The past catches up with Prospect's prisonerby Peter Wayne / January 20, 2002 / Leave a comment
Published in January 2002 issue of Prospect Magazine
What do you mean I’ve got to go to Scotland?” “There’s a warrant,” the desk sergeant said, “and it’s our responsibility to hand you over to the Scottish authorities.” “When?” I asked. “Soon as they’ve dealt with you in court tomorrow-assuming they don’t send you to prison.” He laughed. “We’ve contacted the officers in charge of your case up there. They’ll be flying down to pick you up as soon as we give them the nod.”
Great. I had been trying to avoid this journey north for two and a half years. Through a combination of computer malfunction, lack of cross-border communication and good fortune, I had succeeded so far. Now the sergeant explained my plight. “It was a Scotland-only warrant-until last Tuesday. It’s just been extended to cover the whole of the UK.”
I nodded meekly, bowing to the inevitable. But however lenient the magistrate might be tomorrow, I wasn’t going to be at liberty to replenish my heroin supply within the next 24 hours. The two bags I had under my foreskin might see me through the night, but only if I could acquire a box of matches or a lighter-unlikely in this security-conscious place.
“I need a doctor,” I said, knowing that the pains of withdrawal would shortly override any concerns I had about the arraignment.
“There’ll be one along,” the sergeant replied. “In the meantime, you’ll have to go back to your cell and sweat it out in there. Your solicitor’s been informed. We’ll give you a shout when he gets here.”
I’d rather spend a week in prison than a night in police custody. The uncertainty gets to you. Will your case be adjourned? Will you be remanded in custody for the dreaded “social enquiry and background report”? What other surprises might they spring on you? For a full-time criminal, the possibility of further charges looms like a gang of assailants.
West End Central police station has few windows. It stands fortress-like at the unfashionable end of Savile Row. As I lay on a concrete sarcophagus inside this Portland stone citadel, I took in the surroundings. An electric blue urine-proof PVC mattress and two blankets had been thrown into a corner. There was a stench from the toilet bowl. Apart from a spy glass in the door and the alarm button, there was little else save a notice stuck to the ceiling. “Crimestoppers,” it declared in bold red letters, “did you know that the Metropolitan Police pay good money for information leading to the arrest and conviction of criminals? Call us now, confidentially, on…”