Daniel Roque HallSWAN supporters will be delighted to hear that Daniel Roque Hall is now free and going home. SWAN London has supported the Daniel Roque Hall campaign and sent an open letter to the Guardian arguing for Daniel's release from custody which was published just after New Year's Day.

At 10.30 yesterday morning (Friday 8th February 2013) the Law Lords at the Royal Courts of Justice reduced Daniel Roque Hall's original prison sentence to 18 months so he was released from custody.

The Court recognised that Daniel’s serious disabilities – which leave him unable to move his limbs, feed himself, hold a pen or a telephone, or read a book unaided – and complex health needs which require 24/7 care, meant that he should not be returned to prison. 

On hearing the verdict, Daniel said: “This is tremendous news.  I want to thank my mum, my carers, my legal team, WinVisible and all those who have supported me, and I’m looking forward to resting and recovering fully at home”.

In court, supporters clapped and embraced Anne Hall, Daniel’s mother. Visibly moved and relieved, she said:

This is a fantastic result for Daniel, who suffered a great deal while in prison. I think the judges recognised that and I am grateful for the mercy they have shown.  This result is not just because of the court’s judgement, but is thanks to our dedicated new legal team and ongoing support from a large number of people, many of whom have campaigned tirelessly.  I’d like to thank everyone, especially his carers and friends, and WinVisible and the Global Women’s Strike, whose support has been invaluable.  This is a very important ruling not just for Daniel but also for people with disabilities and complex health problems, because it confirms that prison is not an environment which can meet their needs.”

Daniel was unable to attend his appeal hearing because the High Court does not have adequate disability access.  Instead he had to follow the proceedings from hospital via video link – an unsatisfactory and expensive alternative.

WinVisible commented:

Many disabled people supported Daniel’s fight to be released from prison, and identified with the vulnerability of having to be dependent on people who don’t care about you.  Daniel should never have been put in prison and we’re sure there are many other prisoners, women and men, who are being tortured and even killed by inadequate or even complete lack of care.  The neglect Daniel suffered in prison is happening in many institutions including hospitals, from geriatric to psychiatric wards, as the recent report into Mid Staffordshire hospital shows.  That even the High Court does not have adequate disability access is evidence of the discrimination disabled people face at every stage of the criminal justice system.”

The Global Women’s Strike added:

This judgement would not have happened without the determination of Anne Hall, Daniel’s mother, who has been relentless in pursuing justice for her son.  There are serious questions about the treatment Daniel Hall has received in prison and about how the NHS deals with people who are serving sentences in prison but who need to be in hospital.  Those in high places who are responsible for neglect or grand theft from the public purse costing many lives, are mostly allowed to get away with this behaviour.  Prisons are overcrowded with women and men who pose no threat to the public.  We hope they will be able to use this judgement to get their sentences changed so they can get out.” 

Although the judges showed mercy because of Daniel’s exceptional circumstances, they did not agree that his treatment at Wormwood Scrubs breached his human rights.  Yet, after only seven weeks he had become so ill that he was taken to UCLH where he spent over a week in Intensive Care. His mother was called to the hospital at 3am and told to kiss him and “say goodbye” – she thought he was expected to die.  It took a further five months of hospital care for Daniel to partially recover.  While the hospital was prepared to release Daniel back to prison, accepting the prison’s assurances that it could now meet his needs, his mother and other carers were convinced that he would not survive in prison.  On 2 January an emergency injunction was granted preventing his discharge back to prison.  His appeal against sentence was expedited with the help of his dedicated new legal team, which resulted in today’s judgement.

SWAN recognises this is only one victory for the rights of disabled people and those with long term illnesses in custody, but nonetheless it is extremely important one. During this period of viscious austerity, the social and health care treatment of those within the criminal justice system and prison is a marker of how eroded basic needs and decency have or may become under neoliberalism. The fight for justice continues - please visit the Justice for Daniel Roque Hall facebook site here.

SWAN congratulates the work of our comrades in WinVisible and Global Women's Strike who have tirelessly supported Anne Hall in running Daniel's defence campaign. In particular we thank Anita Castelino, SWAN London supporter and member of Daniel's campaign, for linking SWAN up to the campaign.