One of the pities about increasing maturity is that old predictions of how society is going to the dogs become true. Or rather, one is around to see one’s predictions come true. Gratifying to the ego as it is to be proven right there’s a definite preference for not having to see it.
At which point, the man jailed for rape for two years. Then conviction overturned. OK, so, he served two years and he shouldn’t have served two years. We’d expect some sort of compensation, right?
Ah, no, they changed the law:
A man who was wrongly convicted of rape after police missed crucial Facebook message evidence has been refused compensation for spending more than two years in jail.
Danny Kay had his conviction quashed in 2017 when the Court of Appeal ruled police had relied on an ‘edited and misleading’ account of online conversations provided by his complainant. Mr Kay’s sister-in-law found the messages that cleared him after just a minute searching online.
Appeal court judges ruled that the full exchanges supported his claim that sex had been consensual.
Messages hidden in the original case showed there had been far greater contact after the alleged rape between Mr Kay and the complainant than the jury had been told about.
But two years on, officials at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) have turned down the 28-year-old’s claim for more than £500,000 compensation.
They say that the online exchanges revealed at the appeal had cast doubt on Mr Kay’s conviction but failed to prove his innocence.
At the heart of this is a change in the law under the Blair Terror. Brought in by Charles Clarke. I complained about it in The Times back in 2006:
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?
Or, as I put it more forcefully in the original blog post:
Those who win their appeals at the first attempt will get no compensation. Others who have spent years in prison will see any pay-outs capped.
A discretionary compensation scheme, introduced in 1985, which paid out £2m a year would be scrapped immediately because it had become “increasingly anomalous”, Mr Clarke said.
Scrapping that scheme means people will not be allowed compensation if their cases have been quashed while going through the normal appeal process – winning at the first attempt.
And new limitations will be placed on claimants under a statutory scheme – which will remain in force – which currently pays out £6m a year.
“The changes I have announced today will create a fairer, simpler and speedier system for compensating miscarriages of justice,” Mr Clarke said.
“These changes will save more than £5m a year which we will plough back into improving criminal justice and support for victims of crime.”
So let’s think through what happens when someone is wrongly convicted shall we? They lose some years of their life to the prison system. Sad but true and there’s no way we’re ever going to have a justice system where this doesn’t actually happen to some unfortunates at least occasionally.
What matters is what we do when it does happen.
There are a few other trivial things that happen too. They miss seeing their children grow up perhaps, lose their jobs and careers. Most will probably lose their house, whether rented or mortgaged. Some trauma perhaps at finding the State imprisoning you for no good reason.
All in all you could say that there’s some direct damage, both economic and psychic, from such wrongful convictions.
So what does Charlie the Safetly Elephant suggest? That if you’ve only spent, what, 20 odd months, damn near two years inside (the length of time it usually takes to get an appeal heard), lost perhaps your house, job, children, maybe even marriage, well, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles, eh? Y’know, bad things happen, not my fault Guv?
And for what? To save 5 million a year? 5 fucking million? Out of 500 billion that he and his wastrel compadres are spending each year?
That is, 0.001% of public spending is going to be saved by not compensating those whose lives have been irretrievably fucked up by the actions of the State?
Have these people no shame?
Do you know what else costs some 5 million a year? Subsidising the snouts in the trough in Parliament. Literally:
parliament’s £5.7m annual catering subsidy
Talk about your misplaced priorities mate. Nope, sorry, I don’t care how nice he was to Rachel and her Dad (eventually), think nothing of whatever laws have been passed about the incitement to terrorism and give, quite frankly, two shits about the consequences of this statement.
Charles Clarke should be hung from the nearest lamp pole, assuming we can find one to bear the weight of the fat fucker, the assembled political parties forced to watch as he tap dances on air and happy children gambol at his feet.
If we as a society get things wrong and imprison the innocent it is our duty, as that very society, to both say sorry and to compensate them as best we can. What we offer can only ever be inadequate but to deny this moral fact, to save the price of MP’s pork pies?
You fuck Clarke, for shame.
I did say this was going to happen, it is happening. One of those occasions where I’d far prefer to have been wrong.