Saturday, 26 March 2011

Matthew Evans, racist solicitor at the top of the Prisoners' Advisory Service.

Machete v pointy pencil

by Farah Damji on Saturday, March 26, 2011 at 5:31am, Imran Khan, solicitor;  Chantal Beede, Legal Services Commission; Councillor Duwayne Brooks Deputy Chair LGA and councillor, Lewisham;  Mushtaq Lasharie;  Joel Bennathan, QC,  Tooks Chambers;  Colin Moses, Chairman Prisoner Officers' Association; Jonathan Aitken;  Eric Allison, The Guardian; Rabinder Singh, Barrister, Matrix Chambers; Erwin James, the Guardian; Victor Olliver;  Nik Masters;  Private Eye.

Maria McNicholl, St Giles Trust and Trustee Prisoners' Advice;
Sara Down, Bar Council and Trustee Prisoners' Advice; 
Enver Solomon, Crime and Justice, Trustee, Prisoners Advice;
Helen James, Trustee Prisoners' Advice;   

 Fri, 25 Mar 2011 22:30:27 +0000
 RE: Re: Your panel re prisoners' votes
Dear Trustees of the Prisoners Advice Service, Helen Jones, Envers Solomon, Maria McNicholl 

I write to make a formal complaint about your Matt Evans. 
Further to our conversation, in which I questioned the validity of an all-white panel, consisting of four "safe bets"  such as Jonathan Aitken , Eric Allison  etc etc  and a white female academic whose experience of prisoners' voting can be, at best academic, I wrote to Matt Evans to ask him to consider a member of Women Moving Forward, a campaigning arm of Women in Prison, as an additional member.  Let me be clear, this is not about me, I am in Cuba from April 29th - May 10th, the flights have been booked for three months and I had no intention of changing them but I wanted to see and to understand what the consultation process had been in order to reach an all-white panel. Someone else from Women Moving Forward could have come but his e mail was so patronising and such an obvious cover-up, it started to rile.

 That initial e mail is here

Dear Matt Evans
I write to request that you confirm a position for me on the debate panel concerning prisoners' votes.  This is a situation I have  personally experienced  and feel very strongly about  as someone who has   experienced the sharp end of the criminal justice system

Women prisoners rights are ignored and need to be addressed, we have different experiences and needs and it is important to address  this as part of the wider debate. In a recent survey conducted by Women in Prison Magazine, every single one of 500 responses from incarcerated women stated they wanted to be able to vote.  Men are more apathetic, perhaps women feel their rights and responsibilities being denied them more acutely because we are just used to it from birth. 

I feel this stinks of racism, maybe I am a little sensitive because I have just interviewed Colin Moses for the Tribune who speaks of  the denial of racism as the great British White lie. Why DON'T you have a BME person speaking on your panel, when more than 50% of prisoners are BME? Why don't you have a women on your panel who is not a white female academic who has an arm's length experience at best, like most academics,  and cares personally about these issues? Who did you ask from a BME background to participate? It isn't enough that some of the best legal minds are Asian criminal solicitors or barristers, we need a voice on every level of this complicated maze.   My work and my views speak volumes  please see the link below

 To be totally honest I feel I can contribute much more to this panel than most as an active member of Women Moving Forward, the campaigning arm of the charity Women in Prison. .  Also, I attach an invitation for an event at Kensington Town Hall next week to introduce a housing scheme for female ex-prisoners. I do hope you will be able to attend or send a representative. 

I look forward to hearing from you in the affirmative,

Your Sincerely 

Farah Damji

He responded

From: Matt Evans
Date: Thu, 24 Mar 2011 14:33:47 +0000
To:; Imran Khan; Laurel Townhead
Subject: RE: Your panel re prisoners' votes

Dear Farah

Thank you for your e-mail and I note your concerns about the diversity of the panel which I think are concerns we to a degree share. However to be fair we had asked a number of BME persons about the event and they either did not respond or were unavailable.

I am pleased that you feel strongly about these issues and I appreciate your personal experience in this area. If you wanted to meet me and our women’s caseworker Deborah Russo (who you are probably aware writes for Women in Prison and does outreach in the women’s estate) to discuss matters then I am sure this could be arranged. However panelists are chosen for all sorts of reasons including in this case attracting a large audience and individuals who might contribute financially to PAS and ensure we survive another 20 years. This is the reason why we approached some of the names we did. PAS is also a legal charity and this is the reason why we wanted a legal academic (in this case Professor Player who has written widely on the different issues facing women in prison) to set out a legal framework in which a more general discussion about voting and other issues could take place.

We have tried in the panel to get a mix in terms of people with different positions (former regulator, probation, academic, campaigner, former minister and miscarriage of justice) and perspectives of the Criminal Justice system but I appreciate that you are upset that someone with a BME background is not included. However I hope you will take my word that this has nothing to do with racism or an ignorance/lack of concern about the particular issues surrounding women in prison.

Finally the other issue for us is that there has to be a finite number of panelists as otherwise it becomes very unwieldy and the panel is now set. Therefore although I would consider inviting you to speak at some other PAS event I cannot on this occasion confirm a place for you on the panel.  


 he was lying to me and no one had been asked from a BME background. My e mail is below this because I I 

Sent: 24 March 2011 17:57
To: Matt Evans;
Subject: Re: Your panel re prisoners' votes

And who did you approach from the BME community? Names please.
He responded

I think this e-mail communication is at an end.

There should have been absolutely no problem with confirming nakes of people he claimed to have invited. I told him I wanted those names or I would send this thread of communication to Private Eye the magazine which is very good at highlighting crass behaviour. He then responded

Good luck with that
By now I was getting very frustrated at this not so subtle racism and lying, and sent him the following e mail, asking him to desist in any further contact and I wrote

Do not write to me anymore. Am lodging a formal complaint and asking for an investigation into your consultation process, with regards to HOW you selected your all white "celebrity" panel with the Charities Commission. All 400 invitees to the event will be notified of the progress of this complaint into you and your racist "charity". Private Eye love the correspondence, which I am free to publish.
Now go away you vile little racist.
He responded, completely inappropriately and with a racist slur on my ethnicity, I was born in Africa and of course we are all savages

No machete at the throat threats?

Which he quickly tried to recall, but which I had forwarded to friends already who work in diversity and equality.
This kind of attitude which is aggressive, lying and frankly patronising verging on bullying is completely unacceptable from someone in his position. He displays everything that is just plain WRONG about British society and the issue of racism which is alive and kicking in vile dinosaurs like him. I intend to pursue this complaint  with the HRC as well.  I will also be lodging a formal complain with the LSC and will ask that they suspend all funding, as clearly racists cannot work for a majority BME prison population with any sense of commitment or justice and are just doing it to milk private donors and trustees.  I would like to see the constitution and charter of this charity and I will be bringing a formal complaint to the Charities Commission under separate cover.  Machetes don't fit in my Chanel handbags, but if they did, small men like Matt Evans would have a lot to worry about.  I am not going to let racist liars like him go unchecked and I  will notify every BME councillor, MP and worker in the prison service and Ministry of Justice if I have to,   of this stinking, olde worlde plantation attitude if this complaint is not properly investigated. I am more than a little bit angry and he picked on the wrong small brown woman, without a machete, but with a lot of friends and a  very sharp pencil.  

Please let me know as a matter of urgency that this matter is being investigated and when I can expect the outcome of an internal investigation.

Many thanks for your assistance in this matter

Farah Damji