Strangeways Prison Riot - Ringleader Cleared of Murder

Not guilty verdict - client exonerated
3 June, 1991

Lead Lawyer

Case study summary

Mary Monson's client was Alan Lord, leader of the Strangeways Prison Riot, the biggest ever riot in a UK jail. He was also charged with Murder and Conspiracy. There were 30 defendants. We made arguments about the cause of death, and he was found Not Guilty of Murder.

Case study

The 1990 Strangeways Prison Riot was a watershed moment in the history of criminal justice in the UK. For 25 days prisoners rioted in the prison and protested on the roof, complaining about inhuman conditions and abuse that inmates had been suffering.

£144 million in damage was caused. The riot resulted in the Woolf reforms, and improvements in prison conditions across the UK during the 1990s. HMP Strangeways was renamed HMP Manchester when the rebuilt prison was reopened.

Alan Lord was the alleged leader of the riot, along with other inmate Paul Taylor. Both were prosecuted for the alleged murder of a suspected paedophile prisoner as well as conspiracy to cause Grievous Bodily Harm (s.18 Offences Against the Person Act 1861), and riot under s.1 of the Public Order Act 1986. The cause of the inmate's death could be shown to be a heart attack.

The prosecution case was that Lord, Taylor and four others had subjected the dead man to a so-called 'kangaroo court'. Mary instructed barrister Vera Baird to speak for her client in court. Vera would later become a QC barrister, a Member of Parliament, and later the Solicitor General of England and Wales. We fought the murder allegation on the basis that guilt for murder could not arise from death from an apparent heart attack. The client was acquitted of murder. He was convicted of Riot and Conspiracy. On his release he became a community campaigner, and he now trains young people at risk of falling into the gang life at his own boxing gym in Manchester.

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