‘The Guineapigs’ by John McGuffin (1974, 1981)


Some may feel that this account of British government experimentation in torture is biased and partial. The British people do not like to believe that 'their' government and 'their' Army are capable of such behaviour. They may like to imagine that the events described represent only unsubstantiated allegations from 'terrorists'. If anyone is still naïve enough to believe this, they would do well to consult the records of the Belfast High Court for 13 February 1974.
     On that date Pat Shivers, the first of the 'guineapigs' whose claim for damages was heard, was awarded $36,000 against the Northern Ireland Ministry of Home Affairs and the British Ministry of Defence for "false trespass, false imprisonment, assault and battery, torture and inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment." Neither Ministry offered any defence and in doing so they made a complete admission of their guilt. Nor did they defend themselves when on 20 June 1974 Gerry McKerr was awardeed damages of $24,000. Despite this, no member of the RUC Special Branch or the Army interrogation teams has been or ever will be charged with the torture of these men. Gerry McKerr is still (August 1974) in Long Kesh.

Author's Note.

The Guineapigs was finished in February 1974. Since then there have been various developments which the present publishers feel necessitate a final chapter to update the Guineapigs' story. I have divided this into four sections.

Section 1. — The Strasbourg Case

The European Commission for Human Rights, which meets spasmodically at Strasbourg is supposedly the highest court in Europe. A court where the individual can have recourse if he feels that the courts in his own country are inadequate or biased. It cannot exercise legal sanctions except for the most flagrant breaches – e.g. the Greek colonels – but it is supposed to exert 'moral suasion'. In practice, it does nothing of the sort.
     Elephantine, cumbersome and subject to the machinations of its more powerful members, it is burdened with a bureaucratic structure which makes it practically impossible for the aggrieved citizen to get his or her case heard fairly or impartially, as the following two cases will illustrate.

Case No. 1  Donnelly et al v The British Government.

In April 1972, seven Irishmen, Gerard Donnelly, Gerard Bradley, Edward Duffy, John Carlin, Francis McBride, Anthony Kelly and Thomas Kearns were savagely beaten by Special Branch detectives of the RUC and by soldiers in various 'interrogation' centres in the North of Ireland, the most notorious one being Springfield Road Barracks in Belfast. As the medical evidence was to show, in horrifying detail, two of the men nearly died as a result and the rest suffered terrible injuries, so bad that even police and prison doctors were prepared to testify on their behalf. After spending months in various hospitals and jails on remand, they were eventually acquitted of having committed any crime and released. Their lawyers decided, with the assistance of the Republic of Ireland's Government to take their case to Strasbourg.

FOUR YEARS LATER, the Commission, in an 86 page report, put out in May 1976 rejected their complaint "on technical grounds." They did not deny that the men had been tortured, nor did they deny that members of the RUC and British Army had been responsible, but decided that since some of the men had subsequently received financial compensation, the case was "inadmissable." In other words, the British Government was allowed to pay for the right to torture Irishmen. (To date, October 1980, the British have paid out over $4,800,000 in compensation for injuries received while in police and/or army custody. As we shall see, to date, not one RUC man or soldier has served one day in jail for these crimes.)
     The twisted reasoning of the Court in the Donnelly case, which baffled many legal experts throughout the world may not be quite so hard to understand when one realizes the following facts, however. The Secretary of the HRC was a Mr. Anthony McNulty, an Englishman who just happens to be a self confessed officer in British Military Intelligence. (He claims to have retired from the secret service when he took the job of HRC Secretary.) The President of the HRC at the time was also an Englishman, a Mr. John E.S. Fawcett. Angry European legal figures have demanded an explanation why these two men, holding the two most sensitive positions on the Commission were allowed to sit in on and indeed direct the proceedings against their own Government. As yet, there has been no reply, but the image of the HRC has been badly tarnished yet further.

Case No. 2 concerned the Guineapigs and the massive violations of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms by the United Kingdom Government in Northern Ireland. The allegations, which were made by the Irish Government covered the period August 1971 to March 1972. In simple terms the allegations were as follows:
     1). That the Government of the U.K. was responsible for practices which constituted 'torture, inhuman and degrading treatment of arrested persons in N. Ireland.
     2). That the Government of the U.K. was not a) justified in the introduction of internment in August 1971 and b) that it was guilty of discrimination in its application of internment, i.e., despite the violence from Protestant extremists, only Catholics were interned for most of the period.

The thirteen commissioners in Strasbourg accepted, reluctantly, that torture and inhuman and degrading treatment did take place. As a sop to the U.K. government they rejected the allegations concerning internment. Some comments are in order. The proceedings of the Commission are ludicrously slow. On no fewer than five occasions the U.K. Government was granted extensions of time limits set by the Commission. In view of the lack of co-operation which the U.K. Government afforded the Commission one can be sceptical about the reasons for such procrastination. Amongst other things. they hoped that a new Government in the Republic of Ireland might be induced to drop the charges in order to 'cement friendlier relations'. During the five years that the Commission took to report its findings, which finally appeared in September 1976, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment and general repression continued unabated on the streets of N.Ireland and in the police and army centres.
     The cases between March 1972 and September 1976 were not of course covered by the Report, thus enabling Mr. Merlyn Rees to talk about the Irish Government 'raking up the past'. The innumerable delays in effect provided him with a smokescreen to obscure the fact that the torture was still going on.

The weaknesses of the Commission's powers should be mentioned also. These included:
     1) Its inability to discover where the SD experimental torture was actually carried out. The U.K. refused to say, and throughout the Report 'the unknown interrogation centre' is all we get. (In 1974 I believed that the centre was at Palace Barracks in Holywood, I now tend to subscribe to view of Fathers Faul and Murray that it was more likely at Ballykelly Air Base in County Derry.)
     ) Its failure to subpoena the torturers.
     3) The success of the British Government in prohibiting its witnesses from replying to any questions concerning 'the five techniques.
     4) The refusal of the British Government to give any information on the torture seminar held in N. Ireland in April 1971, nor about the various torture training centres in Britain. (More about them later.)
     5) The refusal of the British Government to allow the victims to confront their torturers.
     6) The accession to the British demands that part of the hearing be conducted at the isolated Soal Air Base in Stavanger in Norway.
     7) The refusal of the British Government to submit copies of the interrogation records showing which police officer interrogated each particular witness and during what period.

These were serious obstacles in the way of discovering the full facts, and the Commission, lacking the powers to overcome them must be seen as a very imperfect instrument of justice indeed, and it is a serious matter that there are no worthwhile sanctions which can be applied to a powerful Government like Britain which authorizes torture. Even more seriously, those who have tortured have not been and will not he brought to justice. As one of the Guineapigs, Pat Shivers, said in a TV interview, "monetary compensation for the victims, which, anyway can never compensate them for their sufferings, is no substitute for a fair trial of the torturers."

*  *  * 

Section 2. —

And what of the guilty men?
The European Commission found the Government of the United Kingdom guilty of the inhuman treatment of prisoners in Northern Ireland under Article 3 of the Human Rights Convention. Despite this the British Government continued to conceal the identities of those members of the security forces who were directly responsible for the torture. In September 1976, after the Strasbourg Report, they claimed that 'some of the soldiers have been internally court-martialled by the army'. They refused to give any details, however, and denied that any special torture training courses existed. Both these statements are lies.
     In 1974, although I was in possession of some of the names of the torturers I was unable, for legal reasons, to print them. I did manage to name Special Branch Chief Michael J. Slevin, who had been awarded a M.B.E. for his 'good work' and Special Branch man Harry Taylor as being two of the men responsible. As a result, myself and Penguin books received legal writs in April 1975. When, after consulting our lawyers we replied with the response "go ahead and sue", the matter was dropped and we heard no more of it.

When in October 1976 Hibernia (The Dublin magazine) decided, after analysing the European Commission's report, to name more of the torturers, strenuous efforts were made to suppress the article. Some details were, reluctantly omitted, but, nonetheless both Hibernia and An Phoblacht, the Dublin Republican newspaper, did subsequently publish the names of various of the guilty men. What follows is a condensation of their reports.

Palace Barracks, Holywood is a British army barracks used by the RUC to 'interrogate' suspects. The RUC officer in charge there between August and December 1971 was Special Branch Inspector S. H. Kyle. His deputy was SB Inspector Harry Taylor. Assisting were Inspectors Jackson and Browne, based in Andersonstown RUC station and the head of the Omagh SB Inspector Peter Flanagan (who was shot dead by the IRA subsequently). Amongst the Detective Constables selected by the Crown to give evidence about the torture were B.J. Wilson, A. Libey and D-Cs Morrison and McKnight. The Commission found that in Palace Barracks the torture was the result of 'an administrative practice' and not just caused by the over enthusiastic actions of a few thugs.

From the report it appears clear that members of the RUC Special Patrol Group (members of which have subsequently been convicted of sectarian murders), were employed to torture internees at the 'secret interrogation centre'. In 1971 the SPG was commanded by Superintendent J.I.C. Gilchrist, then based in Musgrave RUC station. (He has subsequently been promoted to being in charge of 'T' division in the notorious Castlereagh torture centre.) Other senior members of the SPG, most of which have been promoted, include Chief Inspector K. Patterson, Inspector Hood, Inspector R.A. Stewart, Inspector R.J.A. Catterson and Inspector Nichol, all stationed in Belfast, and Inspector D.J. Robinson (Derry) and Inspector N. Crowe (Armagh).

Albert Street Barracks was, according to the Commission, the scene of various tortures. It was under the command of Lt. Col. Richard Freeman Wallace. The Commission also threw up the name of SB man Samuel George McKinney, who has been frequently named by people claiming that they have been tortured, including Donnelly, Bradley and Duffy whose case was heard at Strasbourg. He is one of the few to be charged (twice) with 'ill-treatment' but has been acquitted.

Ballykinler camp where many of those interned on the 9th of August were held and beaten was supervised by Capt. Eric Ronaldson Bryson, ably assisted by Lieutenant Ian Roger Barton, and Staff Sergeants Smith and Love. The military doctor was Captain David Plant and in charge of 'interrogation' was Superintendent Magill.

The British witnesses before the Commission were identified only by code, but a study of the report makes it clear that one of the top men, variously identified as P0 17, P0 12B and 13B and who was questioned about the 'five techniques' was none other than Inspector S.H. Kyle. Though refusing to answer questions about the 'five techniques' as the British continued to euphemistically call the SD torture or the torture seminar held in Belfast in April 1971, Kyle did admit that members of the MRF, aka the SAS were present at Palace Barracks during the 'interrogations'.

Strongly associated with Kyle was PO 4B aka 14A aka 17C aka 2A and 12G – aka Harry Taylor. His deputy was Det-Constable Morrison, who is referred to variously as PO 4C, P0 2B, 12E and 17A. Constable B.J. Wilson was also heavily involved in the 'interrogations'. In 1974 he was charged with assaulting a prisoner but acquitted 'through lack of evidence'.

Officers who took part in the torture seminar in April 1971 and who have all been promoted rather than punished include Chief Superintendent C.H. Rodgers, and Superintendents W.J. Hood and Michael Slevin. Another deputy head of the Branch Ross Laird left the RUC and emigrated.

These are some of the key figures who were responsible for the torture of 'the Guineapigs' and of hundreds of other men and women arrested and 'interogated' through the seventies. Readers of this book might also chose to consider that the politicians in charge, Edward Heath, William Whitelaw, Reginald Maudling and Brian Faulkner to name but a few should shoulder much of the responsibility, as indeed should those in charge of the newspapers and television networks who studiously tried to pooh-pooh the torture allegations when they were first made and have consistently refused to document the continuing excesses in Castlereagh Barracks and in the H Blocks in Long Kesh camp. Nor should the medical profession, with a few honourable exceptions be exonerated. Without doctors the torturers work would have been made much more difficult, yet, to date, not one single doctor has been accused of prostituting his Hippocratic Oath by such august bodies as the British Medical Association.

*  *  * 

Section 3. — The Victims.

On June 5, 1975 Sean McKenna died. On the death certificate the cause was recorded as 'heart attack'. In the funeral oration Ruari O'Bradaigh, President of Sinn Fein said: #8211; "Before 1971 Sean McKenna was a strong, healthy man, but after suffering at the hands of the enemy the great tortures to which he was subjected his time was marked. He started to die for Ireland at 4 am. on August 9, 1971." At the time of his arrest Sean McKenna, at 42 was the oldest of the Guineapigs. He was also one of those worst-affected. Following the experiment he was kept interned at Long Kesh, in a very bad state, for two years before being transferred to various psychiatric hospitals and finally released, only to die a year later.

Professor Robert J. Daly of Cork University, who carried out a five year study of many of the Guineapigs, examined McKenna four months before his death. "He had a feeling of impending fatal illness (a 'brain tumour' or a 'heart attack'), and had gross symptoms of anxiety. His EEG (brainwave test) and EKG (heart test) were however, normal. His blood pressure was 150/100. Other laboratory investigations were also normal."
     Professor Daly also spoke of three of the other Guineapigs. "One 29 year old hooded man has developed Hodgkin's disease, of which there was no evidence prior to his arrest. (Hodgkin's disease is a rare form of cancer. It is still not curable but can be treated.) Another man has had surgical treatment for carcinoma of the skin which developed on one of his scars which he received on his leg while being 'interrogated in depth'. A fourth man has had colonic resection for suspected Chron's disease. He developed intense and chronic diarrhoea some three months after the 'interrogation in depth'. All the hooded men report disability to a greater or lesser extent and this has included outpatient and inpatient psychiatric treatment as well as treatment for medical illness."

Personality tests compared with the British norm showed the men to be "more affected by feelings and emotionally less stable and easily upset; shy, timid; suspicious, more apprehensive and self reproaching; worrying and troubled; undisciplined self conflict; more tense, frustrated, driven and overwrought." However, he went on to say, they showed no evidence of psychopathy; instead they appear as an intelligent, shy, conservative group."

The most frequently reported symptoms were increased nervousness, followed by startle reactions, subjective depressed mood, loss of energy, increased suspiciousness, appetite disturbance and reliving of the experience.

Professor Daly published his report, five years after the men's ordeal, at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association at Miami Beach. Five years on the survivors were still suffering and yet the British Government were still quoting Reginald Maudling who claimed that "no detainee in NI. has suffered permanent lasting injury whatsoever, mental or physical", and Lord Balneil, then Minister of State for Defence, who proclaimed: "the basic fact is that there was no brutality, no torture, no brainwashing, no physical injury, no mental injury." As Adolf Hitler said in 'Mein Kampf', "The great mass of the people will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one."

That the British Government did not know about the deteriorating state of health of those Guineapigs interned in Long Kesh is, of course, a nonsense. They were frequently examined by Army doctors, blood tests were taken, psychiatric reports prepared and filed away. This was the follow up to the experiment. No medication was given to the men, apart from the ubiquitous handfuls of Librium and Valium which were periodically handed out to all the internees like 'sweeties'. Those of the men who were still in the camp in October 1974, when the internees rose up and burnt the camp to the ground and were then subjected to the notorious and top secret CR gas (which is banned in the U.S.A.) also had additional blood tests. Did they but know it at the time, all the internees were the first human Guineapigs subjected to CR gas in such quantities. Tests in America on rabbits dosed with CR revealed that they were suffering from severe respiratory diseases and serious blood poisoning.

And what of the 13 men who went through the experiment and are still alive? Pat Shivers was one of the first released. In February 1974 he was awarded $36,000. He died in 1975. Archie Auld was released in 1972, in poor health and Joe Clarke, the youngest Guineapig in June 1974. Both had claims pending and were then rearrested and interned in December 1974, two days before they were respectively awarded $38,400 and $30,000 by the courts.[1] That their re-arrest had nothing to do with them being a danger to the security of the state was clearly seen when they were released again after Christmas. It seems that the authorities had wanted them in custody in order to carry out more health checks on them to complete their experiments.

Francis McGuigan decided that he was tired of being a Guineapig. On February 7th, 1972, after spending just over four months in Long Kesh camp he became the first prisoner to escape from it, disguised as a priest, and successfully made his way over the border. In October 1976 he was awarded, 'in absentia', $26,400 by the Belfast courts.

Gerry McKerr was still being held without charge or trial in Long Kesh when, in June 1974 he was awarded $24,000. Along with Micky Donnelly (who eventually got $27,000), he was one of the last internees to be released in 1975. Professor Daly referred to some of the men being 'almost paranoid'. McKerr had good reason. In January 1977 Loyalist would be assassins fired on him outside his home, narrowly missing and then, the next month, he discovered a booby trap bomb under his car. He has survived both attempts.

Kevin Hannaway, also held until 1975 was eventually awarded $28,800. He now has Hodgkin's disease, smokes 80 cigarettes a day, suffers from black outs and amnesia and has also survived two assassination attempts, which have forced him and his family to leave Belfast and settle in the Republic of Ireland.

P.J McClean, who suffered some of the worst treatment is still involved in the N.I. Civil Rights Association. In January 1975 he received $33,600 "compensation". As he says, "if someone offered me $240,000 to go through it again I wouldn't take it."

The others, Rodgers, Shannon, Montgomery, Turley and McNally all eventually received between $24,000 and $27,600. In all, the taxpayer had to shelve out $360,000. (Plus over $4,800,000 for other victims of interrogators' 'excesses'. Many claims are still pending.)

The last word in this section goes to Joe Clarke, the youngest (then 19) of the men:

"I remember most the bad beatings. I couldn't bear the pain. When I was talking to my interrogators I thought I was talking to my brothers. It just drove me round the bend. I was very frightened of the hood. I can still sometimes smell it. It has a paraffin smell and sometimes when I'm working at cars the smell and fear come back to me. In the Kesh I couldn't sleep at nights because I kept having these nightmares about the beatings. I had to talk it out of my system, and many, many nights two other lads would sit up with me all night – all night while I talked about it. I used to get into terrible depressions. I used to be very easy going, but I'm a lot more nervous now. I don't like sitting in one place for any length of time, I have to get up and move about. Sometimes (nine years later) I still have to talk it out of my system. One of the things that galls me most is that not one of the men who did these terrible things to us has ever been put on trial. They think that just by giving us a bit of money they can make it all go away. But it can't. It'll never go away.

Army training into 'psyops' (psychological operations), torture and sensory deprivation has, of course, continued, long after the British Government gave an 'assurance' that such methods would never be used again. From the British point of view one advantage of the Guineapigs experiment has been that the British are now regarded as experts at this sort of thing and are regularly invited to give demonstrations and hold seminars, notably at Fort Bragg, Carolina, and Fort Huachuca, Arizona in the States and at Bad Tolz in West Germany. For a time they were also instructing the fascist P.I.D.E. Portuguese secret police until, to their embarrassment, they discovered that since the Army coup they had for some time, unbeknownst to them, been giving lectures in counter-insurgency and torture to Latin American guerrillas whom Communist members of the Portugeese Army had infiltrated into the courses.
     In England courses are held at Ashford in Kent, Catterick in Yorkshire, Bradbury Lines (the SAS camp in Hereford), and, most notably, Old Sarum in Wiltshire. Old Sarum is where the Officers' Psyops Course is held in the RAF base. An average course consists of 15 or 16 men, drawn from the Green Jackets, SAS, Royal Marines and Royal Artillery, with personnel from the Ministry of Defense and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. At the session held from February l4th-15th, 1972 according to Peter Watson, in his valuable book "War on the Mind",[2] the star speaker was Lt. Col. B.R. Johnston, described as 'the foremost British authority on psyops. He spoke about the useful experience that they could all gather from N. Ireland. (Johnston, whose position has always been shrouded in secrecy eventually came to the public's attention during the 'ABC' case, when two journalists, Duncan Campbell, Crispin Aubrey and a former soldier called Berry were tried for publishing 'official secrets' about Britain's telecommunication spying activities in Time Out and the Leveller, two London magazines. Johnston gave evidence against them but was only described in court as 'Colonel B.' Gleefully the Leveller then published his name and issued badges to all attending the court proclaiming who he was. The prosecution collapsed with egg over its face and the accused escaped with fines.)
     The courses, which include demonstrations of SD, are highly secret. On several occasions the relevant ministers in the British Government have lied and denied their existence. Even when the Army Minister Robert Brown was forced to admit, in 1976, that the courses did take place, he lied and said that they had only started in '1973-4'. In fact, as Watson has shown, they began at least in 1971 and possibly sooner. Whitehall sources vaguely stated that somewhat over 250 personnel underwent the courses per annum. One of the organizers of psyops, the famous/infamous Brigadier Kitson has bemoaned the 'fact' that the psyops team in Old Sarum numbers only 18 (an implausible figure), but, nonetheless, even if notoriously underestimated Government figures are to be believed, up to October 1976, 262 civilians and 1,858 Army officers had been through the course.

The SAS of course, in its training sessions, where they generally 'lose', i.e. kill, half a dozen or so volunteers a year in cross country endurance tests over the Brecon Beacons, include SD torture. Former SAS men have, in interviews with such variegated papers as the Irish Times, Time Out, The Leveller and Red Weekly claimed that many SAS men have been subjected to horrific 'ill-treatment' in order to 'toughen them up'. One former SAS man, now a 'respectable businessman in the city' recounted gleefully how one of the techniques taught was how to insert a Y shaped twig into the stomach of an interrogatee and twist it so that you could draw out the intestines. He claimed that in the Gulf states one SAS officer had succeeded in drawing out twenty feet of intestine from a 'guerrilla.' The story may not be true, and it is not suggested that such methods have, as yet, been used in N. Ireland, but it does give an interesting insight into the mentality of soldiers – 'heroes of the Iranian Embassy siege' – who would boast about committing such atrocities.

And what of the use of SD in N. Ireland in the past nine years? It is implausible to explain, as British Army personnel have, that SD torture is demonstrated to its men solely for their own protection in case they are captured by 'the enemy'. In fact, although there does not appear to have been another full scale experiment into the use of 'the five techniques', various elements are still used by interrogators. In September 1976 the N.I. Civil Rights Association, a body violently opposed to the Provisional IRA, at a press conference announced that they were taking the cases of six men, three from Belfast and three from Cookstown to Strasbourg. All had been subjected to hooding, deprivation of sleep and prolonged wall standing before being released without being charged. In 1980 hooding is rare in the interrogation centres but wall standing, in the stoika position is very common.

In 1974, just after 'The Guineapigs' was published, Bernard Dineen, Business Editor of 'The Yorkshire Post', was just one of the journalists who enthusiastically urged that SD should be 'imported' to England. "Take off the kidgloves and use this weapon against the terrorists", he trumpeted. He would presumably have been glad to learn that some members of the Metropolitan police agreed with him when it was alleged by a London Irishman Eddie O'Neill, in February 1975, during his trial at the Old Bailey where he was accused of being part of a bombing conspiracy, that during a five day period:

"I was made to stand for hours with my fingertips to the wall and my feet as far back as possible. There was a whistling sound like wind escaping and lights were flashed on and off. After a while I collapsed. I was picked up and put in the same position. If I refused, the usual procedure was to kick me in the privates. After two or three hours I was interrogated and urged to confess. When I insisted on my innocence I was given the cold room treatment. I was put in a refrigeration room. It was a small cubicle and I was in there for two hours, then taken out and put between two convector heaters. With that treatment you lose all control of your muscles. I couldn't use my hands or legs. They did that to me four times in all. Then I was put into another cubicle and made to count the pinholes in the wall. If I did not get the answer right they came back and gave me a hiding, pulling my hair and slapping my face."

He claimed that detectives put fingers on pressure points on his body – behind the ears, the shoulder blades and the solar plexus and continuously made him take cold showers. The whole treatment lasted between 60 and 70 hours, over a five day period and he was made to sleep in an empty detention room, naked, which had water all over the floor.

The judge and jury were obviously unimpressed. Eddie O'Neill got 20 years on the strength of his alleged 'confession'. Clearly it was unbelievable that British policemen would do such things.

*  *  * 

There remains one other purpose to which information derived from the SD Guineapigs has been put, and that is to break recalcitrant/ troublesome revolutionary prisoners in jails. In this short section 1 shall concentrate on the use of Control Units in English jails and then on the 'German experiment'.

Section 4.Control Units.

After two years preparation the control units at Wakefield jail received their first inmates in August 1974. One of these was John Masterson. In spite of later denials by Home Office spokesmen, the existence, nature and purpose of the units was kept secret from all but a handful of people. It was not until October that the public learned about them, through a report by the Sunday Times Insight team. The adverse publicity resulted in the control units in Wakefield and Wormwood Scrubs prisons being 'closed' in February 1975.

The control unit experiment consisted of exposing a selected group of prisoners, whom the authorities regarded as 'troublemakers' to an oppressive, semi-sensory deprivation regime in a 'control unit'. The psychology behind the prison authorities' rationale was based on the SD experiments in Ulster. The 'Treatment' was expected to last a minimum of six months, divided into two periods of ninety days. The first ninety days consisted of solitary confinement with the very minimum of communication, followed by a further ninety days of slightly increased contact with others and primitive occupational activity. Any deviation from the rules, as defined by the warders/screws would result in the prisoner going back to Day One, and starting the whole sequence from scratch.
     Solitary confinement is a common prison punishment, but the Control Unit differed from the ordinary solitary in that there was a high ratio of prison officers to prisoners, and the prisoner was watched by at least two officers when he did anything such as going to the toilet or having his food brought to him. There were frequent searches of the cell and intimate body searches of the prisoner, including anal examinations, such as the men in the H Blocks in Long Kesh have to endure daily to this very day. These searches are obviously designed to degrade, since the absence of contact with other prisoners or visitors, and solitary confinement in the Unit precluded the possibility of anything being hidden either in the cell or on the prisoner.
     Conversation between the prison officers and the prisoner was not permitted, the screws using gestures instead of words, thus combining SD with degradation. The prisoner was made to feel that he was sub-human.' The result was not exactly what the experimental psychologists had probably envisaged. John Masterson, by his own admission, a 'criminal' with a lot of prison experience, had been brutalised before, but never to this extent. "I was treated like a subhuman animal and, as a result, started to feel like an animal. I could see that they (the warders) could do anything they liked to me and get away with it. I believed that they could kill me and get away with it. After all, dozens of people die in British jails every year and it is put down to 'suicide' or 'natural causes'. (Cf. Noel Jenkinson. Framed for the Aldershot bombing and, although a perfectly fit man, indeed a fitness fanatic, found dead of 'a heart attack' in his cell, just before his case was due to come up at Strasbourg. See also, Ulrike Meinhof, Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, Carl Raspe et al who managed, mysteriously, 'to commit suicide' in maximum security German jails.)
     In an interview Masterson, subsequently released in a very troubled mental state, which has necessitated hospitalisation, said. "we weren't allowed to talk ... they wouldn't even talk amongst themselves. You never seen (sic) the other prisoners because you're only opened up one cell at a time ... the screws just stand about staring at you with their feet astride. I knew that the bastards were quite prepared to kill me if they were ordered to do so." The interviewer, on the BBC programme 'Tonight', reacted incredulously to such a suggestion. Masterson must obviously be a paranoid.

"A paranoid is someone who has some vague idea of what is really going on." — (William Burroughs.)

On 20th May, 1976, BBC2 'Man Alive' programme did a report on 'segregation' (i.e. SD) in British jails. In it, a Dr. Pickering, exdirector of the Prison Medical Service (who was in charge when Masterson was going through his ordeal), admitted that 'control units had been a mistake'. A year previously he had been reassuring concerned colleagues in the medical profession that where were no causes for concern.

In conjunction with this statement it might be instructive to consider the following two quotations from that great hearted liberal (with a small 'l') Roy Jenkins, the then Home Secretary and the man who refused to repatriate the Price sisters who had been on hunger strike and forcibly fed for over 250 days.

"I am satisfied that the safeguards and procedures are such that the trained staff of Wakefield are able to maintain a careful and caring watch on the progress and condition of prisoners in the control unit."
House of Commons. 14th November 1974.)

"I am satisfied that allegations, which have received considerable publicity, of sensory deprivation, cruelty and brutality in the unit, are completely unfounded and that the Governor and staff have conducted themselves in a commendably professional manner."
(House of Commons. 24th October 1975.)

The only definite conclusion that one can draw from these statements is that Roy Jenkins ('Woy' to his very few friends) is a satisfied man. With his vast salary and paid sinecure as President of the EEC this is not too hard to understand. What is more difficult to comprehend is his apparent surprise when the 'popular' press informed him that he was listed as a prime target by the Provisional IRA.

The control Units were supposed to be scrapped, following the Sunday Times articles in October 1975. In fact they have not been. Prisoners, and in particular IRA prisoners, the most vulnerable and exposed group of prisoners in the English penal system, have been since subjected to various forms of SD in Control Units in Wakefield, Wormwood Scrubbs and Gartree jails. (Gartree recently spent $948,000 on a new 'segregation unit'). We also have the horror of the 'Inverness cages' in Scotland. The following is a condensed report taken from RAP (Radical Alternatives to Prison), dated June 1976.

"There are six cells in the punishment wing of Inverness prison. Five of them have cage fronts inside. The prisoner enters the ordinary cell, which has concrete walls and a steel lined door, and is then put inside a cage within this cell. Food is pushed through a gap at the bottom of the cage. In order to eat, the prisoner must sit on the floor, resting the meal on his knees or on the concrete. The only furniture is an uncovered chamber pot. There is a small window with opaque glass and a heavy grilled mesh outside. It is hard to tell day from night.
     The sixth cell is called the 'silent cell'. (see 'Toter Trakt', in the section on German prisons). It is a concrete cell within a concrete cell. The prisoner is within two sets of walls. Entry is through two heavy doors. Once inside the prisoner hears nothing, except the ringing in his ears. He lies there with no toilet facilities. The ratio of warders to prisoners is five to one. Occasionally one hour's exercise, alone, is permitted. The prisoner is submitted to a humiliating body search three times a day. Co-operative prisoners receive one book (censored) a week. One toothbrush is left in a metal sink. All prisoners have to use it. A toothbrush isn't allowed in the cage because 'it could be used as a weapon'. This applies to every artifact, including the pen, which is loaned once a week. The official period of confinement in the cages is not less than two months and not more than six. Prisoners in the recent past have been confined in such conditions for up to 22 months. (In fairness to the Scottish prison authorities, who, I'm sure, deep in their hearts are very real, wonderful human beings, I recounted the Inverness conditions to a young man recently released from the notorious H Blocks in Long Kesh, N. Ireland. His only comment was – "Luxury".

There is no room in this brief chapter to go into the American experiments in "Behaviour Modification", as it is euphemistically called. Any interested readers are referred to Jessica Mitford's fascinating and horrifying book "The American Prison Business" which deals with behaviour 'modification' as practised on prisoners in such horrendous prisons as Marion, Vacaville and Butner. Drugs, such as anectine which causes the 'guineapig' to feel that he she is dying are relied on heavily in these institutions and the psychological thinking behind the experiments owes much to B.F. Skinner.


The West German authorities, partners with Britain in NATO and great admirers of the British SAS, were not slow to appreciate how the SD experiment in N. Ireland could be put to use in their own jails. Most of the clinical research seems to have been done at the University of Hamburg-Eppendorf, where researchers, led by a J. Gross evaluated the 'camera silens', the silent cell. As a result, many West German prisons are now equipped with 'dead cells', or 'Toter Trakt', as the Germans call them. These include the jails at Hanover, Cologne-Ossendorf, Hamburg-Fuhlsbuettel, Berlin-Tegel, Berlin Lehrter Strasse, Bruchsal, Essen, Straubing, Werl, Butzbach Ziegenhain/Schwalmstadt, Bremen-Oslebshausen, Mannheim and the notorious Frankfurt-Preungesheim. Evidence given at the Third Conference of the European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control in Amsterdam in 1975 indicated that in addition to the 80 or so alleged members of the RAF/Baader-Meinhof/2nd June groups some 100 'ordinary criminals', as the authorities deem them, have spent time in the 250 or so isolation cells which exist in German prisons. (These figures date from late 1975). Recent indications are that more rather than fewer cells are in regular use.

Since 1972 prisoners such as Ulrike Meinhof, Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, Jan Carl Raspe, all subsequently murdered in their cells,[3] were regularly subjected to 'the special treatment' in an effort to break their will. The 'Special Treatment' included:

These restrictions are inhuman enough, but the worst treatment, which involves additional SD techniques is reserved for those prisoners who are put in the 'Toter Trakt'. This is a completely empty wing of a prison where the prisoner is cut off from any normal human sound. In Hanover and Cologne-Ossendorf these wings were originally the prison hospital, and the women's psychiatric wards respectively, which have been converted into isolation units. In these cells, painted a brilliant white, the light is kept on 24 hours a day. The walls and door are soundproofed and a screen on the window insures that the prisoner can see nothing and is kept in a sonic vacuum where the only sound is the beating of one's heart. Evidence from Professors Mueller, Schroeder, Rasch, and Preuss indicate that even a fairly brief sojourn in conditions like these lead to the same kind of symptoms that Dr. Daly found in the N. Ireland Guineapigs. Just one more example of the 'successful' exportation of British techniques designed to make the work of Totalitarian regimes just that bit easier.

John McGuffin. Belfast. 1980.

Footnotes Afterword:

1. In private discussions during the Labour Party Conference in 1974 Merlyn Rees and Stan Orme told MPs that they would never sign a second internment order on the two men. Being honourable men, they kept their word. Their deputies signed the orders.
2. War on the Mind. Pelican Books. 1980.
3. Those who feel that this is a rash accusation to make against the German authorities would do well to read La Mort d'Ulrike Meinhof (Maspero, Paris 1979) and the reports of the International Commission into the deaths of Meinhof, Baader et. al., of which the author was a member.

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