Broadsheet Newsprint: Tabloid Lies

The Guardian is unquestionably the most important liberal daily newspaper published in Britain, if not Europe. If people read a sensational story in the Mirror or especially the Sun, they are apt to treat it with due reserve, but the same story published in the Guardian carries a certain authority. Unfortunately, this authority is not always deserved, and when the paper writes about Ram, it is simply not to be believed.

In its June 24, 2000 issue, an article by Jeremy Hardy gave spurious credence to the by now de rigueur lies of the Ram circus.

In September 2001, the Criminal Cases Review Commission declined to refer Ram’s conviction back to the Court of Appeal. This led to an article by Vikram Dodd, who with commendable racial solidarity and a total lack of objectivity, reported that this case has become one of the most controversial alleged miscarriages of justice. [See Bibliography re both the above].

Following Dodd’s article, the current writer wrote to the Guardian pointing out a few salient facts about this so-called controversial miscarriage of justice. If the letter was read, its contents were dismissed probably with the usual mantra of racist, for in its September 20 issue, the Guardian (G2) supplement devoted four pages to Ram, including the front page on which appeared a recent photograph.

It would be difficult to imagine a more gratuitously inaccurate or sloppy piece of journalism. The full credits are:

In 1986 a judge said this man should spend twelve years in jail. So why is he still behind bars? Simon Hattenstone on how justice abandoned Satpal Ram, published in the Guardian (G2), September 20, 2001, pages 1-4.

Hattenstone’s hagiography of poor, persecuted, victimised, innocent Satpal Ral was shortly reprinted on Ram’s own website. Below in point-counterpoint fashion is the current writer’s analysis.

The first error is in the title; Ram was not gaoled in 1986; he murdered Clarke Pearce in November 1986 and was gaoled for life the following June.

Over the page it is claimed that Ram was stabbed twice with a broken glass after being racially abused.

“He killed his attacker with a penknife”.

No, not “a penknife”, Mr Hattenstone, a flick knife, and Ram was the attacker, not Clarke Pearce.

The quote often attributed to Clarke “We don’t want any more of this fucking wog music” is regurgitated. Hattenstone does not comment on the fact that the waiter was apparently unoffended. Clarke is said then to have stabbed Ram in the face and in the wrist with a broken glass. His five friends began throwing plates and glasses. Again, neither the waiter nor the manager are mentioned here. Surely they would have taken umbrage? The five friends are not identified, and it is left to the reader to conclude that they were all men, probably football fan types rather than three women and two men, ie Clarke’s fiancée, his sister and her husband, and another couple.

“When Pearce came for him again Ram took out a knife and stabbed him.”

Again, this is simply not true, as the pathologist’s report indicates. Throw out all the eyewitness evidence, damn Nadine O’Neill and the rest of her party and all the independent witnesses as liars, and still there remains the incontrovertible proof that Clarke was stabbed in the back.

“Both men were taken to hospital.”

No, Clarke was taken to hospital in a desperate condition; Ram went to another hospital where he gave a false name and where a doctor managed eventually to treat him for a small cut to his face, which may well have been self-inflicted, such was the ferocity of his attack on the unarmed Clarke Pearce. In his judgment in Ram’s second appeal, Lord Justice Beldam covered the evidence of this doctor, who reported only the cut to Ram’s face. Ram had a small cut on his forearm too, but this required no treatment.

“Pearce, drunk and in shock, resisted treatment and died of blood loss.”

This obscene insinuation - again - that the victim rather than the murderer was responsible for his own death. Is this man really writing for the Guardian?

Ram went into hiding fearing the consequences of killing a white man.

He might well have feared the consequences of stabbing a white man - or any man - in the back with an illegal weapon, then cursing him as he lay mortally wounded on the restaurant floor.

On page 2 it is stated that Mr Justice Ognall recommended that Ram serve (a minimum of) twelve years, and that this was subsequently reduced to ten years by Lord Lane. It should be borne in mind though that a tariff is only a recommendation.

Ram has, we are told, been transferred no less than sixty-five times (as of September 2000). Two of the reasons for this now become apparent, for in addition to refusing to face up to his guilt (which is his right) he has “refused to do prison work, and often challenged the authorities”.

On page 4, two of the ways in which Ram challenges authority are revealed. In Wellingborough prison, an inmate had barricaded himself in his cell after receiving some bad news, and not unnaturally, all inmates were ordered off the landing. Ram and another inmate refused to leave, allegedly to protect the barricaded man from the inevitable beating that Ram’s psychic powers told him a special squad would inflict. Disobeying an instruction is a disciplinary offence, so Ram was disciplined. He claims that he was assaulted, his hands cuffed behind his back, and he was dragged to a strip cell.

Probably Ram was subjected to reasonable force to remove him thus, at any rate, after two days in a strip cell he threw a pot full of urine at one of his gaolers, which is of course another disciplinary offence.

Back to page 2: we know that Ram has two previous convictions; here one of them is revealed as an assault on a police officer in 1985. No details are given but we will assume this assault was trivial.

It is claimed next that it took Ram nearly ten years to secure an appeal against conviction. Which he lost. In fact, Ram’s first appeal was dismissed by the full court (at the leave stage) after he had served less than two years. His second appeal was secured not on merit but by wilful misrepresentation of the true facts, and by incessant and for the most part dishonest lobbying of the authorities. The checks and balances that are built into the criminal justice system work both ways; on the one hand they give those wrongly convicted hope, on the other hand they are open to abuse by the undeserving or the just plain guilty.

One of the reasons we are told that Ram has been subjected to such inhumane and degrading treatment (he says he has, and only a racist would brand him a liar) is the conspiracy of evil prison officers.

Besides making legitimate complaints, “Another possible factor is that Pearce’s brother-in-law was an officer at Winson Green prison at the time of the killing.”

The reader is referred to Mrs O’Neill’s reply.

The same old lies are recycled about Ram’s trial:

“a farce”

He received only one forty minute consultation with his barrister shortly before going into the dock.

Important defence witnesses were not called, etc and ad nauseum.

At the time this article was written, Ram was still waiting to hear from the CCRC. By the time it went to press, he had received his answer; the CCRC would not refer his conviction back to the Court of Appeal.

When Hattenstone meets Ram face to face, we are told that “He, when Pearce came for him again, he drew the penknife...” and stabbed him.

This must have been some feat, as to stab a man twice, or three times in the back in self-defence would necessitate re-writing the laws of physics. Undaunted by this task, Ram continues to re-write history, for we are told now that he has scars on his chin and on his forearm from "where he was stabbed on the night". This is the first reference the current writer has seen to a cut/scar on Ram’s chin; the lies grow with every retelling.

Ram does though admit to stabbing his victim a second time but no mention is made of the nature or position of the resulting wounds.

Ram was advised that he could not argue self-defence because his lawyers misread the pathologist’s report. No mention is made of this here, but that is what is implied. “The other wounds were caused by falling on broken glass that came from his own friends, who were throwing plates and glasses at me”.

Mr Justice Ognall is quoted here: “The verdict was to a degree unexpected. There was independent evidence which suggested that the deceased may well have initiated the incident both verbally and physically, by wounding the defendant with a broken glass”.

In view of the proven propensity of Ram and his campaigners to twist the truth and to quote out of context as much as invent evidence, this claim has to await independent verification. However, even if the judge did write those words in that order, he was clearly referring to Ram’s claim of provocation succeeding, not one of self-defence. In any case, the mere fact that there was independent evidence that suggested this does not in any way invalidate the verdict. It is possible that Ognall was referring to the evidence of the waiter Abdul Mozomil, but in its 1989 judgment the Court of Appeal pointed out that this witness although independent was clearly mistaken in his description of the incident, in particular he thought he saw Clarke holding a knife as well as Ram.

I might also point out that Mr Mozomil was a prosecution witness, as was the restaurant manager, whose evidence was anything but favourable to Ram. And one other point, which is very significant, in its 1995 judgment, the Court of Appeal stated:

“In dealing with the evidence of the two deep stab wounds the judge, misled by a diagram produced by Dr Gower, made a significant mistake but one which could only have assisted the appellant.”

In particular he said of the chest wounds that Clarke had been stabbed once in back and once in the front. In reality, both wounds were in the back. At the end of the day though it is the jury, not the judge, that decides the innocence or guilt of the accused.

Hattenstone says that in 1996, after finding out about Ognall’s remarks, Ram wrote to Lord Lane (retired Lord Chief Justice). Lane is said to have written back and agreed with Ram that the Home Secretary increasing his tariff amounted to political interference. * What is not mentioned here though is that it was Lord Lane who dismissed Ram’s first appeal; the fact that he agreed with Ram on this point does not mean that he thought Ram should have been cleared.

There is a lot here about how Ram has allegedly been abused by his gaolers. His mother no longer visits him because of her poor health, he says. (By the time this article went to press she had died).

Then Ram throws in some comment about how he was outnumbered by Clarke’s party, the implication being that he was attacked by two or several of them. In fact, of all the inconsistencies in the eyewitness evidence, one of the few facts that can be agreed upon is that the only two people involved were Clarke Pearce and Ram himself.

Ram quotes from a badly scanning verse written by an IRA hunger striker. A murderer without a cause empathising with murderers with a cause. How touching. Ram is said to be 34; he is actually 35.

The much touted photograph of Ram’s bruised face - which graces pages 2 and 3 - is said to have been smuggled out of Nottingham prison, after an alleged beating in 1997. It remains to be seen if this was indeed the case; in recent years there have been a number of police investigations into alleged brutality by prison officers. Whether or not this photograph was taken covertly or officially, none of the complaints Ram has lodged about alleged brutality has come to anything.

It is possible that Ram has been assaulted gratuitously, regardless of the fact that it is his word against theirs, but Hattenstone has already mentioned in this article that Ram threw urine at a prison officer. He and Ram admit now that this bruising occurred after Ram barricaded himself inside his cell. Faced with this admission and Ram’s claim of assault, and perhaps half a dozen prison officers saying that he resisted physically and sustained these injuries in the process, who would you believe?

Also pictured here is a 1997 picket, and two of Ram’s most vocal - and dishonest - supporters: the foul-mouthed rock musician Bobby Gillispie, and a stern faced alternative comedian, Mark Thomas. They are shown together with Ram’s brother, Mohinder.

Ram’s solicitor, Gareth Peirce, is quoted. She says that Ram has been refused parole because he will not admit his guilt. At the end of the article it is revealed that Ram’s mother has now died, and that the Home Office is unable or unwilling to comment on the case. This really is a pity, because Guardian readers will doubtless draw their own (and undoubtedly erroneous conclusions) about the conspiracy of silence surrounding the case of poor, persecuted, misunderstood Satpal Ram. Unless they read this article, that is.

Following publication of this article, the current writer wrote two letters to the Guardian dated September 21 and September 24 respectively. Unsurprisingly, both were ignored.

On page 19 of the Guardian for September 24, 2001 under the heading Corrections and clarifications appear the following words: “It is the policy of the Guardian to correct significant errors as soon as possible.” (italicised in original). This column appears in the Guardian regularly. Like so much else about this newspaper and about the press in general, this claim is utterly worthless.

Alexander Baron,
South London.

October 13, 2001

* The article appears to have been edited rather badly at this point because there is no mention of Ram’s tariff being increased to eleven years after Lord Lane had fixed it at ten.

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