Justice for Joe

- Joe Paraskeva, London UK

News Update - May 2019:

Thank you to all our supporters over the years.
Just to let you know Joe is doing well.
We have recently closed the Facebook account and we propose to close the website in approximately a year but we are pleased to say that we've been able to offer advice to several other families over the years who have contacted us through the email account.
However we're unable to continue to respond to requests by email so please contact the organizations listed below

Rethink Mental Illness
The Howard League for Penal Reform
The Prison Reform Trust
The Centre for Mental Health
MDF - The Bipolar Organisation - MDF is the national charity dedicated to supporting individuals with the much misunderstood and devastating condition of bipolar, their families and carers.

News Update - July 2013:     The family has received an apology from the E.London NHS Foundation Trust, saying that it accepts that Joe was not cared for properly after he tried to escape from the ward and a mistake was made.

The Trust has said that Joe's psychiatric history wasn't looked at properly when the decision was made that he was not mentally unwell and that he should have received a forensic assessment when he was taken into custody by the police. They have said following such an assessment he could have been transferred directly to the John Howard Centre (the medium secure forensic hospital where he is presently) from police custody. The Trust ordered a Serious Incident Review, more than two years after the incident. The apology was given recently, during a meeting about the Review and its findings.

The Campaign will continue: to overturn Joe's criminal conviction for arson and to challenge the practice, acknowledged in the above meeting, that the Trust believes it can be in a patient's interests to be charged and convicted of a criminal offence if they are a mental health patient, in a psychiatric ward, at the time of the incident/offence. We do not believe it is helpful to a mental health patient to be stigmatised with another stigma, that of being criminalised, when they are severely mentally distressed and while they are in the care of the NHS psychiatric services.

Hackney Citizen - Trust Apology  July 2013

See below for more information

Joe is now 22 and was diagnosed with Bipolar Affective Disorder in 2007.

Joe was charged with arson in October 2010, after he tried to set fire to the door of a psychiatric unit in a hospital, in an attempt to escape. Joe was not charged with the more serious offence of arson with intent to endanger life. He was a mental health patient at the time and had been detained and sectioned under the Mental Health Act less than 48 hours earlier.

On 5th April 2011, at a Crown Court in London, he was sentenced to an IPP (Indeterminate sentence of imprisonment for Public Protection): an indefinite term.

Joe has no previous criminal convictions.

Joe was imprisoned on 7th October 2010 where he remained, in a Young Offenders Institution, until 3rd November 2011. Only after an independent psychiatric report had been obtained by his family, was he transferred to a psychiatric hospital, where at last he is receiving proper care and treatment.

We believe Joe's conviction should be overturned and that he should not have been criminalised in the first place.

We call for an independent and thorough review of such cases and for safeguards to be put in place within the health system to ensure mental health patients are given compassionate care and treatment in hospitals, not diverted into the prison system.

There have been no pictures of Joe on this website except a photo of him when very young (see Press articles); Joe is already a vulnerable person at risk and has not been in the position of giving consent. It is widely documented that people with mental health difficulties are at increased risk of verbal and physical assaults.

Request for Members of Parliament to form a Committee to discuss the Criminalisation of Mental Health Patients
See Open Letter to Meg Hillier MP (pdf)
We hope this letter will prompt a debate around this practice, which occurs in some psychiatric hospitals. We are calling for a thorough investigation into the circumstances whereby a mental health patient can be prosecuted while they are in the care of the NHS. Whether as a detained patient (as Joe was) or an informal one, we believe that Joe (and many others) are owed an operational duty by the psychiatric hospital to be protected; many patients do not feel safe in psychiatric wards, many become distressed. We believe that all are deserving of compassionate care in an environment where they feel both safe and secure. Joe was not protected, he was not kept safe: he was allowed dangerous, prohibited items which he subsequently used in his efforts to escape from the ward.

For more information email justiceforjoe@hotmail.co.uk.

In SANE's opinion.


Psychiatric patient Joe Paraskeva's arson conviction quashed - BBC London News 12 December 2012
Conviction was not quashed, see details of Verdict, below.

Mentally ill man jailed for hospital arson has prison sentence quashed - Guardian 12 December 2012

Court of Appeal victory in 'Justice for Joe' campaign - East London Lines 13 December 2012
(this photo of Joe and his sister is the only one approved for release by both of them at the moment)

CLARIFICATION of Verdict of Court of Appeal:
Jail sentence quashed but criminal conviction remains. Campaign still trying to overturn criminal conviction for arson.
Appeal Court Judgement substituted the prison sentence for a hospital order; Joe will be treated as a patient now, not as a prisoner. Despite 2 Court-appointed expert Psychiatrists with view that Joe did not need a further Restriction order on his hospital order, the Judges imposed one. A Restriction order means Joe will be intensively monitored, the order is indefinite. (Both orders are sections under the Mental Health Act)

Joe's family say this feels like a punishment, when he has been doing so well; the hospital have said they did not expect him to have a Restriction order: it was said in Court that they (hospital) viewed Joe as a model patient and there had been no problems with his leave, it was also said in Court that he had intervened when a member of staff was been seriously assaulted by a patient (Joe had restrained the patient until help arrived; management at the hospital later thanked him).

It was said in Court that Joe was mentally ill at time of offence. Despite 3 expert psychiatric reports saying this, no challenge to his conviction was included in the grounds of appeal.
Also, there was no mention at all of Joe's previous diagnosis, 7 month inpatient assessment and years of care and treatment in child and adolescent mental health service. Dr Farnham, Court Psychiatrist actually said in court that this was the first time Joe had had a long period of assessment and therefore the first time his illness could be assessed. That is not true.
All the medical evidence presented in court referred to Joe as though he had just come off the street and had no psychiatric history. Not true.
How can a sectioned mental health patient be culpable for his distressed behaviour?

Campaign continues!!! Stop the Criminalisation of Mental Health Patients!!!!!

Appeal News
Joe's IPP (Indeterminate term of imprisonment for Public Protection, minimum tariff to serve in prison before able to apply for parole on licence, 2 years) was overturned on the 12th December 2012. He now has a Hospital Order which has been substituted in its place.

Joe spent more than a year in prison (7 Oct 2010 - 3 Nov 2011) and more than a year in hospital (3 Nov 2011 - 12 Dec 2012) before his IPP sentence was overturned. Total more than 2 years, with no treatment until he was transferred to hospital.

The Hospital Order means that Joe will continue to be treated in a therapeutic hospital and will not be returned to prison. A Victory!

The family was told that the only evidence the Judges could consider at this hearing was medical evidence.

The Judges considered the 2 expert psychiatric reports commissioned by the Court of Appeal and the expert psychiatric report which the family had paid for in 2011 which led directly to Joe's transfer from prison to hospital. All 3 Psychiatrists had the view that Joe was mentally unwell at the time of the offence.

Both the Court-appointed Psychiatrists felt Joe should have been given a hospital order (not a prison sentence) and both recommended he should now remain in hospital under a hospital order to continue treatment, as required, until he can return to the community; both felt he did not need a hospital order with restrictions.

The Judges granted a Hospital Order and quashed the IPP.
They decided to impose a restriction order, for Joe to continue taking his medication for an indefinite period of time.
They, as Judges, can make this decision and we understand it is a common judgement in such cases.

H o w e v e r, the aims of the campaign are:
i  to overturn Joe's conviction for arson (he still has a conviction for arson, he still has a criminal record for a serious criminal offence, with all the stigma and extra difficulties that will bring for the rest of his life),
ii  to get Joe the help and treatment he asked for in the first place in a therapeutic hospital not a prison (Yes!!!!!!!!!!! we have won this!!!)
iii  to get Government to review this practice and stop the criminalisation of mental health patients (still work to be done but making progress, see below)

SANE comment on Joe Paraskeva's appeal decision

Parliamentary Committee to discuss the Treatment of Mental Health Patients (looks possible)

The Campaign has asked supporters to write to their MPs, bringing their attention to the Letter to Meg Hillier MP on the Website and asking them to support efforts to convene a Committee of MPs to discuss the issues around the criminalisation of mental health patients. SUCCESS!!! Huge thank you to supporters!!

Diane Abbott MP has said due to contact from supporters of the Justice for Joe Campaign, she is interested in the idea of a Parliamentary Committee to discuss the treatment of mental health patients and will be contacting Charles Walker MP, the Chair of the existing All Party Parliamentary Group on Mental Health as soon as she can.

Thank you everyone who has written letters to their MPs, please keep doing this. It looks as though we may only see change through moves in Parliament, there are legal constraints on lawyers and within the criminal justice system at present which means it is extremely hard to challenge a conviction such as Joe's.

See IPP page for recent Press Release from INQUEST (22nd June 2012):
Inquest held on Shaun Beasley, a prisoner with an IPP with severe mental health issues.
Hackney Carers Speak Out - A Film Premiere made by Adult Carers of Adults in Hackney!
Watch Linda talking about Joe's case in a series of short films made by Hackney Carers, in a project commissioned by Hackney Council, London UK. Linda was part of the Hackney Carers Filmgroup which made the films: interviewing, filming and editing them. Several Carers made short (2-3 min) individual films, the group also made a group film about being a Carer in Hackney and a film about making the films.
See Linda's story which is featured as one of the individual films. She also featured in both the group films. space
See Photo-diary of protest and delivery of petition to the Prime Minister at Downing Street on 10 December 2011
Why are some mentally ill patients treated like criminals? See 2 June 2011 Guardian article by Amelia Gentleman.
(See all press articles)

           Please contact us for any further information.