Blunkett Is Trying to Deduct the Cost of B & B from Compensation for Wrongfully Convicted Prisoners. So Why Not Now Introduce the Right for Inmates to Buy Their Own Cells?

Article excerpt

When it comes to creative writing, you'd be hard pushed to find better exponents than the British police. Since the Birmingham Six and numerous other miscarriages of justice, where people were framed for crimes they didn't commit, it is sometimes difficult to know if a "confession" made to the police is testimony for the courts or a bid for the Booker Prize.

With such a pool of talent, it is only a matter of time before the new Terry Pratchett emerges from the thin blue line. But personally, I am hoping the Home Office will produce a new Franz Kafka and publish the story of how a normal young beetle wakes up one morning to find himself transformed into a giant David Blunkett.

Now, before the new Labour acolytes and ideological catamites have time to bleat "This is just so 1990s!", let me just point out that this is all far from over. For victims of miscarriages of justice the ordeal is still very much alive and, come 16 March, it will be back in the courts.

When the Birmingham Six were compensated for wrongful imprisonment, the details of their awards were worked out by the government-appointed independent assessor, Sir David Calcutt, now replaced by Lord Brennan. Calcutt insisted on two significant factors for the calculation. First, that a sliding scale of compensation should be introduced as, according to Calcutt, the first year in prison was the worst and the subsequent time spent inside became easier to bear.

Strangely enough, none of the victims of miscarriages of justice has ever said, "Once I knew where the showers were, life inside was a piece of piss." Neither has anyone said, "The 18th year of my wrongful imprisonment was such a breeze, I'll settle for a couple of book tokens and some bonus points on the Nectar card."

The second part of Calcutt's calculations was that the innocent men should have deducted from their compensation the costs incurred by the government for their food, clothes and lodgings, under the catchy title of "Saved Living Expenses". To bill these men with these charges is spiteful, ridiculous, unjust and entirely in keeping with the behaviour of Blunkett, who, in an uncharacteristic bout of liberalness, has waived the huge cost of police time, deliberately wasted by the men's intransigent and wilful innocence.

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Vincent Hickey and his cousin Michael Hickey served 18 years after being wrongfully convicted of the murder of Carl Bridgewater, a newspaper delivery boy. …