Bipolar son earns appeal as mum’s campaign pays off

A mother who has been campaigning to have her son’s conviction for arson overturned has finally been granted an appeal date.

Linda Morgan, of Stoke Newington, has spent the last 20 months campaigning for her son Joe Paraskeva after he was convicted of setting a door alight in a psychiatric unit in October 2010 and handed an indefinite prison sentence.

Joe, 22, who was diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder in 2007, admitted starting the blaze in an effort to escape less than 48 hours after he had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

He has no previous convictions and his mother believes he should not have been criminalised in the first place.

Lawyers will fight to have the sentence overturned and ask that Joe be granted a hospital order instead, while Ms Morgan will also be submitting a letter to the Court of Appeal asking judges to consider overturning her son’s conviction on the basis that he was not protected while at the psychiatric hospital.

Ms Morgan said: “They had an operational duty to care for and protect him. He was allowed access to prohibited items such as a lighter which he used in his efforts to escape and without which he could not have been charged for arson.

“If the practice of criminalising mental health patients is allowed to continue, such patients will continue to receive criminal records and may be transferred to prison like Joe in great distress and without treatment.”

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She said Joe is currently at a psychiatric unit receiving medical treatment for his mental illness and she is hoping that he will be allowed to remain in hospital until he is well enough to return to the community.

Ms Morgan also appealed for support at the hearing, which will take place at the Royal Courts of Justice in The Strand, saying: “I would appeal for supporters to continue to support the campaign and come to the appeal hearing next week if they are able.

Supporters can also send Joe a message of good luck on the website.

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