Should Michael Adebolajo have the Right to Sue His Jailers for Assault?

Should Michael Adebolajo have the Right to Sue His Jailers for Assault?
by Sean Gabb
10th December 2015

Michael Adebolajo, one of the men who murdered Lee Rigby in 2013, has decided to sue his jailers for assault. He alleges that the beat him up after he was arrested, amd knocked out two of his front teeth. This has caused outrage among the public and politicians.

On Thursday the 10th December 2015, Sean Gabb, Director of the Libertarian Alliance, went on the BBC Radio Ulster Talkback programme, to defend Mr Adebolajo’s right to sue.

He argued:

  • Mr Adebolajo committed a most infamous crime, and, when guilt is as plain as in his case, life imprisonment may have been too gentle a sentence;
  • However, that was his sentence, and no sentence should entail any punishment more strict than the one laid down after conviction;
  • Mr Adebolajo has been deprived of his liberty, not of his right to live unassaulted, or of any other right unmnentioned in his sentence;
  • If we breach these ancient principles, we begin a process that will make us no better than the Islamic State;
  • Therefore, Mr Adebolajo should be allowed to sue his jailers exactly as if he were any other person in this country.

The debate went on and on, and Sean’s contributions make up only a fraction of the programme.



  1. They’re outraged that someone from the Third World is behaving like someone from the Third World. But they’d be even more outraged at the idea of banning immigration from the Third World. Quos Iehova vult perdere, prius dementat.

  2. I’m sorry but that evil specimen scum doesn’t deserve one penny of it, if anything that money should go towards Lee Rigby’s family as it is compensation for the horrific things he put them through killing an innocent soldier who fought for this country.

    • Assuming he is telling the truth, it’s a bad principle to say that suspects can be beaten up in custody. I believe he should have been hung for murder. But the overriding principle must be that, in all its dealings, the State should act according to law.

      • I agree that he should have been hung but the taxpayers are still paying for this lower than scum to be alive. There should be a law introduced whereby anyone who kills members of the forces in cold blood should be tortured before facing the death penalty. As in regards to the State, when has the law ever protected the innocent 100% of the time?

    • Are you arguing for a change in the law? Or for democracy to elbow the law aside in this case?
      If you can assemble a large enough mob, you can dispense with law entirely.
      Unless it transpires that a monkish Adebolajo was assaulted by vengeful prison officers, or that he was attempting to carry on jihad in prison, I would suggest it weakens the charge of Islamic terrorist, and strengthens the case that he’s just a madman prone to violent outbursts.

      • I’m arguing for a change in the law. No one should kill any member of the forces and expect compensation for supposedly being ‘roughed’ up by prison guards. Who knows what he might spend that money on especially as he has terrorist links.

  3. I put this on Raedwald’s blog the other day:

    I don’t like the jail story.

    The Rigby killer should have hanged and been done with. No one should be subject to that sort of abuse regardless of the crime esp when those who are paid to keep the inmates must clearly have looked the other way while it happened. Probably by scum who are every bit as bad as this jihadi dross.

    Let our enemies pay with their lives cleanly. Why? Because we should aspire to be men–not squealing, torturing, tormenting nancy boys. Leave that to the scum of ISIS.

  4. Everyone who is sent to prison has the right not to be physically assaulted, as do those who are not sent to prison, but physical injuries are not in themselves evidence of intended physical assault. If there is any evidence that he was assaulted by either by prison officers or by fellow inmates then the perpetrators should be severely punished.

    However, that is not the case, the incident has been (one presumes) thoroughly investigated and it has been concluded that the injuries came about when Adebolajo had to be restrained – and anyone who has ever had to restrain, or attempted to restrain, a violent person will understand that to be perfectly possible. There may well be more to this, but if it goes before a court from where will independent witnesses be obtained? The prison staff? Well they have already been questioned – and very likely under caution – so not much point there. Adebolajo’s fellow prisoners? Hardly independent, and hardly reliable – if they were involved in any assault themselves they would be extremely unlikely to admit it, and if they weren’t they would be even more unlikely to say what they have seen (the penalties for ‘grassing’ in prison often being more severe than anything the law can dish out).

    So what could possibly be achieved by this very expensive exercise? Certainly the lawyers would derive immense financial pleasure from it all, and Adebolajo would no doubt be able to buy himself a few extra Mars bars from the ‘canteen’ with his share of the proceeds if he were successful, but none of that would make him unassaulted or uninjured.

    In other words, it would be a complete waste of time. The best thing anyone can do for the Adebolajos of this world is to ensure that prisons are made as safe as they can possibly be for prisoners – and prison staff. And that when these sort of incidents occur then no stone is left unturned to find out what happened, and to hand out the severest punishments to any guilty party. People are sent to prison as a punishment, not for punishment.

    • Some good points here. However, we should all be past the stage where the words “thoroughly investigated” are received other than with a sneer. The only way we can know if he was assaulted is to see what comes out in the legal action. This should be clear long before the case gets to the main hearing. Most cases nowadays appear to be settled some time between discovery and inspection and service of witness statements. There is no reason for this one to cost more than any other action for tort.

  5. Your faith in courts and our justice system is very touching, even though you don’t seem to have much faith that the matter can be, or has been, ‘thoroughly investigated’. It will be a waste of time, and an expensive one at that. As for it not costing more than any other action for tort (something which most people shy away from for reasons of cost), the security aspect alone will make that very unlikely. You clearly believe that the hearing will quickly establish whether or not Adebolajo was assaulted, but you don’t say how that would be proved. Prisons are a closed world, and this would be a matter of deciding the word of one against another. This is something best done by prison governors and other prison authorities, and the police – and certainly not by ‘civil’ courts.

    • I have brought or defended several cases in the civil courts since the Woolf Reforms. I also had some professional connection with them before those reforms. A civil action is one of the best means to establish which set of alleged facts is least remote from the truth. So long as complex expert evidence is not required, and so long as the case is settled or struck out before it goes to full trial, the costs are not excessive.

      As for security complications, I fail to see how they can affect the matter of whether or not Mr A was beaten up by the screws.

      If you deny him the right to sue for assault, you are potentially denying every prisoner that right.

  6. I certainly wouldn’t deny any prisoner that right, but only after the matter has been dealt with through a normal criminal investigation – not as a first line of action. Assaults take place in prisons all the time, there is one currently being investigated at a prison in South Wales. The victim of that assault is still in hospital, and the alleged perpetrator in police custody awaiting a court appearance. If the court finds the man guilty, then I believe that the victim has every right to make a claim for damages either against his attacker or the prison authorities. In Adebolajo’s case it has already been concluded that no assault took place, so I fail to see – for reasons already given -what could be achieved by a civil action. No, the security aspect won’t have any bearing on whether or not the prisoner was assaulted, but it will certainly add a great deal to the cost and disruption involved.

    • I would add to the above comment that I don’t really understand the use of the term ‘right’ in this instance. There is no universal right to have our grievances dealt with in a civil court if we can’t afford to fund it ourselves – and my understanding is that legal Aid is very limited as far as civil actions are concerned. If any of us are assaulted, our only ‘right’ is that the police investigate the incident, and if they decide that no offence has been committed then we have no right to take it further if we can’t afford it, other than making a complaint against the investigating authorities – which Adebolajo can also do if he chooses, he has a perfect right to submit a Governor’s Application and have the matter dealt with by an IMB.

    • I’ve been arguing for a while that it should not be possible to sue for damages over a criminal matter unless a criminal trial has proven guilt, and then it is debatable whether a civil action would be appropriate since criminal acts are punished, not compensated. The reality is that these days, and in particularly in the USA, allowing civil actions over criminal matters is back door Double Jeopardy.

      The standard of proof is “balance” rather than “beyond reasonable doubt” precisely because the Civil Law is intended as a dispute resolution procedure, not a criminal determination of guilt.

      • I agree that the distinction between crime and tort is often messy. However, if criminal charges are pending, the courts will stay a civil action. If there’s a conviction, the civil action will merely assess damages. As for the double jeopardy following an aquittal in the criminal trial, this is rare. But, since assault is both a criminal breach of the peace and a trespass against the person, it must be allowed to give rise to two kinds of action.

        • It seems to me that treating a crime as also a civil trespass falls into the Anarcho-Capitalist error of trying to reduce everything to civil disputes (since AnCap has no adequate response to the problem of criminality, so falls back on the strategy of turning the problematic thing into something else (and inappropriate) that the theory can handle). If a criminal court cannot demonstrate guilt, the person must be considered innocent and so no damages claim can rationally be made (I am suing you for something you did not do). If on the other hand a criminal court can demonstrate guilt, no damages claim is appropriate, since the perpetrator is already suffering the appropriate punishment under criminal law.

          As we have seen recently during the Paedohysteria, civil claims for criminal acts are just an inducement to accuse those with plunderable funds- especially the dead- of heinous acts.

          • The corruption of law is one thing. Rejecting hundreds of years of jurisprudence is something else.

            You punched me in the face. You caused a breach of the peace. You knocked out one of my teeth. The State wants you punished for breaking the peace. I want you to pay for my teeth to be fixed. The same act reasonably gives rise to two causes of action. Indeed, if we were in some commercial relationship, you may also be in breach of contract. You could try rolling everything into a single action – ie, allowing the criminal court to make a compensation order. But this is useless in those cases where, for whatever reason, criminal charges are not brought.

            • I don’t give a damn about “the peace” and who has breached it. The punching you in the face was the criminal act, for which I am duly punished. If I am also in breach of a contract sue that separately, fine. But the same act cannot be both. And in particular, I cannot be both innocent of it (criminal case) and guilty of it (civil case).

              In other words, “I was found criminally innocent” should be an automatic dismissal of the Civil case, to put this another way. Because I walked out of the Criminal Court having been thoroughly investigated and tried and found innocent. There cannot therefore be a Civil case to answer. Case dismissed.

              • The point is that there are two burdens of evidence in English law – “beyond reasonable doubt” for criminal and “on the balance of probabilities” for civil. Each is essential for justice. This being so, double action are sometimes appropriate when there is a double cause of action. A criminal acquittal simply registers that guilt has not been established beyond reasonable doubt. Liability may still be evident on the balance of probabilities.

                The shakedown of elderly celebrities is regrettable. But this could often be avoided if the defence lawyers weren’t so useless. An obvious question to ask of a complainant is: “If there is a guilty verdict in this trial, will you be starting a civil action for compensation?”

                Robert Henderson might be the man to comment on defence tactics here.

  7. He should have been shot end of story.You people think you know it all and can micro manage us ,same old same old. You will see. Waffle all you like , with your pens and your thoughts, history does repeat .

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