I got the reply to my complaint regarding Security stopping my ‘Safety’ blog. They reference s.11.3. (a) (iii) of PSI 49/2011 (Prisoners Communications Services): “information which is known or believed to be false.” This is somewhat misleading as that part should be read in conjunction with s.11.3 (a): “Material which is intended to cause distress or anxiety to the recipient of any other person, such as … information which is known or believed to be false.”
None of my blogs ever been intended to cause distress or anxiety to any person. It is more than a little perplexing as to who Security are claiming I am intending to cause distress or anxiety to; particularly as no-one is identified or named on the stopped blogs; and, distressed in what way? Not to mention, what exactly was known or believed to be false? The information in dispute was presented as unverified. I used these words: “As I understand it …. “; “I was told …”; “I’m not sure …”; “… some of the rumours indicated …” and, “Whether true or not …”
As this was a drug related incident, I raised a question at the end of the blog: “how did this illicit substance get into the prison? Staff or prisoner?” Given the type of drug used in this incident, this was a valid question making serious representation about the penal system. The responder to my complaint claims that “this could be classed as slander.” Well, putting to one side that it couldn’t, as this question was not made verbally but in writing (libel), English law only allows for actions for libel to be brought for any published statements which are alleged to defame a named individual or identifiable individual (or individuals) in a manner which causes them loss in their trade or profession, or causes a reasonable person to think worse of him, or her or them.
Was my question defamatory? No, it would have to be a published statement. Does it defame, in the required manner, a named or identifiable individual or individuals? No, it was a question not a defamatory remark. What is interesting, though, is not that the responder has little to no understanding of the law but just how defensive they are regarding that question; they add, “it could also damage the good name that Wakefield prison is trying to build.”
I’m not sure about that, but what might damage their reputation is attempting to suppress information by selectively misapplying prison service instructions in a manner which could cause a reasonable person to suspect arbitrary, oppressive and unconstitutional behaviour; maybe even misfeasance?
Be happy, be safe (and make your voice heard).
Graham Coutts, 30th April 2017