“Care not Custody” – When, exactly? Melanie Shaw, on remand in HMP Peterborough

Two events happened on July 10th this year. The Home Secretary gave a speech to the Women’s Institute. And meanwhile, in Nottingham, child abuse survivor and whistleblower Melanie Shaw sent out a message asking for help. What have these two events got to do with each other? Rather a lot.

Samantha Morton, a well-known actress, has recently revealed that she suffered from abuse as a child in a children’s home in Nottingham. Many newspapers and radio and TV stations covered her story. It is a great idea to use one’s celebrity to give publicity to the vile cesspit of institutional child abuse. But, dear journalists who covered Samantha Morton’s case, please could you also stop to look closely at Melanie Shaw’s case? All the many politicians who have been contacted regarding Melanie over the last few months, please could you actually get your act together?

Melanie, like Samantha, has spoken out and told the world that she was a victim of abuse at a children’s home in Nottingham, the Beechwood Children’s Home. She is also described as a key witness and whistleblower revealing the abuse of many other residents of the home. But unlike Samantha, she is not being interviewed by the mainstream media: she is currently on remand in HMP Peterborough, a Sodexo-run category B prison, and has been since shortly after being taken into custody by the police on July 10th. Is it a coincidence that an institutional child abuse whistleblower is in prison in peculiar circumstances, seemingly subject to court appearance after court appearance where nothing advances her case?

She has been there since charged with arson, accused of setting fire to a shed, and has been refused bail. I took an interest in her case when I read about it in the UK column news. There are enough oddities to make me wonder about the arson charge. The Nottingham post reported that the alleged arson occurred on April 4th:


But strangely, the Nottingham Fire Service does not mention, on its list of incidents attended, any fire on that date. Look here:


Odd, eh?

Furthermore, even if it were true that Melanie is guilty of this charge, her treatment seems terribly inhumane. She has been refused bail. She is a vulnerable prisoner, as anybody who has suffered from child abuse whilst resident in a children’s home must be. She is innocent at law – what kind of a country is this that locks up such vulnerable people, victims of child abuse, under such conditions? This is a serious issue, which must affect many many people, since many victims of institutional child abuse end up in prison at some time or another. Meanwhile, her son too is affected, having been taken into foster care.

I have been writing to Melanie, and have had several letters back. She tells me that an ulcer on her leg has not been properly cared for or properly dressed, which is a particular worry in the closed environment of a prison where infection is more  likely. Even more worrying, she has been denied and inconsistently supplied with medication. She has been on valium for a number of years, as a consequence of the experiences she endured as a child, and tells me she’s had this withheld. To do this is not only a terrible experience for the patient, it can be very dangerous. She has been subjected to a number of strip searches. She is spending a great deal of time alone in her cell. Melanie is a vulnerable prisoner. She tells me that she is on a corridor where other vulnerable women prisoners are kept, and many of them are very distressed, banging their cells, and there is a great deal of self-harm. Whilst Melanie feels sorely for the plight of these other women, what a terrible environment for anyone, let alone somebody who is so vulnerable. And what does it say of the state of our country that somebody who blew the whistle on institutional child abuse is being held in such a way?

The many court appearances Melanie has gone through since July are a mystery. She told me that she’d been denied her valium, which would doubtless produce terrible symptoms in anybody who had been taking it for so  long, then was brought before a judge, who took one look at her, and told her that she was not the same woman he’d seen a week before, and judged her unfit to plead. Well, it would seem obvious that someone who had suddenly been denied medication upon which she was dependent would not be in a very good state. But because she was judged ‘unfit to plead’, back to HMP Peterborough she went.

She has received over a thousand letters from supporters, who have contacted her MP, the prison governor, and whoever they can think of, to try to get an improvement in Melanie’s situation.

But as of September 22nd, Melanie has been on hunger strike, although it’s reported that she’s now ended this, but she recently self-harmed.  Her case thus is  more and more urgent. There are reports that she has found it very upsetting that Samantha Morton has had a great deal of coverage for her own past abuse, whilst Melanie languishes in prison, in great distress and discomfort. To state this again, Melanie is innocent at law, she has not yet been found guilty of anything, and may well turn out to be innocent, as she claims. Is this any way to treat any human being, let alone a vulnerable adult?

Melanie has been held since July 10th. On that very same date, the Home Secretary Theresa May gave a speech to the Women’s Institute, ‘Care Not Custody’, about the serious issue of keeping vulnerable people with mental health needs in custody .


This makes for very ironic reading.

Apart from brief accounts of the charges against her, Melanie’s case has been reported only in the alternative media and online. The media publish accounts of an alluring, famous actress alongside heartfelt articles about their past abuse, but then ignores someone who is so obviously suffering enormously RIGHT NOW.

There is a petition concerning her treatment here:


Some more information about Melanie can be found here:



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