Gary Critchley is victim of state
Paddy Hill of the Birmingham Six is right to say that miscarriages of justice are continuing today (‘I was taken out of prison. But prison wasn’t taken out of me’, 11 September). Campaigners are fighting to clear the name of Gary Critchley, who has spent 30 years in prison.
No longer jailed in relation to the original—and very unsafe—conviction, Gary is now detained at Rowan House, in Norfolk, as a result of attempts on his own life. This is to assess whether he has a personality disorder, and if so, how he will be “looked after” within the system.
Gary has become something of a political prisoner—being punished by a retributive system, and is now a renowned and award-winning artist.
Gary discovered politics and punk at the age of 14. He was recruited into the Young Socialist party, and excluded from school for leading “pupil-power” marches and picketing the school.
At the same age, Gary was sent to juvenile detention centre for criminal damage and theft, where he was physically and mentally abused.
Upon release he quickly deteriorated, abusing various drugs and becoming involved with crime. In 1980, on the tenth day of a two week visit to a notorious London squat, Gary was found severely injured on the concrete pavement four floors below the squat.
He had a broken back, ankle and wrist, and was subsequently found to have suffered brain damage from a hammer blow to the front of his skull.
Drug traces in his blood showed large quantities of sleeping pills as well as alcohol, and he was suffering from hypothermia when found.
When police investigated, they found Mr Edward McNeill dead in the squat above where Gary had been found, and the room covered in blood.
Most of the blood was Mr McNeill’s, who had been bludgeoned with a hammer almost 30 times. Some of it was Gary’s.
A bloodstained hammer, classed as the murder weapon, and found inside the flat, was found to have no prints or any other links to Gary.
In May 1981 (despite numerous forensic discrepancies) he was found guilty of murder and sentenced to be “detained at Her Majesty’s Pleasure”. Some of the discrepancies include:
- The hammer blow to Gary’s head was said by the prosecution to have been made by Gary himself, in rebound frenzy, as he carried out the savage attack on Mr McNeill. Gary’s injuries were made by the ball end of the hammer—the same as Mr McNeill’s.
- Mr McNeill’s body was almost drained of blood when it was found. Not one speck of his blood was found on Gary, though witnesses said he was wearing the same clothes he had all day.
- The only forensic evidence linking Gary to the attack was an undone training shoe, two to three sizes too small for him—jammed onto Gary’s left foot.
The recommendation at sentence was that he serve “no more than eight to nine years”. There is no sign of his release.
Justice for Gary Critchley campaign
More details, and how to join the campaign are available at www.justiceforgarycritchley.org
Day centre is at risk
I attend a council-run day centre in Haringey, north London, where staff shortages and budget cuts have led to the former seven day service being reduced to five.
Management have run two blocks of intensive volunteer training for day centre members who want to open and run the day centre at weekends.
The council says that this is in line with the past and present governments’ policies of “user-led” strategy and that budget shortages have forced the issue.
Management at the centre are looking for the new personal budgets system to provide new streams of finance in order to make it fully functional again.
They hope that mental health clients’ budgets will be spent on the centre.
However, not every member of the centre will get the new system. In fact, some will lose current benefits and will be unable to afford the cost of attending.
They may be able to volunteer, although funding restrictions could even limit that.
The freezing of staff posts is likely. Volunteers replacing properly paid and trained staff provide another option for cuts.
This could become the picture across Britain.
The government should be cutting the Trident nuclear system, withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and taxing the rich instead.
Even if the coalition were to lose an election, New Labour would be unlikely to reverse cuts.
Stuart Black, North London
Jail all war criminals
I saw your article calling for Tony Blair to be jailed for his war crimes (The real criminal who should be jailed , 11 September).
But four of the five Labour leadership contenders—all except Diane Abbott—were part of the New Labour cabinet during Blair’s wars. If you ask me they should all be thrown in the slammer as well.
Jane Wrigley, Nottingham
It’s not just climate change behind wars
AN important new survey has called into question the idea that climate change is a major factor behind wars in Africa.
This has become something of an accepted truth in establishment circles, with the US department of defence, the CIA and the British foreign office worrying about the issue.
The environmental effects of climate change, and the social tensions it causes, worsen and deepen some wars.
But environmental change should never be separated from the class relations in which it happens.
The survey by Halvard Buhaug, a senior researcher at the Centre for the Study of Civil War in Oslo, found little historical connection between rising temperatures and civil conflict in Africa.
He found that that there was a strong correlation between civil wars and factors such as economic disparity, ethnic tensions, and political and economic instability.
Buhaug said, “Climate variability in Africa does not seem to have a significant impact on the risk of civil war.”
Political factors rather than environmental ones are behind the wars that scar Africa.
Capitalism is to blame for the twin problems of war and climate change.
We will need to replace the profit system with one based on need to solve them both.
Simone Murray, Carlisle
Train changes mean less staff
The Eurostar workers’ vote for action ( Eurostar vote for action, 4 September) has wider implications. The “self despatch” of trains means that disabled users of small scooters are not allowed on some trains.
This is the case even if the user can singlehandedly lift the scooter on. They tell me this is because of health and safety.
So I can board the bus and the tram with my scooter, but not (yet) the train.
I well remember “the good old days” when even small stations had platform staff who were there to provide assistance.
They disappeared in an earlier round of cuts. So now, some train companies are happily breaking the Disability Discrimination Act.
Due to my elderly mother’s recent death in Leeds I had to go there several times. One journey involved an altercation with a train guard.
Another journey cost me £40 up the motorway in my friend’s transit van when it should have been free on the train.
All power to the Eurostar workers.
I have sent £1,000 from my mother’s will towards the Socialist Worker Appeal.
Ian Wallace, Sheffield
Don’t let Blair forget Iraq lies
I would imagine that a biography on Tony Blair would be immensely more interesting than his own autobiography.
How can he say that he regrets the loss of life in Iraq but does not regret the decision to invade the country?
The two just do not equate. He must have known lives would be lost before he made the decision.
Even Peter Mandelson said that Blair had developed “tunnel vision” in his commitment to the 2003 invasion, and that was the very issue that cost him his popularity with the British public.
In a so-called grand gesture, he promised to hand over his huge advance for his book, as well as the royalties, to a charity for wounded servicemen.
Lives and limbs have been lost needlessly and now it appears as though Tony Blair is attempting to make some kind of amends with as patronising a gesture as I can recall.
He should not be allowed to forget uncomfortable realities.
William Burns, Edinburgh
We didn’t try to beat strike
The Evening Standard, “London’s quality newspaper”, descended into a fantasy world with its coverage of last week’s tube strike.
Its front page headline was, “Strikes Won’t Beat Us”—with a picture of defiant commuters walking and scooting to work to “beat the tube strike”.
It tried to create a situation in which the very act of going to work was a political act defying RMT leader Bob Crow.
But I and many other Londoners who travelled on the day support the tube workers’ fight for jobs and safety.
We should not be claimed by the strikebreakers.
The Evening Standard claimed that there was “patchy support” for the strike from union members even though it had a huge impact.
It failed to fully explain why the workers were striking.
And the “Londoners” shown on the front did not contain one black or Asian person among them—in one of the most multiracial cities in the world.
Katherine Branney, East London
Lib Dems are laughing stock
What a sneaky snake David Cameron has proven to be.
He has got the Liberal Democrats to support cuts to ensure that they lose support from their own supporters.
He is scuppering their efforts at electoral reform, making a laughing stock of Lib Dem electoral prospects. This is strengthening his position.
They should have scrapped the proposed rise in VAT and stopped the cuts to social security benefits in order to ensure that people struggling to make ends meet do not lose out.
Instead they should have cancelled the 2012 Olympics. But they are too concerned with image.
Karol Jedynak, Birmingham
Speak out against cuts
There is one thing I have to congratulate this government for.
It is the way they have repeated their mantras: “The situation left by the Labour government is worse… blah blah” and “We are all in this together. Cuts are the only way… blah blah” so often that people believe them.
They are now being aided and abetted in this crime against the poor by the BBC.
Nick “Tory” Robinson has been touring the country asking people for their views.
He has not yet (to my knowledge) met anyone who opposes the cuts and will speak up to say that there are other ways of reducing the deficit.
We need to be prepared to speak out at every opportunity and argue our case either on phone-ins, blogs or letters to local and national newspapers.
To arms comrades!
Mitch Mitchell, March, Cambridgeshire