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John Bowden - Latest News

Friends Of John Bowden | 13.01.2008 14:39 | Repression

Official report discredits lies of prison social worker Matt Stillman, who accused the Anarchist Black Cross (ABC) of being a "terrorist organisation". No action taken though - Yet.

In late December 2007, following a lengthy investigation by Perth and Kinross Council into my complaint that Matt Stillman, a social worker employed by them and temporarily seconded to Castle Huntly jail last year, had deliberately lied in a critically important parole report about my involvement with what he had claimed was a “terrorist organisation”, the Council has issued the following statement:

“The complaint concerned two specific statements in the report for the Parole Board that was completed by Matt Stillman.

Statement 1: That Brighton Anarchist Black Cross website was a website for eco-terrorists or paramilitaries, and that you were involved with this organisation. On investigation, there is no evidence to substantiate the claims made in the report to the Parole Board. Our conclusion is that the website, although clearly political is not paramilitary or eco-terrorist, therefore the statement to the Parole Board is incorrect.

Statement 2: That the prisoner (John Bowden) whilst in Edinburgh Prison received visits from terrorists. On investigation the officer could find no evidence to support this allegation in either Social Work or Prison files. Therefore again we conclude that this statement is incorrect.”

Inaccurate reporting is commonplace in parole reports but rarely has such a report prepared by a social worker contained such a dramatic allegation that a prisoner currently in an open jail in preparation for release is in fact a member of a terrorist organisation. When Stillman’s report was submitted last April the consequences were extreme and brutal. Just a month before a crucial parole tribunal to decide my suitability for release after 25 years in prison, I was suddenly thrown into solitary confinement and then transferred from Castle Huntly Open Prison to Maximum-Security Glenochil Prison. A local newspaper, The Dundee Courier, screamed across front-page headlines, “Castle Huntly Killer Has Terrorist connection” and published verbatim Stillman’s ludicrous claim that Anarchist Black Cross (in fact a perfectly legal and legitimate prisoner support group) was composed wholly of terrorists and paramilitaries, some of whom had visited me in prison.

The prison system itself, against whom I’d campaigned against for years in furtherance of prisoner’s rights, jumped at the opportunity to bury me againin maximum-security conditions and use Stillman’s claims to justify subjecting me to a battery of psychological assessments and evaluations to determine the extent of my dramatically increased danger to the public. The only thing I was able to marshal in my defence was the support of ABC friends and comrades on the outside who protested and demonstrated on my behalf and campaigned tirelessly to expose Stillman’s lies. Their efforts alone forced the Scottish Prison system to take a more defensive position and distance themselves from Stillman’s ridiculous claims. Finally in October last year, following the completion of an “updated psychological risk-assesment” report on me by forensic psychologist, Dawn Harris, who explicitly rubbished Stillman’s allegations.

Although the prison system has backed down in the face of the prolonged protests organised by ABC on my behalf, Stillman’s lies had cost me six months locked-down in maximum-security and at least another year, possibly more, in prison. Stillman was investigated by Perth and Kinross Council, who provide the social work team at Castle Huntly Prison, and when initially questioned by their investigation officer he claimed that he had been “advised” by others about the nature of the ABC organisation. When questioned further about the source of his information regarding ABC he changed his story and claimed that he had seen some reference to it in an existing prison file on me. The investigation revealed this to be a lie. Stillman was clearly guilty of malpractice in deliberately presenting lies as fact in an official parole report, and yet he remains employed by Social services in Fife and to date hasn’t been subject to any form of disciplinary action.

They conclude the report of their investigation with the following: “As a result of this investigation we have looked at our procedures when producing parole reports and will consider how we can ensure that proper stands are met, etc, etc”. Translated, this means that no concrete action will be taken against Stillman or his line-manager in the social work department at Castle Huntly, Christina Brown, who enclosed with Stillman’s report to the Prison Board a covering letter supporting the validity of Stillman’s claims and swearing to his honesty and integrity. Stillman’s lies were always going to be unsustainable when subjected to even a perfunctory examination, and the investigator at Perth and Kinross Council had little choice but to admit that. But that was as far as he was prepared to go – in terms of what motivated or encouraged stillman to make the accusation of terrorism against myself and ABC, the lid was placed back on. No one is culpable and a “lessons have been learned” statement considered adequate to close the matter.

The matter, however, is far from closed. Apart from the Perth and Kinross investigation, the Scottish Social Service Council, a body set up to oversee and enforce a code of conduct in the treatment of service users, is also conducting an investigation into Stillman’s conduct following a complaint from me. Should the SSSC accept the decision of the Perth and Kinross investigation then the removal of Stillman’s social work licence on the grounds of misconduct should, by any standard of natural justice, follow.

I intend also to pursue legal actions against both Stillman’s social work employers and the Scottish Prison Service, during which I intend to expose the full extent of the prison system’s complicity in Stillman’s lies and attempt to bury me indefinitely in prison. I would ask all supporters to write letters of complaint to the following:

Dave Roberts, Executive Director of Perth and Kinross Council, 5 Whitefriars Crescent, Perth PH2 0PA demanding that proper disciplinary action be taken against Stillman and Christina Brown.

Stephen Moore, Head of Social work at the Social Work Office, South Street, Glenrothes, Fife, KY7 5NL demanding that he explain why Stillman continues to be employed at Fife Social Services.

Scottish Prison Service HQ, Communications Branch, Room 338, Calton House,5 Redheugh Rigg, Edinburgh, EH12 9HW demanding that Christina Brown, still employed at Castle Huntly Prison and so obviously complicit in encouraging Stillman to concoct lies in parole reports, be dismissed.

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