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Father tells of Filipino jail hell
EVERY Monday afternoon Kevin Taylor is escorted from the tiny cell he shares with 21 other prisoners in San Mateo jail and taken to a room where he is allowed a brief meeting with his wife Charlene. The couple, who had to secure a court order for the right to see each other, avoid the heart-wrenching subject of their three children before they are led back to their wings on separate floors. The privilege is one of the few mercies in a nightmare ordeal during which they have endured almost four years on remand in hellish conditions as their case grinds through the Filipino court system.
The former business owners, accused of defrauding jobseekers with promises of employment in the UK, have hit their lowest ebb as prosecutors drag out the remaining charges against them.
Years of living in pitiful conditions have hit Kevin the hardest, and he is afflicted with severe depression, skin disease and back problems. In a desperate four-page letter to the Adver from the jail in the province of Rizal, east of the capital Manila, he told how a campaign by his parents Gerald and Marie Taylor, from Stratton, has hit a dead end. Now the Taylors have been left to pray the outside world will end their ordeal. “I’m lonely and I miss Charlene, the kids and home terribly,” Kevin said. “If it wasn’t for Charlene and my family back home, I would probably have gone crazy a long time ago.”
The couple’s children, Charlene Jnr, four, Charlotte, seven and eight-year-old Caitlin, are being looked after by Charlene’s family in the Philippines. The trio do not visit the jail because their parents believe it would be too traumatic. Yet even if the couple beat the remaining two out of 25 cases Kevin is faced with the prospect of returning to the UK alone.
“We miss the kids so much as we are missing them growing up, schooling, birthdays and Christmas time,” he wrote. “We both can’t talk to each other about them because it makes us so sad and want to openly weep. “Family life for me is particularly bleak because even when we win our cases, I still lose the kids because I will probably have to leave them here and come back to the UK alone. “I have written to the Home Office about getting visas for the three girls and Charlene but they won’t budge and it seems like they have no heart."
Crammed into a 15x9m cell with other inmates on the male wing, Kevin has been forced to take a variety of expensive medication, funded mainly by his parents, to cope with a growing list of ailments. The prisoners share a single toilet yet, despite the nauseating stench and insanitary conditions, he spends a lot of time asleep or reading in his bed. “My own health is a battle against severe depression and skin diseases,” Kevin wrote. “As the humidity in the cell is high, I suffer from boils and skin rashes, which are very painful and to keep these to minimum I have to buy sulphur soap or medicated soap which become very expensive as I have to take three showers a day due to the heat. “My depression has become more and more serious as time’s gone on (to the point of contemplating suicide). I have been given medicines, escitalopram 13mg twice a day, and levomepromazine 10mg once a day. Maybe without these I’d be long gone ages ago.”
The 47-year-old is afforded the relative luxury of his own bed, having paid to become a ‘VIP’ prisoner, but is suffering from years of sleeping sardine-like on the floor with other inmates.
He said: “The time spent sleeping on the floor or other hard surfaces (3 years) has taken its toll on my back and joints as now I’m in constant pain and I can’t sit in one position for too long now as it gets painful.” Kevin and his 33-year-old wife consider themselves lucky in that they are allowed to see each other on Monday afternoons, even if they have to brave taunts and threats from jealous inmates. But while they draw strength from each other, they risk becoming Britain’s forgotten prisoners as the years grind by.
“Charlene and I pray that someone will read our story and help us and my parents, who are feeling the pinch at the moment, having exhausted all known avenues to help us out,” Kevin said.
“I pray that our cases finish soon and I can take Charlene and the girls back to the UK, where it’s safe for all of us. “Thankyou for reading our story and I pray you can help us in some way.”
Last night North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson’s office confirmed representations had been made on the Taylors’ behalf to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. If the couple are not freed next month the department has agreed to send a formal notice to the Filipino government, requesting the case be expedited.
Parents tried to fight the case
STRANDED on remand as a chronically inefficient justice system drags out their case, Kevin and Charlene Taylor have been left to pray that the outside world will end their plight. The couple’s ordeal began in May 2009 when they were arrested for defrauding job seekers with promises of employment in the UK. They have so far been unable to contest the charges because complainants have frequently failed to turn up in court.
Kevin’s parents, Gerald and Marie Taylor, from Stratton, have already spent their life savings on legal fees, food and medicine. Yet while only two of the initial 25 cases remain, even the most straightforward steps can take months. Employment laws in the Philippines, intended to stop workers being exploited, make it illegal for agencies to take a fee to send labour abroad.
However the couple, who ran a visa and travel consultancy in Manila, say they only provided advice and guidance and did not act as a recruitment agency. The original charge, of syndicated illegal recruitment on a large scale, is set for a hearing on March 7, when the prosecutor is due to disclose his evidence against the pair. “We feel the prosecutor is dragging his feet and using delaying tactics to prolong our agony in jail,” Kevin wrote. “Can’t see the case ending soon.” A second case relating to the alleged breaches is subject to a move by the Taylors’ lawyer to quash the evidence, with a hearing set for March 11. The Taylors’ predicament has been taken up by groups supporting British prisoners abroad and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has offered consular assistance. However they feel more could be done by Kevin’s home nation to take up their case. The pair, whose arrests were covered on Filipino television, have said on their consultancy’s website that they are victims of baseless complaints by two former employees who had stolen money from the company.