Charles Bronson 'has symptoms of PTSD' after nearly 50 years behind bars

Charles Bronson has symptoms of PTSD after being subjected to ‘brutal and unacceptable’ treatment behind bars, his parole hearing was told.

Having spent most of the past 50 years locked up, Britain’s most notorious prisoner holds ‘anti-authoritarian views’ and is ‘suspicious’ of the motives of others, it was said.

Three parole judges – who have not been publicly named – are considering his case at HMP Woodhill in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, while members of the press and public watch the proceedings on a live stream from the Royal Courts of Justice in central London.

Bronson, one of the UK’s longest-serving inmates, likened his experience in front of the Parole Board to being on The Apprentice.

An independent psychologist employed by his legal team told the panel: ‘He feels like the whole system is about humiliating and degrading him.’

Wearing a black t-shirt with white writing on it, and his trademark dark, round glasses, Bronson could be seen rocking his chair backwards and forwards as the psychologist gave evidence.

She said the 70-year-old has mild symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, partly due to some ‘brutal and unacceptable treatment’ while in the prison system.

Bronson – whose real name is Michael Peterson – has previously been diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder, is ‘naturally somewhat suspicious of other people’s motives’.

Once dubbed one of Britain’s most violent offenders, Bronson has spent most of the past half century behind bars, apart from two brief periods of freedom during which he reoffended, for a string of thefts, firearms and violent offences, including 11 hostage takings in nine different sieges.

Victims included governors, doctors, staff and, on one occasion, his own solicitor.

He was handed a discretionary life sentence with a minimum term of four years in 2000 for taking a prison teacher at HMP Hull hostage for 44 hours.

Since then, the Parole Board has repeatedly refused to direct his release.

The review heard Bronson has a ‘romanticised’ view of violent incidents in the past, after he told parole judges how he loved a ‘rumble’ and enjoyed mass brawls in prison but insisted he has since found solace in art and is a man of ‘peace’.

Describing one memorable fight with prison officers, Bronson said: ‘I took half a tub of Lurpak with me, stripped off and had the rumble of my life. It was f**king brilliant.’

He went on: ‘But I am 70 now, it can be a bit embarrassing for someone of my age to be like that. You have to grow up sooner or later. There will be no more rumbles.’

Notorious prisoner Charles Bronson’s list of offences

Here is a list of his offences:

– Bronson’s 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 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.

– 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 psychologist told the panel today that Bronson ‘found violence cathartic in the past’, adding: ‘I think now what he does is he tends to weigh up the pros and cons of violence to himself, that is an effective strategy.’

Bronson now realises that the consequences to himself are too great in terms of violence, she told the panel.

‘I can imagine him telling somebody to eff off quite frankly… but it’s whether that equates to serious harm,’ she said.

The psychologist, who was not named, told the hearing Bronson’s violence towards prison staff has been fuelled by a dislike of authority figures, but this does not extend to members of the public.

‘His use of violence towards staff members has been almost a matter of survival,’ she said. ‘He’s got that real level of dislike for authority figures.

‘I don’t think he has that for members of the public.’

The psychologist said she believes Bronson now finds his art cathartic in the same way that violence once was.

She told the hearing she believes Bronson should eventually be moved to a lower security jail with open conditions to allow him more interaction with other people.

The parole panel previously heard he only mixes with three other inmates, one of whom he does not like and avoids.

The psychologist said: ‘I believe that Mr Salvador poses less of a risk in a community environment than in a prison environment, and I stand by that assessment.

‘Of course, I’m talking about a highly supportive community environment and I’m talking about a gradual move into a community environment.’

Bronson – who changed his surname to Salvador in 2014 – is the second inmate in UK legal history to have his case heard in public after rules changed last year in a bid to remove the secrecy around the process.

The third and final day of the proceedings will take place behind closed doors on Friday so confidential details can be discussed.

The Parole Board will consider whether he should remain behind bars after the hearing, with a decision due at a later date.

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