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Protest plan over graffiti artist’s death

PUBLISHED: 16:54 11 February 2009 | UPDATED: 09:37 12 August 2010

FOUND DEAD: Jailed graffiti artist Tom Collister.

FOUND DEAD: Jailed graffiti artist Tom Collister.

FRIENDS of a graffiti artist who was found hanging in his prison cell are due to protest outside the Royal Courts of Justice this Saturday, writes news editor Kate Mead.

FRIENDS of a graffiti artist who was found hanging in his prison cell are due to protest outside the Royal Courts of Justice this Saturday, writes news editor Kate Mead.

Tom Collister, 23, from West Wickham was pronounced dead last Sunday after staff tried to resuscitate him in his cell at HMP Camp Hill in the Isle of Wight. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison on October 10 last year alongside Darren Austin, 21, from Beckenham, Joshua Piehl, 19, from Tunbridge Wells and William Setzdempsey, 19, from Uckfield - who belonged to the Just Kant Stop and the Forever Doing Crime crew.

British Transport Police said the four were prolific vandals who caused £60,000 worth of damage to southeastern trains and other networks.

But friends of Mr Collister, who used the tags SKEAMS, SKEAMZ, SKEAM and FDC, are baffled by his death after his sentence was reduced by 10 months at the Royal Courts of Justice last Tuesday.

A peaceful protest is scheduled for this Saturday at 12noon at the courts in the Strand, London.

Organisers of the protest, Free JKS, wrote on social networking site Facebook: "After four months of waiting for an appeal, this was finally heard at the Royal Courts of (In)justice last Tuesday. After a few mumbled words Tom's sentence was reduced to 20 months, and the other three had their appeals rejected. A few days later Tom was found dead in his cell.

"It is my belief that an unjust system has subjected these guys to routine abuse, torture and humiliation to the point where one of them had had enough."

A spokesman for Free JKS said: "Our main goal is to achieve an end to custodial sentencing for non-violent graffiti offences, particularly in youth cases. Though under the circumstances we also feel that it is important for Darren, Josh and Will to be released as soon as possible to be with the support of their families."

A Prison Service spokesman said: "Camp Hill prisoner Tom Collister was found hanging in his cell at 7.22am. Staff attempted to revive him but sadly he was pronounced dead shortly afterwards. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Mr Collister.''

His death is set to be investigated by the prisons and probation ombudsman.

kate.mead@archant.co.uk

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