Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006

Cambridge Two Imprisoned

Homeless drop-in centre staff imprisoned due to drug dealing on premises

17th February 2000

Ruth Wyner (Director) and John Brock (Manager) were jailed for five and four years respectively in 1999 for failing to tell police that drug dealing was going on in the homeless drop-in centre where they worked. It took police five months of undercover operations, including hidden cameras, to determine the extent of the problem but the judge ruled that, although they were not involved in the drug dealing, Wyner and Brock should have known about it and told police.

The staggering sentences meted out to the two social workers has dire implications for UK social workers.

In a short message sent from their cells Wyner and Brock talk of their shock at the sentences and of prison life. The farce of the case was further exacerbated when Ruth Wyner was asked to help with confidential counselling in the prison where she is incarcerated. Her letter to Home Secretary, Jack Straw, follow on from their short messages.

Prisoner EH6324 Ruth Wyner writes (17/02/00): "The shock subsided after two or three weeks, during which other inmates were very kind, and helped me a lot. It is a sobering situation, one in which you have to use all your strength to stay intact.

An irony for me is that at Highpoint there is a Listeners scheme in which local Samaritans are training inmates to help their fellows to limit the pain of this situation. I have been accepted on the training scheme and during the first session, the importance of complete confidentiality was emphasized. For everything, I venture, even drugs? They insist this has to be so, saying that otherwise Listeners could not gain the trust of those they seek to help. The irony is bittersweet: it was to a considerable extent by upholding confidentiality that I got into this situation in the first place.

I am enormously proud of my family, overwhelmed, greatly lifted and deeply humbled by the energy and commitment people have given to the campaign and by the many letters and cards I have received. They are a great help. The ongoing support for Wintercomfort is a great joy to me, the staff and volunteers are loyal and dedicated, a wonderful bunch of people. My thanks to all."

Ruth Wyner EH 6524, HM Highpoint, Stradishall, Newmarket, Suffolk CB8 9YG

Prisoner EM4946 John Brock wrote in Jan 2000: "A brief description of how I feel, what life is like for me at the moment and my thoughts in the case/campaign.

Disbelief at the charge, shock at the Judge's summing up and jury's verdict, devastation at the sentence, depression, fear and bewilderment at being locked in prison. Missing my wife and family more than I can express.

I am not a natural crusader in righting life's wrongs but more of a reluctant individual thrown into what is rapidly becoming a national issue. I will, however, defend my innocence and vehemently refute suggestions that I or my staff team knowingly turned a blind eye to anything.

I have always been open and honest about the problems and how we tackled them.

Prison life is impossible to describe. Suffice to say that my fellow inmates treat me fairly and those prison officers I have contact with act in a professional and thoughtful manner.

I am truly humbled by the level of support and outrage expressed by many either directly to me or through the action group."

John Brock EM4946, HM Highpoint, Stradishall, Newmarket, Suffolk CB8 9YG

Ruth Wyner's letter to the Home Secretary: 12.2.00

Dear Home Secretary,

I wish to report to you the fact that Class A and B drugs are being supplied at this prison, where I am currently being held, as well as at other prisons.

As Director of the Cambridge charity Wintercomfort, "Number One" as it were, I was convicted for allowing drugs supply of which I was not specifically aware. I therefore feel it is my duty, in order to ensure the safety of the Home secretary, to make you aware of this supply as you are, of course, the "Number One" in regard to prison management.

After all, I do not want to see you doing a 5-year stretch as I am. This is my first offence.

I was charged under Section 8 of the Misuse of Drugs Act. At court, my judge directed that my co-defendant and I were guilty if we "were unwilling to use any reasonable means that were readily available .. to prevent the prohibited activity." Furthermore, Judge Haworth directed that if there was a failure to implement these means effectively then the offence was also committed.

These reasonable means included, according to the judge, closure of the project. The failure to adopt such a measure if other measures to stop the activity had failed would, Judge Haworth said, indicate an unwillingness to use a "reasonable" step and as such be evidence of permitting drug supply.

You may also wish to note that in questions to Paul Boateng, M.P. in the House of Commons on 31.1.00 (nos. 164-7 inc.), Peter Bottomley M.P. was informed that in 1999 there were 17,789 positive drug tests in prisons and 13,409 proven cases of unauthorised uses of a controlled drug in prison. Over the same period, 823 visitors were arrested for bringing drugs into prisons.

In my case, Wintercomfort banned those caught dealing or using illicit drugs at its day centre. But there was additional dealing that was caught on a secret police surveillance camera, of which we were not specifically aware.

We were, however, said in court to "know" because we had discussed our concerns about drug use at the project with, among others, the police.

The similarities are striking: the prison service has caught some dealers but clearly not the majority of people dealing on prison premises, visitors or inmates.

Your methods are clearly ineffective. As you live under the same laws as I do, I believe you are liable to arrest. Or would you like me to perform a citizen's arrest on the governor here?

I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely

Ruth Wyner

(copies to Anne Campbell MP for Cambridge, Peter Bottomley MP. Shelley & Co, solicitors, Alex Masters, Chairman of the Cambridge 2 Campaign).

Give money to help the families and the campaign contact Dr George Reid on 01223 338627 for details.

Useful Links

Related Articles
CAMBRIDGE TWO: PRISONER EH6324 WYNER - Ruth Wyner has been imprisoned for five years for failing to tell police that drug dealing was allegedly taking place at a Cambridge homeless centre where she worked. This is from a letter sent by Ruth from prison - 31-May-2000
TWO FREE FOR NOW - Cambridge Two - both charity workers jailed for supposedly allowing drug dealing in a homeless centre where they worked are free on bail - 24-Jul-2000