Inside Time Reports 22nd February 2021
A CROSS-PARTY group of MPs who requested a video meeting with remand prisoner Julian Assange has received a dismissive response from Justice Secretary Robert Buckland QC.
MP Richard Burgon wrote to Buckland on behalf of 16 MPs who wanted to meet the detainee. His letter, sent on December 16, explained that the group hoped to arrange the meeting before a court hearing on January 4.
Buckland did not reply until January 25. He opened his letter by apologising for the delay, without offering an explanation. He said he could not comment on individual prisoners, and decisions on visits had to be made by prison governors.
Buckland’s letter went on to point out that Belmarsh residents are able to use the Purple Visits system for video calls.
It did not explain that this would be unsuitable for a meeting with a group of MPs, as only one household can join a Purple Visit.
The letter also said that all prisoners are being given £5 a week in free telephone credit during the coronavirus pandemic.
It added that prisons had been instructed to promote prisoners’ contacts with friends and family because it “helps to prevent reoffending, reduce intergenerational crime and improve the safety of the custodial environment” – none of which are likely to be relevant in Assange’s case.
After receiving the rebuff from the Secretary of State, the MPs wrote to the governor of Belmarsh making the same request – and, after three weeks, were still waiting for a reply.
On Twitter, an individual member of the public posted a snapshot of an automated reply from Belmarsh Prison regarding a request for a "Purple Visit" video call. Belmarsh says that Julian Assange is not eligible for such visits. Kafkaesque