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This is my new blog. Come back soon as there will be many more posts to come…


Time: Uncomfortable truths behind hard-hitting prison drama    It’s the head-splitting sounds as the prison van arrives from court; the claustrophobia of a cell you’re never sure you're safe in; the looming menace of the wing bullies who dominate the phones. Anyone who has been to prison as a visitor, worker or on a sentence talks about the sensory assault when they first walk into a prison.   Jimmy McGovern’s hit BBC 1 Sunday night drama Time shines a light on prisons and, more importantly, the prisons culture today. It tells the story of a middle class teacher (Sean Bean) serving a four year prison sentence for killing someone in a [...]

June 18th, 2021|Time, Uncategorized|

Break-out from lockdown

Break-out from lockdown. Try escaping your own four walls of isolation with new prison podcasts. Clearing out my sock drawer I went to prison ….helped by a ‘prison wife’. Bear with me. There’s something strangely companionable about someone else’s voice, another person’s world in your ear in these unsettling times. For me it’s a return to the familiar, to a past normal as a BBC radio reporter. The hidden world of prisons lends itself to radio and podcasts. A world those on the outside often struggle to get a true picture of. Most TV documentaries don’t help (with the rare notable exception of Gareth Malone’s The [...]

April 22nd, 2020|Lockdown|

The quiet power of Just Mercy

The quiet power of Just Mercy..... It’s midweek, I’m front row at the cinema in London’s Leicester Square, flanked by an informal panel of amateur film critics, both preoccupied by crime- one is an academic, the other a defence lawyer. We’re watching Just Mercy, the new legal film based on the memoir of civil rights activist lawyer Bryan Stevenson (played by Michael B Jordan) who fights dubious convictions for prisoners on death row. It charts the ups and downs as he takes on their cases and gives them a voice in a system where they otherwise wouldn’t have one. The case of woodworker Walter Mcmillian (Jamie Foxx) who was wrongly imprisoned [...]

January 30th, 2020|Justice Merci|

When BBC TV’s The Choir went to prison

If you want to know what prisons are really like, watch The Choir….. ‘Have you seen that TV programme about a prison? What did you think?’ I’ve lost count how often people have asked me about the unexpected TV hit of January 2020. Not just media types (BBC presenters raving on 5 Live’s Breakfast programme) or colleagues in the justice world but also friends who don’t think about prisons from one day to the next, even my mum. I’m talking about The Choir on BBC Two which, in case you haven’t caught it yet, went to prison last week. The TV musician Gareth Malone worked with young men inside Aylesbury [...]

January 13th, 2020|Music and Justice|

A quiet revolution

A quiet revolution: from case study to person with real life expertise ‘We need a real person.’ The daily cry of newsroom editors. You name it: adoption, prisons, A + E waiting times, skateboarding dog. Whatever the story, like it or not, journalism has always relied on case studies. ‘News is people’, we learnt at journalism college. The journalese term ‘case study’ for a real person in a story sums up the distancing and objectification of news – such as the mum whose child has been taken away for adoption, the teenager whose dad is in prison or the grandparent lying on a trolley in a hospital corridor. When I reported [...]

April 24th, 2019|Real People|

Did it need to be said? 10 tweets tackle sexism at the bar

Did it need to be said? Ten tweet intervention tackling sexism at the bar. Don’t act like you’re on a stag do and stop making jokes about breasts and skirts…. This was front page of the Evening Standard earlier this week. Not just the Standard. The story of sexism at the bar made headlines in the Daily Mail (in a good way!), the Times and a BBC Radio 4, Womans Hour discussion with Jenni Murray. It all happened thanks to barrister Joanna Hardy who spontaneously took to Twitter offering her remedy for poor treatment and attitudes towards women barristers in courts and chambers. [...]

February 26th, 2019|Listening|

Meet Oliver the Justice Dog

Meet Oliver, Europe’s first ‘Justice Dog’ Oliver is no ordinary dog. For a start, he has a routine of two hours daily grooming, teeth cleaning and regular pedicures. Not to mention his intense job training. The routine hints at his special professional status. This doe-eyed black lab retriever is no pampered pooch, paraded by a rich celeb, he is in fact the country’s first Justice Dog. He doesn’t wear a cape or have super powers. He doesn’t sniff out drugs in a police raid. What he does do is help and comfort distressed people in the justice system. Oliver recently became a pioneering new recruit with Kent police as part [...]

December 31st, 2018|Justice Dog|

Dead rats, collapsed ceilings, broken clocks: the metaphor of our decrepit courts

Crumbling courts, faltering justice Cases collapse in court. Not usually the courtroom itself. But that’s just what happened in a recent incident. The roof literally caved in, and effectively killed off one lawyer’s career. The courtroom was evacuated. Health and safety refused anyone entry back. A lawyer’s papers were buried under the debris. That was the day he decided to quit his job. Then there’s the dead rat at High Court, witnessed by the BBC’s Home Affairs Correspondent, the broken heating systems - it’s either boiling hot or freezing cold. Take your pick. Oh and what about the clocks telling the wrong time? All in a system we’re told is [...]

December 7th, 2018|Listening|
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