me downgraded to a Category 'D' prisoner and sent to an open prison to begin to prepare me for release. There was a good deal of discussion as to my suitability for open conditions, and The Wallace assured the panel that she had no qualms in any area and that my remaining in prison no longer served any meaningful purpose.

Next up was Blodwyn and she gave the psychological aspect a going-over, and she said precisely the same thing - prison no longer served any meaningful purpose and that I should be moved to an open prison to facilitate my resettlement plans and that the risk of me reoffending was negligible. I have to admit that Blodwyn really went to bat for me, even going so far as to refer to certain attitudes shown by the prison as nonsense - a view that the panel seemed to agree with.

Then the panel turned its attention to our independent psychologist, and he said much the same thing as everyone else - a move to open prison. He went further and said that he would not only have no qualms about my release, as Blodwyn and The Wallace had both said, but he would have no qualms about me living next door to him.

So, that was that as far as the expert witnesses were concerned. At that point my barrister made her representations and of course there was yet another big discussion about resettlement plans and my ability, willingness or otherwise to get along with a new area probation officer if I were relocated in some dim and distant outpost - such as Yorkshire.

Then, when everything was going splendidly, they turned to me. I'm no good at answering questions - I'm too forthright for my own good. I probably didn't do myself any favours because to begin with I told the Judge not to ask questions about anyone else because I wouldn't feel able to answer. Of course I had got the wrong idea in my defensive attitude, so let's hope that they understood that. And that was it really - job done at just after 1 pm.

In summary, there were absolutely no dissenting voices in respect of my being sent to open prison, not an objecting word from anyone. The main thrust seemed to be about my ability to adjust and the resettlement plans. I should get the official decision in a week or so.

Outside the room afterwards, my barrister said that everything had gone exceptionally well - apart from my own offering, of course. I'd make a mess of a piss-up in a brewery - got a loose motormouth, you see. I like to tell the truth - it gets me into trouble.

I said farewell to all and sundry and Lurch brought me back to my kennel. What else can I tell you?

However, I would like to say that it was really nice to see so many friendly faces for a change - good, decent and fair folk. It's restored my faith in humanity.

The Voice In The Wilderness

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