In her letter to Secretary of State for Justice Robert Buckland on the 6th of January Niki Konstantinidis highlights discrepancies with the covid-19 statistics quoted by prosecution during Julian Assange’s bail hearing application. Her letter also demands he is released immediately to remedy contravention of Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights which clearly states that: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment“. Here is her letter:
Dear Lord Buckland,
In this email I address, Belmarsh Prison Conditions FOI Response 201217022 sent by the LTHSPG dated 6 January 2021, in respect of Belmarsh prison conditions.
I have received inconsistent and contradictory FOI replies from various services in charge of the health and safety of Belmarsh detainees. In plain language, I have been sent on a wild goose chase with parties pointing the finger at everyone but themselves.
Today the LTHSPG informs me that the Ministry of Justice is not responsible for the commissioning of healthcare services in public prisons and that this is the responsibility of NHS England: Oxl-tr.FOI@nhs.net.
I’m also referring to the HMP Belmarsh Safer Custody Team which has already shirked responsibility by declaring the following: “a Local Authority has neither the duty nor the power to address safeguarding issues that arise in prisons”.
The NHS FOI 6341 Response , provides statistics that are different to statistics provided by the prison administration (i.e., NHS refers to 81 Covid-19 positive cases for 2020 referring to the detainee population).
Belmarsh Covid statistics tendered in evidence today by the prosecution (3 Covid-19 positive cases), during Mr Assange’s bail application, grossly understated statistics provided to certain journalists—and to me—in FOI responses. Because of said false evidence and failure to disclose to DJ Baraitser that “HMP Belmarsh has recently been moved back to Stage 4, as have all prisons located in Tier 4 areas”, Mr Assange was sent back into Belmarsh to suffer another round of Russian Roulette.
I note LTHSPG’s assertion that “HMPPS aims to provide all prisoners with a safe and decent environment in which all individuals are treated with respect and dignity. HMPPS is bound by relevant UK legislation on prisons, namely the Prison Act 1952 and the Prison Rules 1999, as well as the Human Rights Act 1998”. However, I also note a series of publicly documented violations to Mr Assange’s human rights (primarily articles 2, 3, 5 and 6 of the ECHR, incorporated into the Human Rights Act 1998). As for the prison rules, a whole list of those have been breached consistently. For example,
UK Prison Rules 1999/728
20.— Health services
(1) The governor must work in partnership with local health care providers to secure the provision to prisoners of access to the same quality and range of services as the general public receives from the National Health Service.
(2) Every request by a prisoner to see a health care professional shall be recorded by the officer to whom it was made and promptly communicated to a health care professional.
(3) If an unconvicted prisoner desires the attendance of a named registered medical practitioner or dentist other than one already working in the prison, and will pay any expense incurred, the governor must, if satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for the request and unless the Secretary of State otherwise directs, allow the prisoner to be visited and treated by that practitioner or dentist, in consultation with a registered medical practitioner who works in the prison.
(4) Subject to any directions given in the particular case by the Secretary of State, a registered medical practitioner selected by or on behalf of a prisoner who is a party to any legal proceedings must be afforded reasonable facilities for examining the prisoner in connection with the proceedings, and may do so out of hearing but in the sight of an officer
(5) A prisoner may correspond, in accordance with arrangements made by the Secretary of State for the confidential handling of correspondence, with a registered medical practitioner who has treated the prisoner for a life threatening condition, and such correspondence may not be opened, read or stopped unless the governor has reasonable cause to believe its contents do not relate to the treatment of that condition.
21.— Special illnesses and conditions
(1) A registered medical practitioner working within the prison shall report to the governor on the case of any prisoner whose health is likely to be injuriously affected by continued imprisonment or any conditions of imprisonment. The governor shall send the report to the Secretary of State without delay, together with his own recommendations.
To my knowledge, no medical or other staff responsible for the safety of prisoners have reported breaches of Article 3 of the ECHR as required by law (the torture inflicted on Mr Assange occurring in Belmarsh prison is publicly documented; among other things, see the expert evidence presented during the September/October 2020 extradition hearing).
In extradition proceedings judges must balance the public interest in extradition with the rights of the requested person. Mr Assange is a vulnerable prisoner whose health problems led to the blocking of his extradition.
The Secretary of State for Justice, has the duty imposed on his office of ensuring that the facilities of prison and the resources of prison are in accordance with Article 3 of the ECHR. The Court of Appeal reinforced that it is the Secretary of State, as a minister of the executive, who bears the duty of ensuring that prisoners are provided with the same level of access to medical treatment as available to the general public. If detention cannot occur without Article 3 being breached, then the Secretary of State should exercise his duties laid down in R (on the application of Spinks) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 275 by releasing the prisoner if release is the only way the breach of Article 3 can be remedied.
Mr Assange is a vulnerable un-convicted detainee (inter alia, lung condition and clinical depression), in a covid-infested prison, trying to survive in freezing temperatures with his winter clothing having been denied to him. This conduct by the relevant public authorities (including their agents or contractors) is grossly reckless and intentionally places Mr Assange’s life at risk.
Thus, I urge you to take immediate steps to protect the life of this un-convicted prisoner whose extradition has been denied on the basis of serious health reasons by releasing him on bail immediately.
Barrister and Solicitor (admitted to practise in the Supreme Court of Victoria, Australia) and Solicitor (admitted to practise in the Supreme Court of Judicature of Northern Ireland)
You can write to Robert Buckland directly yourself using this contact form:
or by post at:
Lord Chancellor’s Private Office
Ministry of Justice
102 Petty France
Alternatively, you can write to your Member of Parliament and ask them to write to Lord Buckland on your behalf.