The mother of Joe Paraskeva, a mentally ill man who was imprisoned for arson in April, delivered a 6,081-signature petition to Downing Street on Saturday, calling for his case to be reviewed.
Linda Morgan has been campaigning for Joe’s conviction to be overturned since he was jailed for using an aerosol can and lighter to try and escape from a mental health unit where he had been sectioned.
Morgan, who lives in Stoke Newington said: “The signatures on the petition are just the tip of the iceberg. People have been coming up to us and saying this has happened to them too. Joe’s family and I have been completely overwhelmed by the support.”
Coralie Datta, 20, who is a friend of Joe’s from Stoke Newington School, and was also there at Downing Street said: “I think about it all the time and worry about what he’s doing.”
“We are really hoping for a response.”
‘Justice for Joe’ has received support from Hackney MP Diane Abbott as well as several major mental health charities including Mind, Sane, Young Minds and Rethink Mental Illness. The campaign has also successfully raised broader issues relating to the criminalisation of mentally ill people in England.
Morgan explained: “The ultimate aim is to make sure there are safeguards in the system to stop things like this happening. I’m hoping my campaign will open up this issue and I’m not stopping until there’s a proper investigation.”
Last month Joe, 21, was moved from jail to the John Howard Centre in Hackney, a secure forensic mental health unit, for a period of assessment. Despite prison psychiatrists recommending he be transferred to a hospital mere weeks after his sentence, this only occurred after his family paid for an independent report on his condition.
However Joe still remains a convicted prisoner. He could be transferred back to jail at any time, where he could remain indefinitely.
Majorie Wallace, Chief Executive of Sane, has described Joe’s case as “cruel and inhumane” and calls on urgent reform to stop prisons becoming “dumping grounds” for sufferers of mental illness.
“I’m hoping they’ll look after him in a hospital environment now until we get his case reviewed,” Morgan told East London Lines, “but the hospital says it will be some time before he’s well enough to have visitors.”
Joe has not seen his family since April 14, when he received his sentence. He was diagnosed with bi-polar affective disorder when he was 17, a condition which his father also suffers from.
“At least every week or two I hear his voice, and I know he’s in Hackney. I write to him and we ring him, but he just doesn’t want to talk apart from a couple of words.”
To find out more and how you can help the campaign visit: www.justiceforjoe.org.uk
Or for more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also join the Facebook group here.