Edinburgh Criminal Justice Services, or what used to be known as the plain Social Work Department, have seriously compromised their professional integrity by defending a member of staff who deliberately told lies in a report to the Parole Boards in an attempt to sabotage my chances of release from prison. Behaving like corrupt policemen instead of traditional social workers seems now to be acceptable practice at Edinburgh Social Services.
In an official report for the Parole Board, written on 29/2/2012 Brendan Barnett, who works for Edinburgh Criminal Justice Services, made the following incredible claims about my original case in 1980:
“Secondary motives for using violence described by the trial judge and acknowledged by Bowden himself suggest a pattern of behaviour that allowed for the predatory targeting of vulnerable human beings on the margins of society defined by race or sexuality.”
“Bowden has suggested that his victims were easily discriminated against on the basis of race and sexuality.”
“There has been no investigation of the values and beliefs that informed Bowden’s targeting of individuals, i.e. what particular characteristics deemed a person worthy of attack: ethnic background, deviant sexuality.”
There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever to support Barnett’s bizarre claims, and in fact I was convicted in 1982, alongside two other men, of the murder of a white Caucasian heterosexual male during a drunken party in South London. If ethnicity was any sort of factor in the case, it was the actually represented in the defendants, two of whom were Irish and the third second-generation Irish; the victim was a native white South Londoner. Neither the police who investigated the case or the prosecution authorities, or indeed the judge, had ever claimed that either racism or homophobia had played any part in the case; Barnett’s claims are a total lie, as he well knew.
Naively, I imagined that by officially complaining to Barnett’s superiors, his lies would be exposed and the record put straight as far as his report to the Parole Board was concerned. Instead I was about to enter a sort of Kafkaesque nightmare.
On 2/4/2012, I was interviewed by Jackie Peters, Manager for “Risk Management Services” and Barnett’s immediate boss, and Sheila Ritchie, a “sex and Violent Offender Liaison Officer” and also a colleague of Barnett’s. Both made it absolutely clear that they intended to defend and support their colleague no matter what, even if it required some twisting of the facts and a total disregard for the truth. Throughout the interview I was treated with obvious contempt and at one point I was actually asked if any of my victims (I was convicted of one murder) were black or homosexual. Despite my constant protestations that neither race nor sexual orientation played any part whatsoever in my conviction, as the official files make clear, they steadfastly remained determined to somehow defend and justify Barnett’s lies. I eventually realised that the interview was meaningless and that their intention was simply to defend their colleague, so I told them that I would pursue my complaint beyond them and do whatever it took to expose Barnett’s lies. In their subsequent report they would describe this as a “threat” against Barnett. They also alleged I had been “angry and aggressive” towards them and tried to shift the focus from Barnett’s lies onto my behaviour during the interview, which they insinuated suggested a potential risk to both themselves and the wider community. The issue of Barnett’s lies was glossed over in their report and my complaint rejected. It’s important to remember here that we’re not dealing with some minor factual inaccuracy or a biased interpretation of established fact, a fairly common phenomenon in social work reports on prisoners; Barnett wrote blatant lies in his report, claims that had absolutely no basis in fact or reality, lies that are easily disproved by reference to the mass of information in my prison and social work file. Yet, those supposedly responsible for investigating my complaint decided that Barnett had done absolutely no wrong and that his report was completely acceptable. Protected by an occupational culture that views and treats “offenders” as things to be monitored, supervised and policed, authoritarian characters like Barnett believe they have total power over those under their supervision and with it the absolute right to increase their demonisation and dehumanisation, even by writing blatant lies about them.
Those who employ Barnett and those who work alongside him in the Edinburgh Criminal Justice Services must ultimately take responsibility for his behaviour, because by defending and supporting him they have seriously compromised their own integrity and are complicit in his dishonesty and his abuse of power. A more senior social worker, Stephen Laird, signed off Barnett’s report, and therefore gave the official seal of approval to his lies, which is whythose supposedly investigating my complaint, Peters and Ritchie, felt an even greater predisposition to support Barnett, even if his lies regarding my original offence were obvious and indefensible. This is how corruption spreads within institutions like the police and social services; defending and supporting colleagues who have abused their power, especially over people considered something less than human and utterly powerless, creates complicity and a general culture of abuse. The prison system and police are riddled with this culture, which is why the abuse and death of people in custody is widespread and why those responsible are rarely identified and prosecuted. It would seem that the “Criminal Justice Services” generally, including social workers and probation officers, are also contaminated by this culture of lying and treating “offenders” as people stripped of all basic rights; my experience with Barnett and his colleagues certainly illustrates this.
Undoubtedly, at my next parole hearing, Barnett will claim that by challenging the lies in his report, I have also challenged his authority over me and that I therefore represent a “High Risk of Re-offending” because of my adversity to being supervised by Barnett in the community. As always, Public Protection will be cited and used as a justification for my continued imprisonment, when in reality I shall probably remain in jail simply because I challenged Barnett’s lies.
I have now complained to Peter Gabbitas, Director of Health and Social Department in Edinburgh, who has overall responsibility for Barnett and his colleagues, and he has yet to even acknowledge my letter, which suggests a disinclination on his part to recognise either my existence or that of my complaint. Incredibly, it would seem that a pathological liar like Barnett has the absolute freedom to describe someone in an official report as a “racist and homophobic” seral killer without a shred of evidence, and absolutely no one in his entire department has the integrity or moral courage to criticise or expose him, and that apparently includes even the department’s Director. The complete absence of any basic integrity among those at Edinburgh Criminal Justice Services is both scandalous and deeply worrying for those under its supervision.
The response of Barnett and Edinburgh Criminal Justice Services to my exposing lies has been to ask the Scottish Prison Service to engineer my removal back to the English prison system, and on the 4th May Sharron Di Ciacca, Legal Service Manager of the Scottish Prison Service, wrote to me informing me that such a transfer would take place soon. Moving the “problem” on is of course a classic method of controlling and punishing “difficult” prisoners.
Edinburgh Criminal Justice Services should not be allowed to suppress or simply get rid of “offenders” who complain about and expose individuals like Brendan Barnett, and I ask all groups and individuals concerned about the treatment of prisoners and ex-prisoners at the hands of a corrupt social work department like Edinburgh Criminal Justice Services to write letters or e-mails of complaint to the following addresses:
Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, 4 Melville Street, Edinburgh, EH3 7NS.
Social Work Advice and Complaints Service, Waverley Court, Level 1/7, 4 East Market Street, Edinburgh, EH8 8BG.
Michelle Miller, Chief Social Worker, Grindlay Court Social Work Centre, Criminal Justice Services, 2-4 Grindlay Court, Edinburgh, EH3 9AR.
Peter Gabbitas, Director, Health and Social Care Department, Waverly Court, Level 1/8, 4 East Market Street, Edinburgh, EH8 8DG.
You can also write to John at the following address:
John Bowden 6729 HMP Shotts Cantrell Road ShottsScotland ML7 4LE.