This is vile, a stain upon our society


There are those who think that we here at the ASI are simply concerned with economics, or the economy. This is not so: we are really about liberty and freedom, it's just that we apply those concepts to matters economic as well as to sexual, legal and all the other realms of life. At which point we draw attention to this, something that is entirely vile, a stain upon our society:

But what sort of rule of law allows an innocent person to be locked up for many years and then denied any compensation for their wrongful imprisonment?

Outside the summit jamboree, for which a ticket would cost you £1,750, were some people who could have given the delegates a slightly less rosy picture of Britain’s supposed superiority. They included those who had been wrongly convicted but who have been denied any redress under the ruling introduced last year, which virtually says that it is not enough to be innocent – in most cases you have to find the real culprit of the crime for which you were convicted before you can be compensated.

Among those challenging the new regulation is Victor Nealon, a former postman, who was convicted of attempted rape in 1996. He served 17 years, 10 years longer than his recommended tariff, because he continued to protest his innocence. In 2013, after fresh DNA evidence taken from the clothes of the victim pointed to “an unknown male” as responsible for the crime, Nealon was freed with just £46 in his pocket to try to rebuild his life. The Ministry of Justice now declines to compensate him because, under the new rules, his innocence has to be proved “beyond reasonable doubt”.

Another man who feels equally bemused by this is Barry George, whose conviction for the murder of Jill Dando in 1999 was quashed in 2007. The police file on who was the real murderer in this case remains open, but George has never received compensation for his time behind bars.

These rules started to change back in 2006. About which was said this:

CHARLES CLARKE’S announcement that he is limiting the compensation available to those wrongfully imprisoned has been met with the hoots of derision it deserves. What is more important to work out is why the Home Secretary made such a lunatic decision in the first place. The proffered reason, to save £5 million a year, is simply beyond satire. The Government, in its infinite wisdom, annually disposes of about £500 billion of the nation’s production: denying those innocents unjustly banged up will save some 0.001 per cent of public expenditure. Just to provide some context, the £5 million saving is less than the £5.7 million spent in 2003 on subsidising the swill bins at the Houses of Parliament. No, it can’t be about the money. The mark of a liberal society is that more care and attention is paid to those innocents wrongly found guilty, than to the guilty who escape justice. Any criminal justice system designed and run by fallible human beings will make mistakes. The important thing is how we react when a miscarriage of justice occurs. Shamefully, under the Home Secretary’s proposals those who find their guilty verdict overturned at their first appeal will have no right to compensation. For others compensation will be capped at £500,000. But let’s remember this. It takes from 20 months to two years to get a first appeal against a conviction heard: long enough for those convicted to lose careers and jobs, marriages and houses. Yes, there always will be those who unjustly enjoy Her Majesty’s hospitality, and whatever compensation we offer in a monetary form will not be enough to fill the gap of years of liberty denied, lives wasted, opportunities lost and families sundered. But do we really expect those afflicted by the mistakes of the state apparatus simply to shrug and smile it off as just one of life’s unfortunate things? Can the Home Secretary not see that it is our solemn duty to those wrongfully convicted that we both apologise and make amends as best we can? ... Whatever the motivations for this decision they do not change the fact that it is a disgrace. Just as mother always said: you make a mistake, you apologise, make what amends you can and promise not to do it again. When the State makes a mistake and steals someone’s liberty it is indeed our duty, to compensate those wronged. Whether the Home Secretary is ignorant of this moral fact, or simply wishes to ignore it for other reasons, it is appalling. Shame on you, Mr Clarke, shame on you.

We have not changed our view. This is a vileness that must be eradicated from Britain.