From the title of the show, I thought that Prisoners’ Wives would a bit trashy and unrealistic (a la Footballers’ Wives), but it appears to actually be quite a well constructed character drama. Not always 100% accurate, but then it is a drama.
But how accurate is? As a lawyer, there are often portrayals of my profession – good, bad and ugly – on television. The portrayals are rarely accurate, but then they are drama. If it was realistic, then it would be 6 hours of watching lawyers sitting round drinking coffee, before being adjourned because the Crown Prosecution Service have lost the papers. So there obviously has to be some dramatic licence.
And, I have to say, that this is pretty accurate. The procedure for getting into prison for a visit is how it happens (although it is generally not quite as smooth as it seems – someone always leaves something in their pocket). The visits progress as they do on the tv.
The story of Mick, who was arrested on suspicion of child abuse, and his wife Kim, is an interesting one to consider. By the look of it, the story arc will take us through his trial. It will be interesting to see how accurate it is.
The way that he was arrested and what we saw of the interview seemed quite realistic. In real life, the police should not have spoken to Kim in the way they did at the Police Station (should being the operative word), but the scene where bail was refused at the Magistrates’ Court was very realistic (the magistrates would have said that bail was ‘refused’ rather than ‘denied’ or ‘rejected’).
When Mick was remanded into custody, the ‘checking in’ procedure was not shown and there was an element of the prison experience being ‘sanitised’.
Under the Prison Rules, convicted prisoners are dealt with differently to unconvicted (remand) prisoners like Mick (the relevant rule is PSO 4600). The relevant parts read :
1.4 An unconvicted prisoner must not in any circumstances be required, against their will, to share a cell with a convicted prisoner – Prison Rule 7(2)(b).
Unconvicted prisoners must be kept out of contact with convicted prisoners as far as the Governor considers that it can reasonably be done, unless and to the extent that they have consented to share residential accommodation or participate in any activity with convicted prisoners – Prison Rule 7(2)(a). However see 1.6.
1.5 Accommodation – Practically, this means that unconvicted prisoners should be housed in separate accommodation from convicted prisoners as far as the Governor considers this can reasonably be done. If the Governor considers in certain circumstances that it would be unreasonable to maintain separation where unconvicted prisoners prefer to be held separately, he may locate them on the same wing or landing as convicted prisoners, but must not require an unconvicted prisoner unwillingly to share a cell with a convicted prisoner. Where it seems necessary that an unconvicted prisoner should share a cell with a convicted prisoner, their explicit consent must be obtained. Where an unconvicted prisoner is content to share residential accommodation, or to participate in activities with convicted prisoners, there should be no obstacle to their doing so.
1.6 Regime Activities – Sharing activities with convicted prisoners is acceptable, providing such activities are supervised and on the understanding that this enables unconvicted prisoners to have a better choice of activities, education and work than they would if they were kept segregated. Should the prisoner object to sharing activities, he/she must not be forced to do so.
For this reason, whilst Mick would not be sharing a cell with any of the characters that we have seen, it is perfectly possible that he would interact with them and be attacked as portrayed. Given the current state of prison overcrowding, it is not unusual for convicted and remand prisoners to be on the same ‘landing’.
It may be that, due to the fact that he was charged with a sexual offence against a child, he would have been ‘segregated’ under r45 Prison Rules. More information can be found at the Prison Reform Trust (page 99).
But, compared to most shows on tv, the actual portrayal of the justice system is pretty good.
As always, if there’s any questions, we’re happy to try and answer them.