…and that was just watching the CPS lawyers try to set-up their recording machine before the meeting even started. On Friday the 04th May 2018, my older sister Sarah and I finally got a chance to meet two of the senior prosecutors from the CPS team who made the decision not to prosecute a Mental Health Nurse who had sex with our sister Alison on hospital premises when she was a mental health patient. The sex led to a pregnancy, a hastily arranged crisis abortion which was concealed and excluded from her mental health medical records, and ultimately, a deterioration in Alison’s mental health which led to her suicide. I’m not sure Sarah and I knew where to start when we planned the agenda for this long-awaited and eagerly anticipated meeting, there were (and here comes a spoiler alert folks, there still are) so very many unanswered questions.
As I write this it is nearly ten days since we met the CPS and this is the first time I have felt able to express any thoughts on the meeting. This last week I have felt more empty, hopeless and at times just plain old desperate, forlorn and detached than I can remember. I can’t relate to the people around me and I can’t begin to try to explain to anyone, perhaps other than those who have also suffered intolerable injustice, the heavy almost unbearable weight of abject emptiness I have felt. It’s as if we have travelled the yellow brick road (still one of the best stories of how a team of imperfect differences can reach a destination) and having reached the Wonderful Wizard of Oz we have discovered he really is nothing of the sort. Small, intellectually and emotionally, moribund and inept, desperately peddling to keep the wobbly corporate bike upright, utterly unable to empathize and defensive of the indefensible to the very last. There is now a huge tear in the fabric of my understanding of the universe. Everything I have been brought up to believe about the way the world should work in the country that I live in is in tatters around me. I feel like I have been stripped back to the very core of my being. I have gone down the rabbit-hole, I have seen the Matrix behind the illusion and now I feel hopeless, small and insignificant, very, very insignificant. Seeing my hope relentlessly and mercilessly taken from me by bureaucrats detached from the consequences of their decisions has, without doubt, shaped and created a different Tom Bell to the one I used to know and offer to the world.
We were greeted cordially enough into the soulless office building in the middle of Carlisle. The two CPS lawyers introduced themselves pleasantly and then the meeting descended into predictable farce as they attempted to start recording the meeting. They prodded, pressed buttons and stared in a puzzled kind of non-IT literate hopeful fashion at a bit of equipment that looked like a prop from an eighties TV cop show that still used old-fashioned analogue cassettes, a la Life on Mars style. We should have known at this point how unproductive the meeting was going to be. Their attempts to goad and cajole the obviously recalcitrant and probably seldom used recording beast into life did not go well. We sat patiently as the increasingly ill-tempered machine uttered a series of illegible pre-programmed instructions in a weird psycho-robot voice and then emitted a continuous burst of lengthy high pitched squeals. This went on for a good ten minutes before the meeting finally started. At the time I had thought it was just a classic if somewhat crude distraction technique, designed to put us off our stride. But perhaps on reflection, the machine was simply setting the tone, reminding all those present of the rules of the CPS, its behaviour accurately reflecting our experience of dealing with them thus far; 1) make the interface complex and difficult to understand and use so as to discourage further contact, 2) respond with a standard set of instructions and suggested processes regardless of the question being asked and 3) when things get complex, launch a stream of unintelligible nonsense through which no logic can be allowed to enter. CPS processes, like many public sector bodies, seem designed to ensure that only the persistent, those with time, motivation, a modicum of intelligence and a shitload of patience ever make it to the start line.
As we left the building, emotionally drained and no further forward, one of the CPS lawyers emerged with her mobile phone close to her face, smiling and explaining to the caller that she was sorry she had not answered her earlier calls as she had been in a meeting. And there was the contrast. It’s not that I mind anyone smiling, I have actually developed an increased liking for the smiles I see on other people as it reminds me I used to do it a lot more myself. But in that moment, the gap between our need for justice and the remit of their roles became clear; to us the meeting had been so much more than a meeting, it was a glimmer of hope, a hugely important staging post on a long long journey seeking justice for a dead sister who is no longer here to speak for herself because she was mistreated in the care of the NHS, to them, well to them, it was just another meeting and attending such meetings is just part of their job.
And if you’re wondering whether the CPS lawyers ever did get their antique tape-recording machine working, the answer is no, or “null point” as we should say in this week of Eurovision. But I did offer them a copy of the excellent quality recording I made on my fifty quid digital dictafone…we really are in the hands of clowns folks, the justice system we pay for seems well and truly fucked to me.