Ronnie Easterbrook 'Hostage of the State' 1988 - 10th May 2009

Ronnie Easterbrook 'Hostage of the State' 1988 - 10th May 2009

"I want a new appeal and if I can't have one I want to die. I'm not afraid of death. I know that when I get close to the edge all my problems will melt way and everything will suddenly become clear. The authorities will mutter, 'hunger striker, committed suicide' but that won't be accurate. They should record my death as judicial murder." Ronnie Easterbrook ~ Belmarsh 1999

Contributions from:

Nicki Jameson Prisoners Fight Back
John O ~ MOJUK
Diane Taylor freelance writer
Simon Creighton, Bhatt Murphy Solicitors
John Bowden 6729 HMP Glenochil
Brighton Anarchist Black Cross (ABC)
Sue May ~ 'Susan May Is Innocent'
Charles Hanson ~ life sentence prisoner
Karen Clark-Stapleton
Brigitte Butcher ~ Justice for Kevin Nunn
Kevin ~ Justice for Brendan
Russ Spring MOJO

Obituary: The Guardian 20/05/09

Letters from Ronnie Easterbrook

'Rights, justice, truth, due process, all are grist to the mill of our politicians and judiciary and all is ground to dust' ~ December 2001

'The Banallity of Evil' ~ January 2002

"However much they steal of my life, it can never add so much as a day to theirs' ~ November 2001

Ramblings on a Christmas Day ~ April 2003

Letter to Ronnie from Tommy Steele Nov 2001

Easterbrook v. the United Kingdom ~
Holds that there has been a violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention

Ronnie Easterbrook has died in prison after 21 years of struggle

On Sunday 10 May 2009, after a prolonged hunger strike, Ronnie Easterbrook has died in Gartree prison aged 78. Ronnie was an intransigent thorn in the side of the system for 21 years since he was stitched up by the police and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Supporters of prisoners in struggle have known Ronnie since 1995 when he was in the segregation unit at Whitemoor on dirty protest with Irish prisoners who were demanding repatriation. Since then he had been on repeated protests and hunger strikes in an attempt to draw attention to his situation.

Ronnie was sentenced to life for armed robbery and attempted murder in 1988 after a failed robbery on a supermarket wages van. A police informant set the job up and Ronnie and two others were ambushed by PT17, the elite tactical firearms unit. Tony Ash was shot dead, despite surrendering, and Ronnie, Gary Wilson and a police inspector all suffered gunshot wounds. Also lying in wait was a Thames TV crew, who captured the shoot-out on film.

Ronnie maintained he was a victim of a police shoot-to-kill policy, modelled on tactics used in the north of Ireland, but was prevented from putting forward a defence based on this, both by his own barrister's refusal to co-operate and the judge's refusal to allow a political defence. Throughout his sentence Ronnie refused to apply for parole because he did not recognise the legality of his sentence, and maintained to the end that unless he got a new trial justice would not have been done. (Photo: Ronnie's arrest 1987)

As Ronnie put it in a letter written from the segregation unit at Frankland to Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! in 2005: 'They say I am strong-willed, yet being right, even when one can prove it, as I can, is just a state of mind. If one had no principles it would be difficult, perhaps impossible, to carry on, but as I have always had good principles there is no question that I would ever accept the burden a corrupt state and judiciary have placed upon me.'

Those of us in FRFI, ABC and MOJUK who knew and corresponded with Ronnie for many years will miss him greatly. He was a great and stubborn fighter and had no truck with any of the Prison Service's incentive schemes and other divide-and-rule games. He fought his own fight with unswerving determination and showed great solidarity and support for other prisoners in struggle.

Nicki Jameson Prisoners Fight Back

Britain's Oldest Political Prisoner

"I cannot continue like this the state is determined to "murder" me by ignoring my plea for justice."  Belmarsh 1999

Ronnie was the main inspiration for MOJUK founded in 1996 to keep alive the stories of those people in prisons nation-wide who are campaigning against a miscarriage of justice. ~ (Photo: Ronnie's arrest 1987)

His tenaciousness was unbounded against the injustice he had suffered. His constant flow of letter from prison to MOJUK, were highly literate. The anger in these letters against the state was measured, never descending into rant. His contempt for politicians was relentless the two most people he hated in the world, were not the people who sent him down, but Maggie Thatcher and Tony Blair.

He always said that the supermarket raid in 1987 in which Tony Ash was shot dead; was a set up between the PT17, the elite tactical firearms unit and a Thames Television crew to capture on film a very public execution, Ronnie was also shot and wounded but always believed that the intention of the police was to leave him for dead.

I and hundreds of others have never doubted Ronnie's version of the events of 1987.

I never did thank Ronnie for inspiring me to keep alive the stories of those wrongly convicted. I will sorely miss his letters and phone calls, highly articulate he was never at a loss for words, whether it was about the prison system or events outside.

John O ~ MOJUK

'only prisoner to have received a whole life sentence who had not been convicted of murder'

I represented Ronnie Easterbrook for a number of years when he was seeking to challenge the lawfulness of the sentence he received. At the time, he was the only prisoner to have received a whole life sentence who had not been convicted of murder. With his usual tenacity, Ronnie successfully challenged this in the English courts and then, in an attempt to make his own experience have some value for others, he went on to win a victory in the European Court of Human Rights about the fairness of the overall procedure.

Sadly, this was ultimately a pyrrhic victory as he never accepted the lawfulness of his conviction and so refused to co-operate with the lifer system and he remained in protest about his conviction until his death. Ronnie was a highly intelligent and engaging man and will be sadly missed by all those who have known and worked with him.

Simon Creighton, Bhatt Murphy Solicitors

'I will win posthumously'

It has taken a fortnight of faxes, the handover of my passport, passage through many locked gates and finally an escort by a prison guard accompanied by a lively looking Alsation to get to Ronnie Easterbrook's bedside.

Diane Taylor interviewed Ronnie in his cell at HMP High down, she said she has met a man who is convinced of the justness of his cause-but who may not live to savour the victory. (Link to the unedited version of the article which appeared in The Guardian on Monday 27th December 1999).

"I knew Ronnie personally, had shared many jails with him, witnessed many of his struggles. He was a good man and in many ways a heroic one. And yet he died in circumstances and conditions that were indescribably inhuman."

Extreme cruelty has always been a distinguishing hallmark of the British prison system, and those who are paid to administer and enforce that system frequently operate devoid of any moral compass or shred of ordinary human sensitivity and compassion; many often exhibit a criminal disregard for human life more pathological and ruthless than some of those imprisoned for their crimes.

Forcing conformity on the imprisoned frequently takes the jailer to the most negative and brutal extremes of human behaviour, to places where even the most elemental characteristics of human empathy and compassion are absent and void. In the daily struggle to enforce power and authority in jail it is the basic humanity of those enforcing that power that is eroded and lost, them who are the most damaged and destroyed as human beings. In apparently civilized societies bound by moral parameters, prisons are places where the very worst of human behaviour when practised by those in charge is allowed to flourish and where the jails exists as an incubator of the fascist mentality.

The treatment suffered by Ronnie Easterbrook, who died on hunger strike in Gartree Prison on the 10th May, typifies all the mindless cruelty and inhuman callousness, the amorality of a prison system designed to achieve nothing but the broken spirits and minds of its captives.

Ronnie was a sick and elderly man who had served over 20 years in prison, not for murder, rape or crimes against the weak and vulnerable, but for attempted armed robbery and trying to defend himself from a gang of armed policemen. Ronnie was an old school outlaw whose "crimes" had never remotely threatened ordinary people or endangered the community; in many ways he was a gentleman thief from a bygone era. And yet the prison system tortured and eventually murdered him as if he was an animal. And make no mistake, he was murdered by the prison system and over a prolonged period of time, systematically, calculatedly and mercilessly.

Ronnie's greatest crime as far as the system was concerned was his refusal to conform in prison and the manner in which he protested for years the way in which a corrupt judicial system had railroaded him into a life sentence because of his attempt to expose the use of Northern Ireland type police death squads against English armed robbers. His legal defence in a trial for armed robbery, during which his friend Thomas Ash was murdered by a metropolitan police death squad and Ronnie himself wounded, was deemed unacceptably "political" by the judge and so Ronnie was silenced and sent to prison for life. But Ronnie refused to be silenced, he continued to protest and resist in jail, to spend years in shit-smeared cells within brutal punishment units, to be transferred continuously around the system, to regularly hunger-strike, until, elderly and frail, his health was destroyed. And still he protested, revealing a strength of spirit infinitely more noble and courageous than the dehumanised characters of those trying to break him. At every step and juncture of Ronnie's long and horrendous struggle in jail those administering the system could have intervened with fairness and compassion and transferred him to less brutal conditions; he was an elderly man who had done more than his time in jail and represented no risk whatsoever to the community. But no, they chose instead to confront his spirit of resistance and perpetuate the very treatment and conditions that fuelled his conflict with the system, carrying and punishing him to his death.

I knew Ronnie personally, had shared many jails with him, witnessed many of his struggles. He was a good man and in many ways a heroic one. And yet he died in circumstances and conditions that were indescribably inhuman.

The manner of Ronnie's death / murder says much about the nature and character of the creatures responsible for it. It also makes the struggle against them and their machinery of death an imperative that must never cease or weaken.

John Bowden ~ 6729 ~ HMP Glenochil

Brighton Anarchist Black Cross (ABC)
Ronnie Easterbrook was convicted in 1988 for the attempted murder of a policeman during an armed robbery that was set up by the police and a police informant. The only person who died was his fellow would-be robber who was shot dead by the police. Police had lain in wait, with a TV camera crew in-tow and ambushed the gang. The man shot dead by the Police, Tony Ash, was unarmed and already surrendering to them.

Ronnie campaigned relentlessly since then for his conviction to be overturned, refusing to become involved in applications for parole or early release. He had wanted to mount a political defence at his trial, arguing that the infamous 'shoot to kill' policy adopted by the British state in Northern Ireland had then been taken up by the Met. Police in pursuit of criminal gangs. His barrister at the time refused to follow his instructions so he was forced to defend himself in court, without legal representation. Although he wanted to focus on police tactics as part of his defence the request was refused on the grounds that a political defence was not permitted.

Handed down a Life sentence (originally with a whole-life tariff, itself highly unusual given the circumstances of his case), Ronnie held one of the longest dirty protests in the British prison system and undertook a 60 day hunger strike 10 years ago to try to force the authorities to review his case. At 78 years old and after 20 years fighting the system, this hunger strike was to be his final act of resistance to the unfair trial and unjust treatment he had received.

Those who knew and corresponded with Ronnie will miss him greatly.

Brighton ABC

"It is with great sadness that I learnt of Ronnie's death or is this murder! He was such a fighter and I had a lot of respect for him - he would never compromise his beliefs and because of that he suffered in jail. He was courageous and I sincerely hope he is now at peace."

Sue May

"My sympathies go to Ronnie's family and friends and all his supporters who stood by Ronnie's side as he struggled against a brutal and repressive system.

"He was an inspiration to everyone who knew him and I took comfort in knowing that he was one of the few staunch, loyal and wholly dependable guys one could ever meet in the system.

"He will be sadly missed for there was only one Ronnie Easterbrook".

In solidarity

Charles Hanson ~ HMP Blantyre House

Disgraceful, Distasteful And Abhorrent
How sad is that, a man convicted through a system that continually allows the crown to perpetuate lies , the corrupt thin blue line in all its glory creates crime at an alarming rate and the judiciary support and encourage it.

Disgraceful, Distatseful And Abhorrent.

Thoughts with his family.

Karen Clark-Stapleton /

Can I add too my sincere condolences to Ronnie's family and loyal supporters - R.I.P.

Brigitte Butcher /

"In the fight against the inhumanity and injustice of the state, the judicial system and more we have lost a great warrior. Ronnie will live on through all of us that he has inspired with his principles, strength and determination. My thoughts are with his family and all those close to him."

With respect

Russ Spring, Miscarriage of Justice Organization (MOJO)

"Heard about Ronnie's death last week, sorry to see someone who was not scared to fight back against a system who let him down gone."


I would like to dedicate a song ~ The Man I am inside ~ Music/lyrics

Kevin ~ Justice for Brendan

Source for this page:
Nicki Jameson Prisoners Fight Back
John O ~ MOJUK
Diane Taylor freelance writer
Simon Creighton, Bhatt Murphy Solicitors
John Bowden 6729 HMP Glenochil
Brighton Anarchist Black Cross (ABC)
Sue May
Charles Hanson
Karen Clark-Stapleton
Brigitte Butcher ~ Justice for Kevin Nunn
Russ Spring, Miscarriage of Justice Organization (MOJO)
Kevin ~ Justice for Brendan