#AceNewsReport – Nov.19: A mysterious inmate in a Canberra prison who was prosecuted and jailed in complete secrecy has been subjected to an extraordinary crackdown after he wrote a prison memoir, including federal police raids on him and his family and freezing his phone and email access: Little is known about the identity of the prisoner or his crimes, even by senior prison staff at the Alexander Maconochie centre, the ACT’s jail, where he was held from 2018 until earlier this year.
The mystery prisoner challenged restrictions on his contacts and email behaviour in the ACT supreme court, after federal police were alerted to his memoir by prison authorities. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP
It is understood the man was a senior military officer involved in intelligence, but publishing information about his offending has been banned. It is not known when he was convicted: The nature of the case has led to unusual restrictions on the inmate’s contact with his family and friends while behind bars.
When he started serving his time, the Australian federal police asked prison staff to inform it at any point if it appeared someone was about to disclose the nature of his crimes, including if he attempted to receive any “unusual visitors”
In February the AFP learned the man, known only by the pseudonym Alan Johns, had written a memoir of his time in prison: Johns wrote the memoir with the approval of the prison general manager, Ian Robb, and on the advice of ACT mental health workers, who told him writing could help his long-term recovery: Robb then left the jail and a new manager, Corinne Justason, was appointed. Johns asked Justason whether a Canberra author – whose identity was kept anonymous by the courts – could visit him to help publish the work.
Johns’s plans were communicated to the AFP, which acted swiftly. Officers raided the prisoner’s cell and his brother’s home, seizing the memoir and other documents: The inmate’s access to the prison email system – which is closely monitored for all inmates – was severely restricted. He was temporarily denied all contact with his family, and indefinitely prevented from sending attachments.
Information about the existence of the mystery prisoner came to light only because he fought the actions of prison staff and the ACT government in the ACT Supreme Court:
The judgment on his battle with prison authorities over the memoir was delivered publicly by Justice John Burns earlier this month, although it contained no identifying information outlining his crimes or his past: Burns noted that it was an ACT mental health nurse who had first advised Johns to begin writing on 12 September 2018 as part of his mental health recovery plan: “One of the goals in that plan was that the plaintiff would write and submit three manuscripts over a period of six months,” Burns said. “The plaintiff stated that he began writing, and produced two novel-length manuscripts: “He described one as being ‘an alternative history fiction novel’, and the other as a memoir exploring aspects of his time in the [Alexander Maconochie centre].”
The novels were written on prison computers: Two months later, Johns said he met Robb. He said Robb had told him he had read the memoir and “had no issue with its contents”……….“The plaintiff [Johns] said that he told Mr Robb that he wanted to publish his work, and Mr Robb wished him luck.”…………In February Johns asked Justason for permission to receive a visit from the secret Canberra author…………..Nine days later he learned that police had raided his brother’s home searching for the memoir.
His email access was restricted and police raided his cell and seized copies of his memoir and other writings: Johns complained to Justason, and later complained to the official visitor and ombudsman, to no avail: He said police had asked prison staff to notify them at any point if it appeared commonwealth orders imposing strict secrecy on the case were at risk of being breached: This included “if any unusual visitors were added, or sought to be added, to the list of approved visitors or callers to the plaintiff”……………“Ms Justason stated that, consistent with the practice that had developed, she contacted the AFP on 6 February 2019 to indicate that this person [the author] had sought to visit the plaintiff and to ask whether the AFP would have any concerns about the person visiting him,” Burns wrote in his judgment………“Ms Justason said that, in reply, the AFP indicated that they may have concerns if the person appeared to be an author.”
Johns argued in court that the prison authorities had improperly exercised their powers in notifying the AFP and restricting his email: He sought judicial review of both decisions: Johns wanted the prison to “provide him with copies of any existing court orders and/or other applicable restrictions or expectations of his behaviour for the remaining tenure of his incarceration” and for restrictions on his email to be lifted.
But Burns said it was not possible to grant the relief he sought because he was no longer an inmate at the prison: Burns also said none of the inmate’s rights had been infringed by the prison’s actions.
“The declarations sought by the plaintiff are simply not available,” he wrote. “He has not established that the declarations are aimed towards legal controversies regarding rights that are protected or enforced in the courts. On the facts of this matter, none of the plaintiff’s rights have been infringed.”
#AceNewsDesk reports …………….Published: Nov.19: 2019: By Christopher Knaus – AFP.Com/
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