Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Collared

Just before Christmas we were surprised to walk into court to find two burly soldiers in combat fatigues sat in the well of the court. The clerk explained that the man who was on his way up from the cells was a deserter, who had gone AWOL from his regiment a couple of years previously. Deserters are automatically put on the 'wanted' list in the police computer system, so when they come to the attention of the police for one reason or another, their wanted status is flagged up, and the handcuffs go on. Once the police have him, it requires a very brief court hearing to commit him to military custody, but without that hearing the police have no power to hand him over to the MPs.

I will never know what happened to our man, but I do know anecdotally that the military detention centre at Colchester has an awesome reputation for toughness, and that a week in there is reckoned to be equivalent to  a month in a civilian jail.

24 comments:

  1. Colchester may rightly have an awesome reputation for toughness, but at least its prisoners retain the right to vote! By a quirk in the legislation, service personnel in military detention are not covered, although if - as sometimes happens with lifers and other long-term prisoners - they are transferred to a civilian gaol, they then lose their vote.

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    1. Colchester is a military corrective training center. It is not a prison, and therefore doesn't have prisoners that retain the right to vote.

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    2. Thanks for picking up on this linguistic infelicity, Tony, and for the clarification about transfers to HMPs below.

      My point really was simply that because of an apparent oversight in the Representation of The People Act, the notion of "penal institution" mistakenly doesn't include the now sole remaining military corrective centre, but it is very clear that anyone sentenced to detention for a military offence who serves such a period of detention in a prison rather than at Colchester loses the vote under the "s3 bar".

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  2. A former colleague of mine did admit that he had done time in Colchester (for being caught asleep on guard duty) and he reported that it was certainly a salutory experience that he wasn't keen to repeat!

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  3. Colchester is not actually a prison. It is a military correction centre. See

    http://www.army.mod.uk/agc/provost/2157.aspx

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  4. The Military Corrective Training Centre at Colchester is tough but very fair and soldiers get extremely fair treatment and training there. Indeed once they have finished they are in big demand on many units due to their high level of training. Having been there on a visit I was very impressed.

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    1. That is true for A Company. The other Companies are either discharged from the forces after training, or are on remand etc., or awaiting definitive action. BTW: MotVG: None are there for more than two years, and all long-term and 'lifers' are sent to HMPs.

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    2. MoD realised a long time ago that trained soldiers are expensive, so MCTC aims to repair those who have gone astray. SuS (soldiers under sentence) who are going to stay in the Army (Navy or AirForce) do a full infantry recruit's training course, including live firing on the range (which amazes US Military) and have remedial PT, special diets to get them up to or down to weight. At "Stage 3" they even get "walking out leave" on Saturday afternoons!

      Those who are to be dismissed from the service of completion of their sentence are taught a trade, and see both probation officer and job centre with a view to having a job to go to on discharge.

      The only ones who go to prison are (surprisingly!!) those sentenced to imprisonment.

      There are no bars! The windows open (but are too narrow for escape)!

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  5. A friend of mine was sent to Colchester as a punishment for punching a superior while on board his boat (he's in the navy). He loved his time there and didn't want to leave. He said it was all just running about, jumping over things etc. All the stuff he joined the military because he enjoyed doing.

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  6. Many, many years ago as a young Special Constable, I walked into Steelhouse Lane Police Station in Birmingham to find an american serviceman sitting drinking tea and chatting with the Office Constable. Apparently he had gone absent from one of their bases overnight. All was very civilised until a pair of white helmeted MPs came in the door. He left in handcuffs and it was some time before the scuff marks were polished out of the lino by the outer doors.

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  7. You wouldn't get sent to Colly for falling asleep on guard duty - if you did, half the army would be in there! You would get a slap around the head, or at worst, 7 days in the guard room. I've been on both a Staff visit and in my younger days, to escort a prisoner (note the offical term). Regardless of what the Military Provost Staff say or it's offical status MCTC Cochester is a prison for those that have been found guilty of military (not crimminal offences) that have a sentence of more than 28 days. Whilst soldiers are there, they are beasted, pure and simple. At the end of sentence, mostly they are able to soldier on. Whether their parent regiment chooses to accept them back depends on a range of factors.

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  8. Time to adopt the regime into the civil system then- maybe a job for some of the soldiers who have been thrown on the scrapheap by enforced redundance

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  9. There was an ITV programme on the "glasshouse" at Colchester. It seemed to be tough in the sense of there being a very high level of supervision; soldiers get micromanaged throughout the day, but it didn't look any tougher than some of the American "boot camp" type prisons.

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  10. Stop quickly - you may be giving the lock em up and throw a way the key brigade some bad ideas.

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  11. @ nationalist. it's like going back to recruit training for the duration of sentence, plus lots more hard physical exercise - logs runs, stretcher races, battle PT, high ropes confidence courses etc, plus there is zero personal time and space. Many years ago as an 18 year old soldier, escorting a soldier conivted of theft to Colchester I was pretty terrified by the Sgt checking the prison in, who spoke very nicely to the escort in a nice matey fashion but instantly changed to scream at the prisoner who was 5 meteres away..!

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  12. Do we really have 'combat fatigues' in the British Armed Forces?

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    1. You clearly know what I mean. How would you better describe them using just two words?

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    2. Uniform. "Military uniform" if you must.

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  13. Which one? The UK forces use scores of uniforms, and as any fule kno, my reference to combat fatigues is instantly understandable. I suspect that you are just trolling, but I have given you the courtesy of a reply.

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    1. Surely the real point here is that fatigues is the wrong attire for appearing in court! I think Number 2 Dress Uniform would be the correct apparel; it would be in a Court Martial - save that medals may not be worn and hats are removed after oaths have been taken.

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    2. The squaddies were simply his escort party.

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  14. Quite right BS! "Uniform" or "military uniform" just don't cut the mustard, and everyone reading your comments would have known what you were describing. If one really wanted to find an appropriate British English equivalent, I'd suggest that "battledress" is the nearest equivalent.

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    1. That's absolutely correct! If one were in the 1950s.

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  15. Bob of bonsall19 March 2013 18:30

    In the late '70s at 22Engr.Regt. just outside Tidworth, we had one lad who twatted a full screw (hit a full corporal) and received a fairly long MCTC stretch and "soldier on" after sentence. Given a full 50% remission for good behaviour, his first action on return to unit was to request a PTI's course. Within a year he was a full corporal and was acting Sergeant in 18 months.
    MCTC works!

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