Wednesday, March 17, 2004

TELL ME THIS ISN'T TRUE. "We locked you up in jail for 25 years and you were innocent all along? That’ll be £80,000 please."(thanks to Julian Sanchez for the link)
What do you give someone who’s been proved innocent after spending the best part of their life behind bars, wrongfully convicted of a crime they didn’t commit?

An apology, maybe? Counselling? Champagne? Compensation? Well, if you’re David Blunkett, the Labour Home Secretary, the choice is simple: you give them a big, fat bill for the cost of board and lodgings for the time they spent freeloading at Her Majesty’s Pleasure in British prisons.

On Tuesday, Blunkett will fight in the Royal Courts of Justice in London for the right to charge victims of miscarriages of justice more than £3000 for every year they spent in jail while wrongly convicted. The logic is that the innocent man shouldn’t have been in prison eating free porridge and sleeping for nothing under regulation grey blankets.
I'm speechless.

UPDATE: Some of the comments over at Crooked Timber are illuminating:
That is awful but I believe that in some ways the US is even worse—it looks as though the UK actually compensates the wrongly imprisoned, but in the US:

“Under federal law, someone falsely detained is entitled to only $5,000, regardless of how long the imprisonment. In most states, the only way for the exonerated to be compensated is through civil suits filed against local police departments and the district attorney’s office. Yet civil litigation places the burden of proof solely on the exonerated, who need undeniable proof of a police frame-up or malicious prosecution by the DA’s office.” Here’s more; as you’d expect, it varies from state to state.

So it would seem that, even with the L3000 taken out, prisoners in the UK might get more compensation than those in the US who can’t win a suit if they don’t live in a state with a decent law. I’m not sure how the numbers work out.

hate to say anything that might be construed as defending Blunkett, but the picture isn’t very clear from the two articles I’ve managed to find. Presumably, when assessing the amount of compensation due, the independent assessor takes account of things like income foregone whilst in prison. Obviously, the right figure to look at there has to be net of taxes and I guess the HO are arguing that there should be some further deduction to take some account of expenses that anyone would have had over the period concerned. So my guess is that this is an argument about how one element in the total compensation formula should be calculated. If so, then to represent it as having people “facing a bill” for £N000 is somewhat misleading (though if I were in their position I might do the same).

Having said that I hope they (people like the Birmingham 6) get as much as possible, since no amount of money would compensate for what they endured. But that doesn’t mean that Blunkett and co are necessarily applying the existing rules for determining compensation otherwise than they should.

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