Bronson tells parole hearing he enjoyed ‘rumble of his life’ in prison
otorious prisoner Charles Bronson has told his parole hearing how he enjoyed a “rumble of my life” fight in prison and won £1,500 last year betting.
Dubbed one of Britain’s most violent offenders, Bronson, who changed his surname to Salvador after the artist Salvador Dalí, has been in prison for much of the last 50 years, often kept in solitary confinement or specialist units.
The 70-year-old began making his latest bid for freedom at a hearing held at the Royal Courts of Justice on Monday. He is only the second inmate in UK legal history to have his case heard in public.
Bronson, who was born Michael Peterson, was first locked up for seven years for armed robbery aged 22 in 1974.
In four decades inside he has attacked more than 20 prison guards and other inmates, and taken hostages in at least 10 sieges. He also served time in secure hospitals including Broadmoor in Berkshire and Rampton in Nottinghamshire.
He was given a discretionary life term in 2000 with a minimum of four years for taking a prison teacher hostage at HMP Hull for 44 hours.
Since then, the Parole Board has repeatedly refused to let him out.
Members of the press and public could watch the latest proceedings – taking place in prison – on a live stream from the Royal Courts of Justice in central London on Monday.
The first witness, his prison offender manager, said he did not believe Bronson had the skills to cope with being released.
The panel heard that he spends 23 hours a day in his cell and only associates with three other inmates who he does not get on with.
At the beginning of the hearing the panel chairman asked Bronson: “Do you intend to give evidence?”
In a gravelly voice Bronson, who is known for liking publicity, replied: “Oh yes, yes, certainly.”
Of his previous crimes, he said: “Am I sorry? Maybe. Would I do it again? Definitely not.”
When questioned about several incidents behind bars a few years ago and why they happened, Bronson said: “I love a rumble. What man doesn’t?”
Describing one incident, in which the parole review was told he stripped naked and “greased up”, he said: “I took half a tub of Lurpak with me, stripped off and had the rumble of my life. It was f****** brilliant.”
But the 70-year-old claimed he has changed his ways and there would be no more “rumbles” behind bars. He claimed on a larger wing he would be able to handle any conflict should it arise.
He told the hearing he has been “betting for 50 years” while behind bars and won £1,500 last year.
Asked whether he was allowed to bet while behind bars, he replied: “Well, are you or ain’t you?
“No-one has ever said anything to me in 50 years.”
He said he was “not an addict”, later adding: “I’ve been betting for 50 years.”
Asked about causing one of his victims – a prison governor – post-traumatic stress disorder, Bronson said: “That was 30 years ago and I’ve moved on from that long ago.
“Governor (Adrian) Wallace was an arsehole, is an arsehole and will die an arsehole.”
Referring to Phil Danielson, the prison art teacher he took hostage for three days, Bronson said he would like to meet him after his release.
He told the panel if he had his time again he would “probably have just chinned him”.
Bronson explained he now has ways of managing negative feelings.
“When I’m in my cell and I’ve got a bad letter, or something’s happened, or someone has been nasty or whatever, I can sit in my cell now and switch off, and go into myself with deep breathing,” he said.
“Sometimes people push, push, push…some people need a slap, it’s as simple as that.”
Bronson was the first prisoner to formally ask for a public hearing after rules changed last year in a bid to remove the secrecy around the parole process.
He muttered “f****** hell” under his breath as the review heard how submissions to the hearing on behalf of Justice Secretary Dominic Raab had been delayed and could not be provided in advance of the proceedings to the parole board as a result.
The hearing was told that Bronson had used words to the effect “see what happens” to a member of staff and was prone to verbal outbursts.
There was one encounter where he had complimented a nurse on her top and touched her shirt, asking if it was silk.
The staff member told him it made her feel uncomfortable and he told her to f*** off, the hearing was told.
On another occasion on August 19 last year when he was told that the deputy governor was visiting his cell, he said: “What, do you want me to put my party hat on?” and told them to leave.
Bronson let out loud sighs at points as the prison offender manager gave evidence.
The prison worker said there were some security concerns around him courting media attention.
They said that he has regular phone contact with his son and friends, and has got back in touch with his mother.
There are 500 people on his mailing list who write to Bronson in jail, but he does not always reply, the panel was told.
“Bloody hell, I can’t reply to all of them,” he interjected.
He is currently locked up in his cell for 23 hours per day, with only one hour for exercise or any other activities due to staff shortages.
The prison offender manager said they would worry that Bronson would be overwhelmed in open conditions, but that he has started learning breathing exercises and coping methods such as asking for time out in his cell in preparation for any future move.
They said: “Charlie’s used to a lot of solitary time anyway. He doesn’t enjoy it … but he copes quite well. He has his exercises, he has his routines.”
Bronson has become known for his artwork while in jail, the hearing heard.
The prison offender manager said: “He kind of loses himself in his artwork and finds that he doesn’t ruminate as much as he used to overnight.”
As Bronson’s lawyer questioned the prison worker, the hearing was told that prisoners can be released despite being assessed as posing a high risk of serious harm to the public.
There has been no persistent disruptive behaviour while he has been at HMP Woodhill in recent years, despite ongoing security concerns about his contact with the media, the hearing heard.
Wearing a white shirt with dark braces, and a dark tie, Bronson could be seen rocking his chair backwards and forwards at times during the questioning.
He wore round, darkly tinted glasses and has a prominent moustache.
Bronson and his legal representative were sitting on one side of a large, wooden polished table, with the Parole Board panel members on the other.
The prison offender manager said that while Bronson claims he is anti-drugs and anti-violence, there are concerns around his understanding of harm caused by behaviour other than violence and victim empathy.
They went on: “The risk of violence is untested in lots of ways. Mr Salvador is still being kept in very small units with very limited opportunities to engage with others.
“As the external controls fall away or diminish, Mr Salvador will need the internal controls to manage himself appropriately and I feel he’s got a way to go to establish that safely.”
The panel has a 738-page dossier of material relating to Bronson’s case.
Bronson was given 15 minutes to make an opening statement, to which he replied: “I could fill 15 hours.”
The panel chair replied: “That, privately, is my concern.”
Bronson said: “First of all, it’s no secret I have had more porridge than Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and I’m sick of it. I’ve had enough of it, I want to go home.”
He told the panel that half of the 738-page dossier about him is “crap, absolute rubbish”.
Listing all the conditions in which he has been held, including high-security mental health hospitals, he said: “I’ve had every thing you can think of 10 times over.
“How much longer have I got to go? I’m ready now, I’m a chilled-out man, I feel comfortable in myself. I handle situations 100 times better than I used to. I’m no longer angry.”
Bronson went on: “I am terrified of the consequences of my actions because I know if I do anything serious ever again I will die in prison.”
He recalled how one officer, Mick O’Hagan, inspired him to take up art, telling him: “You carry on the way you’re going, Charlie, you will never get out.”
Bronson said: “Today I’m an artist, a born-again artist, and that’s down to him. He didn’t have to do what he did, he done it because he believed in me.”
He then made a plea on behalf of his mother, now aged 95, who he referred to as “my old duchess”.
“You people have got the power to let me out, that’s my mum’s last dream on this planet, to see her son outside, doing well, making an honest living with my art, as you know I’m anti-crime,” he said.
“If you’ve got any heart, any compassion, give it to my mum and make an old lady’s dream come true.”
In 2014 he decided to change his surname to Salvador, which he said means man of peace.
“Bronson was a nasty b******,” he said. “I wasn’t a nice person and I didn’t like him. Salvador is a man of peace. I feel peaceful.”
Asked about an incident in 2015 when he threw his own faeces at another prisoner, Bronson claimed the inmate had killed four people and had insulted him, calling him an OAP and a nobody, and threatened to stab him.
He also claimed that the prisoner had asked him to do it so that he could claim compensation.
Addressing his time at HMP Woodhill, in Milton Keynes, he said: “I’ve had four years here now, I think I’ve outstayed my welcome.”
He went on to tell the hearing he is “almost an angel now” compared with his old self.
“I have not walked on grass for over 30 years and I dream of walking on grass,” he said.
The Parole Board will decide whether he should remain behind bars after the hearing, which is taking place over three days this week. A decision is due at a later date.
The hearing resumes on Wednesday.