Unsafe convictions, p.12

Unsafe Convictions, page 12


Unsafe Convictions

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  10 Although I am loath to allow personal reactions to affect my assessments, I feel obliged to comment as Smith will be with us for a long time, and his interactions with other prisoners, and staff, therefore become significant. In observing him, I have noted that he takes every opportunity to approach women, and appears able to ingratiate himself very quickly. He unashamedly exploits capacity for guilt wherever it is to be found, which is more likely to be with women than with men, but once the victim begins to understand the nature of that exploitation, and to resist, he becomes vicious. He also gravitates towards prisoners known to be homosexually inclined, and his own mannerisms at times suggest he is of similar bent, although my observations suggest that he deliberately exaggerates the standard affectations in such company. His emotional development, apparently arrested in infancy, his overweening vanity, and his total self-absorption are all typical of homosexuality, in itself possibly a symptom of arrested development, but my personal opinion tends towards another diagnosis. There is an unwholesomeness about him, admittedly more sensed than seen, which is focused on his attitudes towards the sexuality of others, involving prurience and disgust, and engendering a great unease in the observer. He attempts to ‘seduce’ others, literally as well as metaphorically: therefore, his potential to create serious problems for other prisoners, and possibly to compromise officers and professionals, should not be overlooked. I am of the opinion that he uses his sexuality as and when and how it might suit him, and it is therefore yet another dangerous tool at his disposal

  11 Despite the clear deliberation in Smith’s conduct, it is my view that he is profoundly and dangerously disturbed, and functions from bases of rationalisation which preclude his taking any responsibility for his actions or their consequences, however dreadful for others, or from any comprehension of guilt. Blame is projected universally, which allows him to continue with his excesses of conduct without any remorse. Even if he is innocent of the murder of his wife, as he maintains, the casual fashion in which he admits to his violence towards her, which was probably worse than we know, is chilling, as are his endless justifications for his actions. He is cruel and greedy, and seems to enjoy the pain he causes others, because they ‘deserve’ it, and he uses his intelligence, which will always be limited by his lack of emotional empathy, to torture and taunt his victims. Although people like this are capable of destroying others without necessarily lifting a finger, as he has already come to enjoy the power he can acquire through physical violence, it is unlikely that he will lose that taste: on the contrary, its future satisfaction will demand greater and greater excesses. In this context, I feel justified in referring to new research into the ‘serial-killer’ phenomenon, which suggests such people often commence their career with sadistic attacks on animals

  12 To my knowledge, Smith has so far received three psychiatric evaluations: for the defence pre-trial (to which we are not privy), for initial assessment, and for this upcoming review. Whilst inconclusive, the in-house evaluations concur in many respects with my own views. We can therefore read the evidence as pointing towards a serious personality disorder. Such disorders fall outside the definition of mental illness, and are generally regarded as untreatable either by medication or surgery. However, our job is not to warehouse prisoners, but to rehabilitate, and we have an ongoing responsibility to the wider society with regard to any prisoner who may pose an indefinite risk. It is my view that Smith should receive further psychiatric evaluation in order to exclude specific mental illness — for example, schizophrenia — and in order to attempt a specific statement of need. In that way, his future management and therapeutic input may be designed to address those needs.

  Chapter Two

  Unable to match Rene’s outrage at the news of Fred Jarvis’s heart attack, Jack murmured the usual words of sympathy, hoping she would leave him alone.

  ‘It’s no good pretending it’s not your business,’ she nagged. ‘Smith’s made it your business. It’s his fault it happened. He leaves a trail of misery wherever he sets foot, that one.’

  ‘There’s nothing we can do,’ Jack said. ‘It’s up to Linda to deal with it.’

  ‘Why can’t you ring that damned reporter?’

  ‘Because we’d be seriously overstepping the mark. We’re walking on eggs as it is.’

  Arms akimbo, she stood over him. ‘Why?’

  ‘Because we have to be completely impartial.’ Ellen stood up, and took Rene’s elbow. ‘Let’s make some tea. I know you’re terribly upset. Linda’s almost like one of your

  own, isn’t she?’

  Grudgingly, Rene allowed herself to be moved. ‘And I feel for Fred like he’s one of the family. By God!’ she exploded. ‘That Smith’s got it coming to him!’

  As soon as Rene was out of earshot, Janet said: ‘She keeps uttering threats, and local feeling seems to be running higher by the hour. How d’you rate Smith’s long-term chances?’

  ‘Let’s say I’m very glad I’m not in his Gucci loafers,’ Jack replied. ‘If he’s any sense, he’ll change his name again, go to another town, and start all over as a virgin, as the saying goes.’

  ‘He can afford to.’

  ‘He could afford to go to the ends of the earth, or at least, Beryl could afford to send him, but I expect he’ll brazen it out here, because he reckons he’s done nothing wrong. He doubtless sees himself as the victim of a lynch mob mentality that succeeded in corrupting the police.’

  ‘We’re not making much progress with Dugdale and the others, are we?’ Janet asked.

  ‘I’m not sure there’s progress to be made, in the sense of breaking open a conspiracy.’ Jack yawned, as the church clock struck the hour. ‘My gut instinct, coupled with my professional judgement, inclines towards the view that Dugdale didn’t receive the letter, and therefore there’s nothing for us to pursue in that area. So, when Mr McKenna’s had time to get to grips with the notion of a possibly corrupt priest, we’ll go after Fauvel.’ When Janet shivered as a draught from the window caught her back, he added: ‘Rene’s determined we’ll have a blizzard before morning.’

  ‘It’s still too cold to snow.’ She frowned at him across the desk. ‘Assuming Fauvel lied about the letter, he must have realised what the consequences would be. Why should he want Smith behind bars?’

  Jack shrugged. ‘I’ve no idea. He’s a completely unknown quantity at the moment.’

  ‘Wendy Lewis thinks the sun’s rays originate under his cassock.’

  ‘You took against her with a vengeance, didn’t you?’

  ‘She’s a simpering hypocrite,’ Janet said. ‘And more than happy to drop Dugdale in the mire if the alternative involves her in questioning the integrity of the wonderful Father Brett. What sort of name is Brett Fauvel, anyway?’

  ‘Of the same ilk as Piers Stanton Smith in my book.’ Jack grinned. ‘Pretentious in the extreme, and cringingly artificial.’

  Chapter Three

  Clamping a pen between his teeth as he picked up the receiver, the newsroom clerk at the London office of Gaynor Holbrook’s paper tried to remember the last respite from the tyranny of telephones. ‘Yeah?’ he said, voice surly.

  ‘I want to speak to that Holbrook woman.’

  He heard harsh breaths and even harsher vowels straining in the woman’s tones. ‘D’you mean Gaynor?’

  ‘That’s her.’

  ‘She’s not here.’

  ‘She works there, doesn’t she?’

  ‘When she’s in London, but she’s not here now.’

  ‘Where is she, then?’

  ‘Who wants to know?’

  ‘I do!’

  He imagined the words snapping between her teeth, and coming out broken. ‘Why?’

  ‘Because she’s been writing a pack of lies, and it’s going to cost her. That’s why!’

  He pulled the pen out of his mouth and scrabbled around amid the rubbish on the desk for a piece of paper. ‘Who are you? What’s your phone number?’

  ‘You going to t
ell her?’

  ‘That’s the general idea.’

  ‘You writing this down?’

  ‘When you tell me what to write.’

  ‘You tell her Mrs Sheridan’s got a bone to pick with her, and it’s a big one.’

  ‘Right. Will she know who you are, or what it’s about?’

  ‘She will when she rings me, so mind you tell her to hurry up about it, or she’ll be sorry.’ She reeled off a telephone number. ‘You got that?’ She repeated the number, then hung up before he could answer.

  ‘There!’ Ida Sheridan sat down in a rush and stared at her friend, her face flushed, her eyes bright, and both the women in awe of her daring.

  ‘D’you think she’ll get in touch?’

  ‘She will if she’s any sense, and if she doesn’t, why, I’ll ring her boss.’

  ‘Are we doing the right thing?’ the other fretted, her

  pinched old face lined with worry.

  ‘Yes!’ Ida patted her scrawny arm. ‘They can’t be let to get away with it. It’s criminal.’

  ‘Shouldn’t I go to a solicitor, or something?’

  ‘You can’t afford it.’

  ‘Story of my life.’ The other sighed.

  Chapter Four

  ‘Much as we sympathise with Mrs Newton’s position, I’m afraid we cannot involve ourselves,’ McKenna said. ‘This is essentially between Mrs Newton and the newspaper.’

  ‘I’m not asking you to involve yourselves!’ Linda’s solicitor barked down the telephone. ‘I’m asking you to postpone tomorrow’s interview, in view of what happened to her father. She’s distraught, and therefore in no fit state to withstand police interrogation, especially as she’s nothing to answer for in the first place.’

  ‘How is Mr Jarvis?’

  ‘Rallying,’ the other man admitted with reluctance.

  ‘So I heard,’ McKenna said. ‘Did Mrs Newton ask you to approach me?’

  ‘I act in her best interests.’

  ‘But did she ask ?’

  ‘Not specifically.’

  ‘If she does, please get in touch immediately. Otherwise, I’ll expect to see you both at the appointed time tomorrow.’

  ‘You were a bit hard on him,’ Jack commented, when McKenna hung up.

  ‘I’ve had a bellyful of these solicitors and their shenanigans. He’s no doubt part of Pawsley’s magic circle, doing his own bit to scupper our job.’

  ‘The Federation called while you were out. Lewis refused to have another brief, so they want to know our intentions.’

  ‘We proceed on the basis of her being unrepresented, as that’s apparently how she wants it.’

  ‘You know it isn’t,’ Jack chided.

  ‘I will not be manipulated! This is a blatant attempt to blackmail us into letting Pawsley back on the scene.’

  ‘I know that, but we can’t let Lewis be without a solicitor.’

  ‘She’s been offered an alternative, so it’s her choice. She’s a grown woman, not a child in need of protection. For heaven’s sake, Jack! Wendy Lewis is two years older than you! Try that perspective.’

  Chapter Five

  Sitting cross-legged on her sitting-room floor, her face almost scorched by the fire, Wendy snatched another tissue from the box beside her, and snivelled. The telephone was slippery with her tears. ‘They can’t do this! They can’t take you away from me!’

  ‘They’ll try, dear,’ Frances replied. Beyond her office window, the lights of the city sprang to life, piercing the winter twilight. Her left ear was ringing from Wendy’s assaults, and she moved the receiver to her other hand. ‘But we gels must stick together. Us against the world, eh?’

  ‘I’ve told them I won’t have anyone else!’ Wendy exclaimed.

  ‘Was that wise? You need somebody.’

  ‘I need you!’

  ‘Have they said they want to see you again?’

  ‘No. Not yet, anyway.’

  ‘They’ll probably be back with the statement transcript for you to sign, but that’s not a problem. Just make sure you read it carefully, and if there’s anything you’re not happy about, don’t sign it. I’ve got a copy of the tape, remember.’

  ‘When are you coming to see me?’ whined Wendy. ‘Tonight?’

  ‘I don’t think I ought, dear. McKenna told me to stay away, and I wouldn’t put it past him to have you under surveillance.’

  ‘He can’t do that! You’re my friend.’

  ‘Of course I’m your friend!’ Frances tried to summon a smile into her voice, but felt as wearied, had she known it, as a mother might by the incessant demands of a spoiled toddler. ‘But McKenna’s very powerful, so it wouldn’t be sensible to cross him.’

  ‘But you must do something!’ Wendy insisted. ‘Can’t you talk to your police contacts?’

  ‘I’ll try, dear.’

  ‘Can I ring later to find out?’

  ‘I’ll call you when there’s something to report, but I think you should try for an early night. You must be quite worn out with stress.’

  ‘I won’t sleep a wink! And I’m sure I was awake most of last night.’

  ‘All the more reason to try to make up for it tonight, then. I really must go, dear. Someone’s been waiting to see me for the past half-hour.’

  Chapter Six

  Sitting on coloured plastic chairs outside the cardiac care unit, with the end of Fred’s bed just in view, Craig and Linda waited for the nurses to finish their half-hourly observations.

  ‘Fred’ll be alive and kicking at a hundred, and getting a telegram off the Queen,’ Craig commented. ‘I’ve never seen such a fighting spirit.’

  ‘He’s like that ‘cos there’s unfinished business.’ She leaned her head against Craig’s shoulder, and closed her eyes. ‘I feel like I could sleep for ever.’

  He put his arm around her. ‘Stress does that to you. What say we go home? My mum said she’ll keep the boys overnight, if we want.’

  Comforted by the closeness of his big, strong body, she let her thoughts drift to the carefree days of marriage before the boys arrived, before she noticed her father looked as if he would follow her mother to an early grave, and especially, she remembered, before her poor dead sister dropped her guard and the pretence of a happy marriage. Linda grew up knowing about the viciousness hidden behind net curtains and pumiced doorsteps, because Rene and her like would purse their lips and frown over the sight of one housewife or the other with her right eye blacked that week instead of her left, but she never imagined such horrors might cross her own family’s doorstep. They were too decent, too conscious of the scrutiny of others, and therefore too afraid of losing face by showing bruised flesh to the world and, from the deep and enveloping sense of safety which was the most potent memory of her early years, she knew that nothing other than honest, loving transactions had passed between her parents. Fred Jarvis grieved long and hard for his dead wife, but never with the sly face of guilt.

  Linda stopped inventing convoluted reasons to explain the obvious, but mysterious, decline in her sister’s well-being on a rain-washed summer day when she called unexpectedly at the house and, about to open the front door, heard Smith’s hysterical ranting. She wavered on the doorstep, flinching when the crashing and shattering noises began. In the brief silence which followed, she found she was holding her breath, then there was another sound: a gurgling, hardly human cry, like an animal in mortal fear. She barged through the door and into the room where Trisha was later found burned to a crisp, to see Smith, eyes alight, a froth of spittle at each side of his mouth, gloating over the splinters and shards of his tantrum, while Trisha crouched against the wall, hands clutched to her bloody face.

  ‘Get out, bitch!’ Smith moved on Linda, fists raised. Trisha launched herself at him, clawing his back. ‘Leave her alone!’

  He swatted her, drawing more blood, then pushed past Linda and ran upstairs. Within seconds, he ran back down, through the front door, and out into the lane, and even now, the memory of it made Lin
da’s heart stop dead.


  ‘Hey!’ Craig kissed the top of her head, and squeezed her trembling shoulders. ‘Fred’s going to be fine. We’ll bring the boys again later if he feels up to it.’


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