A Foul Decision – 24 Years In Jail, Found Innocent, But No Compensation

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That this decision is right in law may be true but if it is then it’s just further proof that the law is an ass – two guys who together served 24 years in jail, were found innocent, have been denied compensation. On the entirely foul grounds that evidence which showed their convictions were unsound isn’t enough as proof that they should be compensated.

Sorry, that’s wrong. The law here is wrong.

Two men who between them spent 24 years in prison before their convictions were overturned are not entitled to compensation, judges have ruled. Sam Hallam, who was convicted of murder, and Victor Nealon, who was found guilty of attempted rape, finally lost their legal fight to be compensated at the Supreme Court following defeats at the High Court and Courts of Appeal. Both had been freed several years earlier after appeal judges said new evidence made their convictions unsafe, but both had applications for compensation rejected by the Justice Secretary.

Why?

Their compensation claims under the 1988 Act were rejected on the basis that it was not the case, as required by the Act, that a “new or newly discovered fact shows beyond reasonable doubt that there has been a miscarriage of justice”.

Fine, that’s the law, so let’s go out and change the law. As I pointed out in The Times some years ago:

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. … … 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 the original and slightly more visceral reaction had it:

Charles Clarke should be hung from the nearest lamp pole, assuming we can find one to bear the weight of the fat f**ker, 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 f**k Clarke, for shame.

Clarke has, thankfully, gone, but I’ve not changed my view on this. I actually don’t care about the implications. We ship innocents off to jail then we compensate them, end of.