Monday, 15 March 2004

Wrongfully Convicted? That'll Be £80,000 Please

This is the kind of country we are living in, a country dominated by a callous and selfish establishment who view us little people as being akin to either sheep or cannon-fodder, depending on their requirements at the time. As far as they are concerned we exist for the soul purpose of hoisting those small-minded inbred elitist posh cunts onto our shoulders. Blair has already made me vomit once this morning, now his quasi-totalitarian Home Secretary has just done the same! What the FUCK is wrong with this country? Why can't anyone see how utterly fucked this government is? Talk about the blind leading the fucking blind!!!!

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.

Blunkett's fight has been described as "outrageous", "morally repugnant" and the "sickest of sick jokes", but his spokesmen in the Home Office say it's a completely "reasonable course of action" as the innocent men and women would have spent the money anyway on food and lodgings if they weren't in prison. The government deems the claw-back ëSaved Living Expenses'.

Paddy Hill was one of the Birmingham Six. He spent 16 years behind bars for the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings by the IRA. Hill now lives on a farm with his wife and children near Beith in Scotland. He has been charged £50,000 for living expenses by the Home Office.

It wasn't until two years ago that Hill was finally awarded £960,000 in compensation. However, during the years since his release, while waiting for the pay-out, the government had given him advances of around £300,000. When his compensation came through, the £300,000 was taken back along with interest on the interim payments charged at 23% ñ that cost him a further £70,000.

"The whole system is absurd," Hill said. "I'm so angry about what has happened to me. I try and tell people about being charged for bed and board in jail and they can't believe it.

"When I left prison I was given no training for freedom ñ no counselling or psychological preparation. Yet the guilty get that when they are released. To charge me for the food I ate and the cell I slept in is almost as big an injustice as fitting me up in the first place.

"While I was in prison, my family lost their home, yet they get no compensation. But the state wants its money back. It's like being kicked in the head when someone has beat you already.

"I have to put up with this, yet there has not been one police officer convicted of fitting people up. The Home Office had no shortage of money to keep me in jail or to run a charade of a trial.

"But they had enough money to frame me. Nevertheless, when it comes to paying out compensation for ruining my life they happily rip me to shreds."

Hill is not leading the legal action against the government ñ instead he has handed the baton to another high-profile victim of miscarriage of justice: Mike O'Brien.

O'Brien spent 10 years in jail wrongly convicted of killing a Cardiff newsagent. His baby daughter died while he was in prison and he was charged £37,500 by the Home Office for his time behind bars.

Hill said he cannot lead the legal fight as the Birmingham Six have fought every legal action together, but now three of them are over 70 and Hill believes it is too much to ask them to join him in taking on the government yet again.

He said he was also worried about the compensation payments for the other members of the Birmingham Six being affected if they joined him in court against the government.

"The establishment hate me and people like me as we proved them wrong," he said. "They either want to ignore us or hurt us."

Full story...

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