Charles Bronson: notorious prisoner tells public parole hearing he's an 'angel' compared with past self

Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of notorious inmate Charles Bronson, appearing via video link from HMP Woodhill, during his public parole hearing at the Royal Courts Of Justice, London (Image: PA)Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of notorious inmate Charles Bronson, appearing via video link from HMP Woodhill, during his public parole hearing at the Royal Courts Of Justice, London (Image: PA)
Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of notorious inmate Charles Bronson, appearing via video link from HMP Woodhill, during his public parole hearing at the Royal Courts Of Justice, London (Image: PA) | PA
Charles Bronson, one of Britain's most notorious prisoners, will find out whether he will be granted parole

A public parole hearing where Charles Bronson will make his latest bid for freedom has started, with the notorious prisoner claiming he's an "angel" compared to his former self.

Making his latest bid for freedom on Monday, he told a panel of Parole Board judges he is now anti-violence, a man of “peace” and “almost an angel now” compared with his old self. But despite insisting he now has ways of managing negative feelings and has turned to art, the 70-year-old – who was once dubbed one of Britain’s most violent offenders – said: “I was born to have a rumble.”

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Bronson – who changed his surname to Charles Salvador in 2014 after the artist Salvador Dali – appeared on camera sat opposite a panel of parole judges wearing a black suit, white shirt and dark glasses.

What was said on day one?

  • Bronson claimed he had been betting for much of the last 50 years while behind bars and won £1,500 last year. Prisoners are banned from gambling and could face sanctions for doing so.
  • Bronson is locked in his cell for 23 hours a day due to staff shortages, and receives letters from 500 people.
  • Describing one incident, in which the hearing was told he stripped naked and “greased up”, Bronson said: “I took half a tub of Lurpak with me, stripped off and had the rumble of my life. It was f****** brilliant.”
  • Speaking of his time at HMP Woodhill in Milton Keynes, Bronson said: “I’ve had four years here now, I think I’ve outstayed my welcome.”
  • Some of Bronson’s comments prompted outbursts of laughter from the public gallery and he could be heard swearing frequently and sighing loudly early on in the proceedings. Before he began giving evidence, he complained he was “getting bored of this” when his lawyer asked for a short break.
  • His prison offender manager said they are concerned that Bronson would be overwhelmed in open conditions at a lower security prison, 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.”
  • They added that he “kind of loses himself in his artwork” – something he has become known for while in jail.

Who is Charles Bronson?

Charles Bronson has spent most of the past 48 years behind bars, apart from two brief periods of freedom where he reoffended. His first conviction was in 1974 when he was 21 and was jailed for seven years for robbery, aggravated burglary, assault with intent to rob and possession of a firearm.

He was convicted for wounding again in 1975, 1978 and 1985, then in 1987 he was released from prison at the age of 34. After just 69 days he was back in prison, sentenced in 1988 for seven years for robbery at a jewellers’ shop.

He was later released from prison in 1992, but weeks later was jailed for eight years for intent to rob and has been behind bars since then for violent offences committed while in custody.

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In 1994 he was given seven years for false imprisonment and blackmail, then in 1997 he took a deputy prison governor, staff and three inmates hostage for which he received five years. Later, in 1999, he took an art teacher hostage for three days and was given a life sentence with a minimum term of three years which expired in 2003. In 2014 he was further sentenced to three years for assaulting a prison governor.

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.

Charles Bronson public parole hearing - latest

Parole hearing begins

Members of the press and public are watching the proceedings – taking place in prison – on a live stream from the Royal Courts of Justice in central London.

Bronson appeared on camera sat opposite a panel of parole judges wearing a black suit, white shirt and dark glasses.

When asked if he wished to give evidence at the hearing, he said: “Oh yes, certainly.”

Bronson finds it 'hard to believe' judges haven't seen C4 doc

Charles Bronson said he “found it hard to believe” the parole judges deciding whether he can be freed from jail have not watched a recent documentary about him.

In the Channel 4 programme which aired last week, Bronson said he can “smell and taste freedom” ahead of the parole hearing.

The parole panel chairman told the hearing: “The panel has not seen that documentary.”

Bronson replied: “I find that hard to believe.”

He also 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.

Bronson: 'We will be here all f****** day'

Bronson, who had been sipping what appeared to be a small carton of juice through a straw, briefly stood up during the hearing and began asking for a tissue.

“I haven’t pissed myself,” he told the hearing as he placed the tissue under the juice carton and sat back down.

Amid long pauses while the panel asked his prisoner offender manager questions, Bronson said: “We will be here all f****** day, won’t we?”

Bronson moved to Woodhill in 2019

The parole review heard Bronson has been held at HMP Woodhill in Milton Keynes since February 2019, having been previously being behind bars at HMP Frankland after he was moved from Wakefield prison for “security reasons” amid incidents between 2017 and 2018 involving threats to governors.

Bronson’s prison offender manager, who was not named in the hearing, told the parole panel the move to Woodhill prison was so he could mix with more prisoners and take part in a more “open” regime.

A month after he arrived at Woodhill, another threat to a prison governor was made, the hearing was told.

Bronson reacts to accusations by loudly sighing

The hearing has been told that Bronson had used words to the effect of “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 19 August 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.

Bronson 'loses himself in his art'

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 tine 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 prison worker said: “He kind of loses himself in his artwork and finds that he doesn’t ruminate as much as he used to overnight.”

Bronson: 'I'm getting bored of this'

When the hearing was told that Bronson had tried to get someone outside prison to place a bet for him, he told the panel: “We all love a bet, guv, come on.”

He then repeatedly said: “I’m getting bored of this”, objecting to his legal representative asking for a break before he gave evidence.

Bronson could be heard asking the lawyer “Can’t you just go yourself?”, before telling the chairman: “He just wants the toilet.”

Bronson 'has a way to go' on controlling himself

The prison offender manager said that while Bronson is anti-drugs and anti-violence, and has made progress, there are concerns around understanding 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: 'I've had more porridge than Goldilocks and the Three Bears'

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”.

Bronson: 'I've deserved a good 35 of my 50 years in prison'

Bronson told the parole judges he was a “retired prison activist” but he deserved much of his time behind bars.

He said: “Out of the 50 years I’ve been in prison, I have probably deserved a good 35 years of it … but I have been naughty. Not ‘naughty, naughty’, but naughty.”

Describing how in the past he had ended up on prison roofs in protest, he said: “I enjoyed every f****** one of them.”

He told how he had slept in “cages” and “boxes”, and spent “40 years of my life in solitary”.

He added: “Don’t think I’m wearing these glasses for sinister reasons. My eyes are blown away with the light” as he discussed how being in solitary confinement made his eyes sensitive to light.

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