A shocking story showing the need for vigilance about the way citizens can be treated by the State. Should be read by anyone with the merest responsibility for decisions affecting other people – and of extra significance in the criminal justice and mental health spheres.
The book in outline: In 1994 Christopher Edwards was found dead in his cell at Chelmsford Prison battered beyond recognition by a paranoid schizophrenic prisoner with whom Christopher – himself also mentally ill – had been made to share a cell. The tragedy occurred despite the fact that information was in the pipeline that his assailant presented an exceptional risk to other people. For the next eight years Christopher’s parents, Audrey and Paul Edwards, sought truth and justice at every turn. What they encountered was a wall of officialdom and red tape: sometimes accompanied by a culture which served to exclude them at key stages and which was often indifferent to their needs as a bereaved family and as victims. This ranged from silence to misleading information, obstruction, insensitive treatment and an attitude of self-preservation—leading in turn to suspicion and mistrust across the board at the way public responsibilities were being discharged. Undeterred, Audrey and Paul Edwards ceaselessly challenged the official responses and the legal and other processes which had relegated them to the sidelines. Ultimately, with the assistance of the civil rights organization Liberty, they sought redress in the European Court of Human Rights where in 2002 it was established that the UK Government had denied Christopher his right to life and the criminal justice, mental health and inquiry arrangements were found wanting at various points.
No Truth, No Justice is Audrey Edwards’ personal account of these events from the day that a police officer knocked on her door with news of her son’s death. It is the story of a ceaseless and arduous campaign imbued with lessons and warnings about the way individual rights are always at risk of being over-ridden by the state machine. It describes a David and Goliath struggle in which decency, openness and proper treatment are placed under scrutiny and some individuals may have escaped their just deserts. The book also acknowledges the supreme efforts of certain dedicated individuals to preserve the always fragile integrity of public services and—on an equally constructive note—makes a number of recommendations for preventing similar tragedies in future.
‘This book shows how an ordinary woman whose life was by conventional standards unexceptional found it within herself to achieve something extraordinary. In the plain language of the text is a compelling account of the triumph of good over evil’: Peter Stanford, The Catholic Herald
‘I simply could not put the book down’: recurring comment from readers
‘Throughout this book the remarkable resilience of the Edwardses to overcome all hurdles set before them comes through strongly… this book tells the story of one family’s heroic struggle to overcome injustice, in which they took on the intransifence of the system and won’: Paul Donovan, The Tablet
In 2002, Audrey Edwards was awarded the inaugural Longford Prize which recognises outstanding qualities of humanity, courage, persistence and originality in the field of social or penal policy. The judges ‘were impressed by her success in making the system sit up and take notice, and by her fearlessness in going against society’s current hostility to offenders to embrace ideas of Restorative Justice, understanding and forgiveness’. As one judge put it, she has worked to make good out of evil. Audrey was a founder member and Chairperson of the Essex Restorative Justice Group and an active member of the Churches Criminal Justice Forum.