'The light was turned on every hour to check I was still alive'.
The convicted Libor trader Tom Hayes was initially held in isolation on the care and segregation unit in Wandsworth prison for 23 hours a day, according to a series of prison letters detailing his first months behind bars.
Hayes said he was held in in the segregation unit for his own protection, and accompanied by three officers when allowed out for 30 minutes exercise in the yard, or to shower or collect meals. But the former UBS banker was told he had “won the lottery” after being transferred to the relatively benign regime at Nottingham prison after 11 days.
Hayes was sentenced to 14 years in August for fraud for his part in manipulating the Libor rate – the London interbank overnight lending rate used by banks to set interest rates.
In December, the 36-year-old failed to have his sentence overturned but had his tariff reduced to 11 years at the court of appeal, by judges who considered factors such as his age, lack of seniority and a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome. Hayes’s sentence is one of the longest prison terms on record for UK white-collar crime.
In a series of letters to the Times City editor Harry Wilson, Hayes wrote of his shock at being taken from court in handcuffs hours after dropping his son at nursery, moved to a holding cell where he was forced to use a plastic toilet with no seat or door in view of a guard, and then taken to Wandsworth and strip-searched.
Hayes said he could hear the news on TV and knew his face was on the screen as he spent the first evening in a holding cell with other prisoners. Prison governors feared he would be targeted, and put him in his own cell in the segregation unit.
He was considered at risk of suicide or self-harm and held under Assessment, Care in Custody and Teamwork procedures. Hayes wrote: “Because I was on ACCT, the light was turned on every hour to check I was still alive, and would disturb me yet further.”
Hayes, who said he was held in the same cell that the former publicist Max Clifford had occupied a few months earlier, was unable to sleep during his first days in prison, after having taken sleeping tablets during the trial. He wrote: “I think in my early days I stood out – I probably still do – but certainly some people recognised me from the media coverage. People seemed to labour under the misapprehension that I had made ‘trillions’ for myself.”
Hayes said he had got himself vaccinated for hepatitis B, having initially refused the offer from a nurse “on the basis I couldn’t fathom how I could catch a blood-borne virus. Later, after observing various biting incidents, I have now had my three jabs and am vaccinated.”
At his own request, Hayes was returned to the main prison, where he was put in a shared cell with a prisoner on remand for drugs offences. Hayes was transferred to Nottingham prison after 11 nights, which an officer at Wandsworth said meant he had “won the prison lottery”, adding: “People would give their right arm to get there.”
In letters typed from the Open University room at Nottingham, Hayes reported continued chaotic and uncomfortable conditions. He wrote: “I lay on my bed and wondered how I had ended up here. I’ve become quite the ornithologist; I used to watch the birds at Wandsworth, too. It seems so strange that we live in the same place but they are free, able to come and go from the trees that are on the ‘free’ side of the fence.”
He concluded: “I guess I’m becoming more immune to prison life now; being strip-searched has lost the embarrassment and indignity I felt at first. Drug overdoses and fights are de rigueur, and the monotony of life here takes over.”
Six other City brokers are currently on trial for rigging the Libor rate, having pleaded not guilty in October to conspiracy to defraud. Two other British traders, Anthony Allen and Anthony Conti, were convicted in the US in November for their part in the scandal, and face up to 30 years in prison when sentenced in March.
This article was written by Gwyn Topham, for theguardian.com on Sunday 3rd January 2016 14.52 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010