Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Out after 3 days in police custody. In court again tomorrow.

On the morning of last Friday, 1st July 2016, I was at home in Aberdeen when 2 plain clothes police men arrived, detained me and after I had pointed out my education certificates on the wall, they drove me to Kittybrewster police custody centre, explaining they were investigating an alleged breach of bail conditions, and stopping off en route to post my rent cheque for me, which was nice.

We chatted en route and it transpired that one of the officers had studied chemistry at Robert Gordon Institute of Technology, though he was honest enough to admit that he had not done as well as I had done in my Highers because he had "not studied".

It couldn't be that my intelligence in knowing what it is my duty to post on the internet could be superior to the "intelligence" received by Plod Scotland that I had broken my bail conditions? No, of course not.

I got my leaflet on my rights in custody and it said I had a right to ask to see a solicitor so that's what I asked to do.

Not having a solicitor at the time since Mr McLeod of George Mathers solicitors withdrew from acting for me, the police first of all gave me a phone call to speak to a duty solicitor in Edinburgh via a service offered by the law society.

Later I got another phone call to speak to a local solicitor.

But because I kept asking to see a solicitor (because after all, I was trying to find a new solicitor) by the time a second duty solicitor could be found who was available to attend at Kittybrewster, the officers who had detained me had gone off shift.

So with the duty solicitor kindly in attendance, I was interviewed by a third plain clothes officer, who mentioned "DISQUS" and arrested me for an alleged breach of bail.

I was held overnight and next day, I was charged with a breach of bail and told I would be held until Monday, the next court date.

It is very difficult to get any sleep in the police cells at Kittybrewster.

The beds are very hard and uncomfortable. The 3cm to 4cm thick mattress provides little protection from the concrete floor.

The one blanket they give you is insufficient. The first Friday night / Saturday morning I used the one blanket for a pillow and to shade my eyes from the light which is kept on, though can be dimmed to a certain extent on request.

On Saturday, I asked for another blanket and that helped some but really one needed additional blankets or another mattress to provide a softer bed.

Unlike ordinary prison cells, there is no TV or radio and to occupy my mind I asked for a book to read. Mostly fiction was available and I preferred factual books but the best I got offered were two paper backs with too small writing for easy reading with my eyesight Barack Obama's "Dreams from my father" and Piers Paul Read's "ALIVE. The story of the Andes Survivors".

The better read in those circumstances was "ALIVE" because that story of stranded air-crash survivors having to eat the flesh of dead victims of the crash put my own circumstances of imprisonment as a political prisoner in Scotland into some perspective.

The most inefficient routine of the Kittybrewster police organisation was that prisoners have to ask the custody staff to bring cups of drinking water passed through the slot in the door. It would be so much more efficient if there was a drinking tap as well as the hand-washing tap provided in each cell.

As the hand-washing tap is already flow limited to prevent prisoners flooding the cells, there can be no good reason for not also providing a drinking tap which could also be flow limited and would save much hassle for the custody staff, who already have enough to do in terms of providing meals, cups of tea and arranging visits for showers and cleaning teeth but not shaving which is never allowed.

The other impediment to sleep is that all through the night, the custody staff are under orders to ask on the hour every hour "Are you OK?", which disturbs the sleep of anyone fortunate enough to be able to drop off to sleep.

The loud noise of doors and slot hatches slamming shut and prisoners banging on doors is very difficult or impossible to sleep through.

Consequently, the expectation is that a weekend in Kittybrewster is a recipe for sleep deprivation and no prisoner after that could possibly be expected to make a good impression of themselves in court on Monday.

The most terrifying experience for any prisoner occurs when prisoners at Sheriff court are held in communal cells by the security firm G4S, contracted to transport and hold prisoners to and from the courts in Scotland.

The communal cells hold perhaps 8 or so prisoners to a cell and inevitably one or more of those prisoners will have a short fuse and a record of explosive criminal violence.

I have previously raised with the political and government authorities the danger of these circumstances - and advocated one person to a cell but to no avail.

On this occasion, one of the prisoners I was sharing a cell with had just been told by a solicitor that he was likely to be remanded and he was in such a rage about that that he head-butted the steel door, but I felt he could so easily have turned his rage on any other prisoner there, perhaps on me if I had been unlucky.

I was huddled in a corner wishing I was anywhere but there. I just can't take those very dangerous life-threatening situations any more.

The consequence for political activists in Scotland while run as this United Kingdom is, is life-threatening dangers for dutiful political activism, not merely "doing time in prison for doing crime" as the ignorant are led to believe.

I had a meeting with another solicitor in the morning then later, some time after 1pm, a man from G4S informed me that I was to be released without appearing in court because the procurator fiscal had decided there was not enough evidence, for the time being anyway.

Free again, but for how long?

There is an intermediate (unfair) trial diet for this case listed in the Sheriff Court Rolls for Aberdeen Sheriff Court on Wednesday 6 July 2016, tomorrow, as follows.

    Accused Details           Court Ref No            PF Ref No         Court Room
11 Alastair Peter DOW    SCS/2015-060310    AB14008188     Court 3

Realistically, there is not enough time left now before tomorrow to find a volunteer solicitor, meet with, discuss and fully brief a new solicitor about all the details of the case so I intend to appear in court tomorrow, try to represent myself, with the intention of asking the Sheriff for another postponement to give further time to allow me to find a solicitor to represent me.

I'm more confident about representing myself to make such a simple request but only as a free man ordained to appear in the dock under my own steam, with a shave, a suit and tie on and no handcuffs! I only hope I leave the court building the same way!

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