An inmate staged a mid-summer roof-top protest as he was unhappy at his treatment in a top-security prison, a court heard today (Wednesday April 10).

Joe Outlaw, managed to clamber onto a roof at HMP Frankland, at Brasside, Durham, on the afternoon on June 21 last year.

In doing so he is accused of damaging windows, security mesh, the roof, flues and louvres.

Following a lengthy stand-off, in which a negotiator was brought in to attempt to talk him down, the long-term inmate was helped from the roof and led away by three prison officers, who were attached to the building by cable, in the early hours of June 22.

The Northern Echo: Inmate Joe Outlaw pictured during his roof-top  protest at Frankland Prison, Durham,  in June last

The 37-year-old prisoner is accused of committing a campaign of damage to fixtures and fittings within his cell and the prison in the weeks following his transfer to Frankland after staging a similar rooftop protest at HMP Manchester, formerly known as Strangeways, in April, last year.

He appeared at today’s Durham Crown Court plea hearing by video link from another top-security prison, HMP Belmarsh, in south-east London, where he is now detained.

Having had a brief pre-hearing discussion with his counsel, Ian West, over the video link, he asked that the 14-count indictment, all charges of causing criminal damage at Frankland, between May 4 and June 21 last year, was not put to him.

Outlaw, who is originally from Bradford, told the judge he was not happy with his legal representation and he wanted to seek alternative counsel.

Mr West told the court he had only been able to speak to the defendant for little more than 10 minutes prior to the hearing but added: “His ‘gripe’ with HMP Frankland was to do with the regime there and the prison’s treatment of him.”

Judge Kidd agreed that the charges should not be put at the hearing, to allow the solicitors’ firm representing him to seek to appoint new counsel, but she said a trial date and case timetable should be fixed.

The Northern Echo:

Asked how long a trial may take in the case, Mr West said: “At the moment the time estimate is three to four days, but I don’t know how many of the 14 charges he faces are to be admitted or denied.”

The court heard that although Outlaw is a long-term inmate, he has a custody time limit (ctl) for this case to be heard before September 10.

The Northern Echo:

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A trial date was agreed with a start date of August 12 to fit in with the ctl deadline.

But Judge Kidd said she would fix a date for a further plea hearing of May 8 to enable the defendant to discuss his representation with his solicitors, who the court heard are based in Leeds, and decide what pleas he would make to the 14 charges.

In the meantime, the defendant remains in custody on indefinite terms, with no fixed release date.