Joint Committee On Human Rights Twelfth Report

Appendix 8: Submission from Peace and Justice in East London

The following submission is put on behalf of members of the multi-faith group Peace & Justice in east London. The group has closely monitored the situation with the individuals first being detained without trial and later released into house arrest under control orders. A number of the men were re-arrested last August following the London bombings pending deportation. Since then, some of the men have been bailed under conditions practically identical to those operating when under control orders.

Adrienne Burrows of Peace & Justice in east London has been vetted for two of the men and has been supporting them and their families over recent weeks. She has first hand knowledge of the suffering of the men and their families under control order conditions. Tim Wardle has made his home available as a bail address and had one of the detainees staying with him.

The Peace & Justice in east London group also monitored what became known as the ricin trial—where no ricin was found. This trial lasted for many months resulting in the acquittal last April of all concerned, except Kamal Bourgass who received a 17 year sentence for public nuisance. A number of these individuals were also re-arrested in September following the London bombings despite being cleared by a court of law. Some of them have been bailed pending deportation also. Olive Flynn of Peace & Justice in east London stood surety for one of these men.

Adrienne Burrows tells of her experience in the first case. The second contribution reflects the thoughts and feelings of another man Adrienne has contact with. The third account is told by Olive Flynn.

Adrienne Burrows -

"The details given below are typical of the control order regime and the difficulties encountered are repeated in many other cases. The corrosive effect of control orders on the lives of the people involved can only be appreciated by engaging with the details of the restrictions, both large and small, governing daily life. These are far too numerous to deal with fully here.

* One man has already experienced three separate periods of detention with different regulations. First a period of full house arrest lasting nine months (the worst experience), followed by four months of control order (dusk till dawn curfew plus tagging, monitoring and numerous other restrictions), followed by rearrest, then bail with conditions even stricter than control orders. Many of the issues raised affect all three periods of detention.

A matter of real concern has been the denial of access to worship freely. "There has been no access to the mosque. I have been unable to perform Friday prayers at the mosque ( two hours, once a week). Even in prison the right to take part in Friday prayers together is respected. I cannot attend the mosque for the world wide celebration of Eid - every Muslim should attend the mosque," said the man. "We cannot take part in the daily early evening prayers during Ramadan (30 days) a very holy month for Muslims. No Imam has been cleared to read the Koran or to visit. All these things are allowed in prison."

Another concern is medical issues. The man concerned suffered from polio and has had mental health issues in recent years as a direct result of his indefinite detention and harsh conditions. He has been out of prison now for three months under bail conditions. During this time his physiotherapist has not been cleared to see him for the essential work on his legs. She has been his physio for many years and cleared on previous occasions but new clearance was asked for the new conditions. Lack of treatment has brought about deterioration—he's now confined to a wheelchair instead of being able to walk on crutches. He uses plastic leg splints—all hospital appointments to do with these have to be requested by solicitor and given clearance. One such essential visit has been cancelled in the last few days because clearance was not given in time. The GP is only 10 minutes away but is not allowed to visit, each visit has to be cleared by the Home Office.

Mental health has been another problem area. During the recent period since leaving prison he was at first unable to get access to his psychiatrist. This was badly needed because he had spent most of the four months in prison in the Health Care Unit under special treatment for mental health crisis. (Even in prison he was only allowed one 10 minute session with a physiotherapist in the whole four months.) When a psychiatrist was cleared he asked the Home Office to allow access to the hospital day centre for occupational therapy for a couple of hours each day. A Home Office decision on this request has still not been given. No activity or therapy has been allowed up till now during this bail condition period.

Social isolation is another feature of control orders. The family has no visitors or guests and this applies to the whole family, not just the man under restrictions. All visitors need to be vetted. They are a refugee family and so most of their friends are also refugees. Traditionally visits would be gender divided, therefore the wife's friends would be women with whom her husband would not have any contact during their time in the flat. But all her visitors still have to be vetted and no one in their circle would want to risk being tarred with the same brush of suspicion and fear is strong in the community on such matters. Even her sister who had been cleared for a previous visit was forced to stay elsewhere at the last minute when she arrived as planned from abroad with her baby to see her sick sister. New vetting was called for by the Home Office. I was called to deliver food to the visitor and her child in their temporary accommodation away from the family home.

If anything happens—if anyone needs to repair things in the flat, as when the hot water system broke down, or the washing machine—any one coming into the flat has to be cleared, and this takes time.

The man's wife was recently hospitalised for several weeks bringing difficulties for father and child. Agreements had to be reached to allow the father to take and fetch the child to and from school. On one occasion I was called to take the child to school. Visiting the hospital also brought problems. The wife is still not well enough to deal with these tasks and with shopping. The father is now allowed out on the school walk and allowed 15 to 20 minutes for a few shopping trips to the local shop each week. All trips out of the house have to be registered before and after by phone calls. And this is in addition to the fact that the man is tagged. As for the tagging—the wife says "It has become normal but shouldn't be normal—controlling everything."

The phone-calls on this issue average around eight a day and have increased recently. The tagging company phone even when they know he is out - and the wife has to say that he's not back yet.

If there's the slightest fault in the tagging equipment, the police are called and arrive with the tagging company (two police and three taggers) - at times like 2.30 or 3.00 in the morning. Once when the father was collecting the child, the Home Office people arrived and demanded that the wife let them in so that they could question her about the state of her health. They have no right to do this. The sick woman suffered severe stress in this situation. At a later date I witnessed the Home Office official call the wife into the living room to be questioned about her state of health.

Other than these domestic trips, he is not allowed time out and has no access to library, school or colleges for study etc. He does not enter anywhere where internet is in use as he is prohibited to access it. He is not allowed to use a mobile or any phone at all other than the land line in his home. No mobile phones can be used by anyone in the home. His own computer was inspected by the Home Office and returned to him broken.

The consequence for the family is that they have lost hope. This situation seems indefinite - it may never end. The wife suffers extreme stress, severe headaches and eczema. She says "Every day you live in fear and every day you have more fear." Since she has been ill, a psychiatrist has been cleared to visit her. A nurse has refused to be cleared. The family is constantly aware that a rearrest could come at any time.

The effects on a child who has grown up in this country with the idea that a visit from the police or Home Office could be to take father away, can be imagined. The child also suffers symptoms of stress. "They have done this and they are abusing their power". His wife says "These people are doing a great job at destroying my life and my family's life."

* A second man under control order type conditions expressed the following sentiments - "This is madness, this is torture".. "We are the mice in a government experiment" .."A control order is like being in a space capsule isolated from the world".. "It is not physical torture but mental—driving you to madness".. "It is torture for the family, paying the price for what they didn't do".. " A control order is a punishment for someone who hasn't been convicted of anything—especially for anyone disabled"

.."We suffer under control orders—disorientation, no way of knowing when this will end or what will happen next—waiting for rearrest?".. "It is like being part of a game - they are playing with us. You are not in control of your life, someone is in control of it".. "You cannot think properly—you have to think twice before doing simple things like going shopping. If you make a mistake you will be rearrested. Even the little freedom they give you is controlled by these conditions. If you make a joke on the phone, just for a laugh to forget the situation you are in, you still have to be careful what you say—they are going to take it seriously". "You live in total anxiety and fear and depression. The control order drives you to madness". "You feel like you're in a maze with no way out." "There are so many restrictions, you can't go to a library or a college because they have internet. You feel isolated—not in the real world".." There is no 'daily life' for you and your 'entourage'"

Olive Flynn -

* One of the men acquitted in "the ricin trial" was on bail from March to September 2005. He did not breach any bail conditions but was rearrested in September. He was injured during his arrest, despite offering no resistance. The arrest was conducted in a high profile way. At the reception of Belmarsh Prison he asked for his injuries to be photographed but this was not done. He was later transferred to Long Lartin and put on suicide watch. When I saw him in September, before his arrest he was a healthy 27 year old man. When I saw him again on 27 January he was a mental and physical wreck. He is in pain as he limps.

This man has been bailed under control order conditions that allow him to go out for six hours of each day. He has to report to a police station each day. All visitors coming to see him have to be vetted. If he wants to visit someone he has to give three days notice to the authorities. He has been tagged.

3 February 2006

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