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No Pasaran Youth against Racism in Europe magazine: Issue 11, Summer 2003
Fighting police corruption
Interview with Gary Mills and Tony Poole
GARY MILLS and Tony Poole were released recently from prison after campaigning for 14 years to force the justice system to admit what is blatantly obvious, they were wrongly convicted of the murder of Hensley Wiltshire, a black man who died in Gloucester police custody. GARY MILLS and TONY POOLE were interviewed by CHRIS MOORE.
How has fighting your conviction changed you?
GM: I was 29 years old when I went into prison, Iím 44 now. We were determined to come out mentally stronger. Iím more tolerant of people now.
TP: Iím a lot more aware of how the system works and the world for that matter.
What were the main points of corruption in your case?
GM: There isnít one area of our case that the police, Crown Prosecution Service, the courts and eminent doctors havenít changed or tried to change. They changed the cause of death, the medical evidence, the physical evidence, the times of events - the witnesses have changed their stories countless times.
The Court of Appeal, to cover up for police officers, said there was no systemic corruption, even though they said all the evidence is false. Now they are pretending our release is based on new evidence. Itís the same evidence which convicted us.
TP: The main point of corruption is police murder. But they donít treat it as a murder when itís a death in custody. They donít forensically analyse any of the police officersí clothing and question them.
Then we go on to perjury, perverting the course of justice, officers hiding documentation and the jury never got to hear that evidence. I donít think thereís ever been an officer held accountable in any way.
GM: Some of those officers in that cell with Hensley, were the same officers who investigated us for murder. One of the main corrupt officers has just retired, so has the superintendent in charge of the case. Itís the same throughout these cases. People are in prison until the main officers retire or they die.
How does the system treat people who are wrongly convicted?
GM: For the first few years youíre not progressing through the system, (you only progress if you admit your guilt) really youíre in a no manís land. For the first year of my sentence I was moved about 14 times and I was getting into disruptions with officers because I wasnít prepared to kowtow down to people who I thought had no right to speak to me the way they did.
In other ways it makes you stronger, because you know in your own mind and heart that youíre right. For the last seven or eight years of our sentence it was common knowledge even among staff that we were innocent.
TP: They try and wear you down to give up. But I thought the angerís got to be channelled into trying to get out. I felt I was more like a hostage.
GM: If we hadnít won that appeal weíd have been in prison for the rest of our lives (because refusal of admission of guilt means youíre ineligible for release).
What is the judicial system all about?
GM: In general Iíve got no doubt in my mind the judicial system is about keeping the status quo, itís about keeping the rich where they are and about keeping poor working class people in their place.
What kind of changes would you like to see to the system?
GM: Police officers should not be immune to prosecution. Gloucester police murdered somebody in the police cells, and should be accountable for it. They should be accountable for their perjury, the perversion of the course of justice. And itís not just our case, this is endemic throughout the whole system.
People donít fall into prison accidentally, they go because police officers, crown prosecutors, judges and others falsify evidence and put people they knew were innocent into prison. There must be some sort of accountability.
Did the Labour government make any difference to your case?
GM: Yes it made a massive difference, because before they were in power we had dozens of Labour MPs who supported our case. But once they got in power, suddenly they forgot who we were. Their stance on law and order is more right wing than the Toriesí. The division line between Labour and Conservative has gone completely now.
TP: Iím still looking to see if anyone from Labour will stand up, itís all about pleasing the public and leading them on.
What did support from the socialist mean to you?
GM: First, without the case being highlighted by groups like the socialist weíd be talking about 24 years not 14, because weíd have never given up our fight. When you get the socialist and see an article about yourself and a few people write to you, it makes a big difference. They lift your spirits and you think Iím not on my own here. We owe a big thank you to the socialist as well.
TP: My hat goes off to those who took to the streets and campaigned, I hope more people do it.
Other cases Gary and Tony would like to highlight include Winston Silcott, Ishtaq Ahmed, Jimmy Ingram, Kenny Carter, Mark Brown and Danny Johnson (now released)
(This interview was first carried by the socialist on 28 June 2003).