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Five years, no charges: No perjury charges for officers accused of lying over jail death

Allan Marshall died four days after  a struggle with prison staff
Allan Marshall died four days after a struggle with prison staff

Prison officers accused of lying in court about the death of inmate Allan Marshall will not be charged with perjury.

Prosecutors at the Crown Office in Edinburgh had ordered a review of their evidence given at a Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI), following a request from Allan’s family and a damning judgment by a sheriff.

In his 109-page ruling, Sheriff Gordon Liddle said: “It was clear that prison officer staff did not tell the whole truth on a number of occasions. Sometimes they appeared to be mutually and consistently dishonest.”

Last week, in a letter from the Crown Office, the Marshall family were told there was not enough evidence to show that prison officers had committed perjury, despite Mr Liddle’s comments.

During the FAI at Edinburgh Sheriff Court Sheriff in 2018 Mr Liddle repeatedly warned the witnesses about their evidence and also reminded them they were under oath.

The decision not to prosecute the prison officers is the latest setback to Allan Marshall’s family who have been campaigning for more than five years to get to the truth behind his death.

Allan, 30, was on remand at Edinburgh’s Saughton prison in March 2015 when he suffered a cardiac arrest after a struggle with up to 13 staff.

The incident, which was captured on CCTV, showed the untried inmate being dragged naked, face down and feet first across a segregation unit floor with a towel over his head.

The struggle was caught on CCTV

Allan died four days later in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, his body covered with unexplained injuries, after being placed in an induced coma. During the FAI the prison officers involved in his restraint were given immunity from prosecution if they agreed to give evidence.

However, that did not exclude them from future perjury charges if they were subsequently found to be lying.

Allan’s aunt Sharon MacFadyen, 47, of Rutherglen, Glasgow, wrote to the Crown Office earlier this year demanding to know why the men hadn’t been charged. She says she is very disappointed by their response.

Sharon added: “This decision not to prosecute the officers for perjury is a kick in the teeth for this family. Sheriff Liddle stated clearly in his report that the prison officers were dishonest. But the Crown Office said that doesn’t meet the criteria for perjury. So what does meet the criteria?”

The Crown Office told the family there was a “high threshold” which had to be met to prove the officers had committed perjury.

They also said evidence which was wrong or incorrect – as suggested by Sheriff Liddle – did not necessarily mean the prison officers had lied.

Sharon added: “After more than five years, no one has yet been charged, punished or even reprimanded over Allan death. His family are still waiting for answers and justice.”

Allan, a father of two, was being held after appearing at Hamilton Sheriff Court on a breach of the peace charge. He was remanded in custody over unpaid fines and had been due for release. At the time of his arrest he was running a successful electrical appliance recycling business in the Castlemilk area of Glasgow.

We reported earlier this month how his family told The Sunday Post that they were still in the dark over his death, a year after publication of Sheriff Liddle’s report. They are yet to hear if any of his 13 key recommendations – designed to prevent future deaths – had been implemented.

Family lawyer Jelina Berlow-Rahman said: “Sheriff Liddle found that the prison officers had been mutually and consistently dishonest.

“Our clients did expect that such a robust judicial finding would be the catalyst for some form of further action. To say there is insufficient evidence to support a prosecution is little more than wilful blindness.”

The Crown Office added: “Careful consideration was given to the sheriff’s determination and to all of the available evidence. Crown counsel concluded the decision not to take any further action was reasonable having regard to all the circumstances.”

A Scottish Prison Service spokesman said of the Crown Office decision not to prosecute: “It would be inappropriate to comment.”

There was some good news for the family last week when they were finally invited to take part in a promised government investigation into prison deaths. The family had heard nothing from the Scottish Government since the announcement last November by Justice Minister Humza Yousaf.

Now – after airing their concerns in The Sunday Post earlier this month – they are to meet with professor Nancy Loucks, who is co-chairing the investigation.