Glasgow inmate John Clark accused of murder in Barlinnie prison

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Self-portrait of alleged victim Colin Penrose in 2011.
Image: Colin Penrose.

John Clark appeared at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Friday charged with murdering cellmate Colin Penrose, 22, in the city's Barlinnie prison.

Penrose, from the West Coast town of Oban, had been recalled to prison for alleged further offending after being paroled from a sentence for sexual assault against a teenager. Police Scotland confirmed they were called to the prison, Scotland's largest, shortly after 2:00am on Thursday when Penrose was found dead in the cell.

Clark has been remanded pending a full committal hearing next week. Clark is variously reported to be either 21 or 22.

Penrose died on the top floor of the jail's E Hall. E Hall includes accommodation for vulnerable prisoners.

Penrose, who attended Oban High School, is survived by his parents, both 60. He listed himself on Facebook as single but had liked a dating page, and according to his profile was seeking employment. "I hate football and I hate the police", his profile reads, adding he enjoyed a drink at the weekend.

In early 2012 he uploaded a photo of himself with a swollen eye. Without explaining the injury he asked "does [anybody want] to say anything about my eyes in this picture or do [you not] give a shit [what] happens to me"? He received no response until a year later, when the reply "thats what happens to beasts!!" was received.

Several friends posted condolences to his page after his death. One claimed he had been strangled.

The famous four-storey Victorian prison is routinely overcrowded, with prisoners sharing cells meant for individual use. With drug use at over 80% of the population, Barlinnie is Western Europe's largest dispenser of heroin substitute methadone.

HMP Barlinnie from file.
Image: Chris Upson.

In 2011 governor Derek McGill complained "If we could eliminate overcrowding, we could do more with the prisoners." He was speaking after an inspector branded the facility unsafe for prisoners and staff alike due to chronic overcrowding. Scottish Executive spending cuts around the same time reduced the Scottish Prison Service's building funds significantly.

Plans are nonetheless afoot to replace Barlinnie with a new prison, to be called HMP Glasgow. The Prison Service is tendering for consultants to identify potential sites. Although the Scottish Government aims to reduce prisoner populations the new prison is to be more than twice the size of Barlinnie.

The nation's sex offenders were, until recently, usually all held at Peterhead. The internationally-acclaimed sex offender treatment center was permanently closed late last year and the inmates moved elsewhere. Peterhead prison has been replaced with the £140 million "super prison" HMP Grampian, built next door to the Peterhead site. Men, women, and young offenders are all held at the prison for the first time at a Scottish jail and the first inmates arrived this month. Aberdeen prison has also closed and been replaced with the new jail.

Homicide behind bars is unusual in Scotland, though there have been cases in 2006 and 1996. Neighbouring England has seen a spate recently, including four last year. Those four deaths were all charged as murder and represented the highest England and Wales total since 1998.


This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.