My view from the cells, by Tracey McMahon
Here I am in the CJS awaiting a trial. It’s at this point; I have to thank my solicitor and barrister, Jeremy, who likely never knew what was coming from me next. That man had to contend with me calling him in a distressed state and telling him I was about to “off” myself, on several occasions. Sometimes it’s the simple sentences isn’t it? The words “I hope you don’t” gently coming down my line was enough to pull me back. He has the most incredible manner and uses that good impassion to re-rail a situation. I’d have never gotten through such a time without that support. Jeremy, thank you.
I had a case management hearing in January where a date was set for trial in April. That hearing was over quickly. I soon picked out the journalist. I have a bit of thing with the local rag in my town. It involved my local MP, the NHS and my mother. So they knew who I was and I knew who they were and I damn well knew my name would be in the paper before the weekend.
From March, I’d moved out of my home with my fiancé. We were so broken we couldn’t put it back together. I couldn’t tell the truth, he watched me slipping away into a black abyss of work and never being able to reach me. A difficult, yet wonderful man who had his own demons to deal with, but yes, I miss him, deeply. I moved back down south and continued building my business. April was approaching and I was prepared. I was standing by my plea. I know enough about this system to know that I would have to face him in court. I wanted him outed for his false allegation and I wanted him to balls it up. The charge I was guilty for and knew I was could come at the eleventh hour. I know that will piss off lawyers, but you see, without going into detail, I wanted him to stand there and lie in front of a jury on oath. I so wanted that. Just to see if he had the balls to do it. I then received an email from Jeremy to say that my case had been de-listed for the next day. I crashed back down to earth.
Then my unravelling began to a whole sorry mess around me. My ex-fiance now at this time decided he was going to “out” me to my friends and he and another man set about destroying me. I had friends remove themselves from my life overnight. By this point was my case was relisted for June 3rd. On May 28th, the day after Whitsun, I was in a bed and breakfast and I took an overdose. I’d finally come undone. I could no longer face life, face court and stand there and lie. I simply wanted out. The B&B owner had sensed something and the next thing the Police and paramedics had kicked in the door. I was carted off to A&E. I was two stone underweight, I hadn’t eaten for weeks and I was a mess. I had nowhere to go and the hospital was sadly no help. I left the hospital with my bag and found a spot on the canal path where I could sleep. Jeremy was tracking my movements. I would email him from the library daily. I’d also changed my plea to Guilty at this point. I simply couldn’t hold out any longer. I was to live on the canal for two weeks. My hearing on June 3rd was put back to the 10th June. The only way to get back to the North was by not turning up at court and a warrant to be issued for my arrest. From the 10th of June, that warrant was issued according to my solicitor; only it wasn’t. Someone had forgotten to put it on their system (yes really) Warwickshire police had a call from me every day if not a visit to ask when they were taking me into custody. It became a standing joke in the end. The Police were so kind, but their hands were tied. Eventually they had the warrant. I handed myself in where I was formally arrested and taken into custody for a night. They were relieved and so was I. The custody sergeant was fantastic and knew me before I’d even got there. My hand bag was emptied; things were placed into clear plastic bags with big white ties. I saw them grinning at the contents. Jo Malone perfume, deodorant, spare underwear, (the best, naturally) I had a Tumi case (I’ve worked hard all of my life and I like nice things, just like the next person). I was well-looked after. I was so weak mentally and physically. They put me in a cell away from the vagabonds and drunks. I was allowed to take a book in. I was reading “The Examined Life” By Stephen Groesz. Ironically, I was at the chapter which explored why we lie.
Even though I was desperate to be away from my “home” the canal, I somehow missed the freedom and the smell of the outdoors. The cell contained a bench with a blue thick-protective-coated mattress, I was given a blanket. On the ceiling was a sign which told me if I had alcohol or drug problems I could ask for someone to come and see me. Okay, I’ve liked 28 glasses of Chablis like the next person, but I wasn’t withdrawing. I was fine. Weak, shaking & scared and couldn’t stop staring at the matt stainless-steel, piss-smelling lavatory. I managed to sleep. Oh how I needed to sleep. I could hear shouting, doors being clunked closed. But I fell into a sleep knowing my list of charges had just grown. But I had no choice. I was going to prison. I’d been told. The next morning, a lovely PC came and took me for a shower, we chatted as I showered and she handed my clothes and I was allowed to put my face on. I was clothed in my court attire. Custody Sergeant was a different one; he was just as pleasant, helpful and supportive. Warwickshire Police took care of me, I thank them too. My night in the cell was over. It wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated. But I sure as hell don’t want to go again…
Warwickshire Police’s job was done. They had the surrendered “wanted woman” from the north. They all shouted goodbye and good luck to me – I heard comments such as “If only they were all as easy to deal with” I took that as a backhanded compliment. I was now in the custody of G4S. (I bet you’re all grinning now) Keys jangled and this was the first time I’d felt like a criminal. I’ve got to ask this, can someone tell me why the female guards all look like something out of Prisoner Cell Block H?
I was now in the custody of G4S, with handcuffs on. So, I’d surrendered, at no point did the police handcuff me. Yet, the morning I was heading to court, I had to be handcuffed from the custody area through to the van, commandeered up the stairs of the van where the guard guided me into the poky hole I was to sit in for four hours. (They got lost and I shouted directions from my “hole”, they even took me to the wrong court in a different town) I was the only person in the van for the whole way. I apologise to tax payers here.
I was on my way to court, we got there (eventually, good old G4S they got there in the end with me directing them. I should have had them on the Eurostar to Paris, they’d likely have not realised.)
I was now going to stand in the dock of a Crown Court…
By Tracey McMahon
About the author: Tracey McMahon is a 45 year, copy writer/transcriber/translator. She is a convicted offender and is currently serving her sentence.