Clare Barstow fights to clear her name

Clare Barstow who has already served seven years of her sentence of life, for a murder she did not commit is continuing her battle to get her name cleared through every means possible. She was suffering post traumatic stress disorder after five years of having been in an abusive relationship with a violent alcoholic man, when the woman she was caring for was murdered. Although witnesses have told police about a male entering the building on that very day the police told Clare that this was not relevant to their investigations. Clare has plenty of evidence to prove that she did not commit the murder and is currently appealing against her conviction and charge. Clare was politically active and campaigned on many issues, including CND, Ecology, Womanise Rights. She also went on a candle lit vigil in Dublin, campaigning for the release of the Birmingham six.

The battle to keep her library job

On 26th August 1999 all the orderlies at Cookhamwood prison were told that their jobs will have to change every six months to comply with a new policy being implemented by deputy governor, Mr Dingwall. Clare who works as an orderly in the library is doing a NVQ in education and would like to keep on working in the library. She is also the only one left who has the knowledge on how to run the library. Clare spoke to education to try and stop her removal as she is doing an NVQ in education and she wants to keep her job. Ms Kershaw (the then governor) agreed with Ms Spencer (Head of Education) that Clare could stay in the library until July 2000 , when she will finish her NVQ.

On 9th October 99, Clare was called into the office by Mrs Lavery and informed that as of that day, Clare would no longer be working in the library. On the 11th October, Clare spoke with Mrs Spencer and John the librarian who both said they would try and do what they could to keep her job. Clare contacted the Prison Advisory Service who sent her a copy of the relevant chapter from the security manual which states that: `it is good practice to change them, where it might be considered that they have access to information that might be confidential and if they become too familiar with the library staff’. Clare states that the information in the library is already available to all the inmates anyway and as for familiarity with the other librarian, John, is only in six hours a week.

Attacked for helping other prisoners

On the 14th October Clare had a meeting with Mr Geroge Carruthers, the Head of Regimes and a member of the prison Race Relations committee. She quoted the security manual to him telling him that nowhere does the manual actually state that they `should change any jobs’ it only says its good practice. Mr Carruthers agreed to speak to Mr Dingwall and on 15th October, Clare was summoned back to her room where she was given a strip search. Meanwhile three officers without any warning turned her room upside down. Later Clare was summoned to Ms Hoy’s (senior officer) office, where she was informed that a number of items had been removed from her cell. A large quantity of legal papers had also been removed. These belong to other prisoners who sought her help to write letters for them. Other reference papers which she needed to help other women. Conference papers written by Angela Devlin were also removed. On Saturday (16th October) Clare spoke to Mr George Carruthers who informed her that he had prior knowledge that she had the `relevant paragraph’ and there was concern that she had the whole security manual which was incorrect. Since then Clare has heard nothing and is anxious about what is going to happen to her. Her anxieties are based on her past experiences. In 1995, when she was in Bullwood Hall, Essex, after writing an article publicising women’s inhuman treatment in prison, she was sent to down to solitary confinement for eight weeks. Eventually after pressure from supporters and the Women in prison group she was removed to Durham where she was isolated away from her support network.

Clare explains that: "This is all unnecessary harassment and all because I support other women prisoners and am fighting my own case."

Fry's Legacy Leaves a Stain on Women's Characters

Please send letters of support to:
Clare Barstow
HMP Cookham Wood
Kent ME1 3LU

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