Blair Finally Said "Sorry" to Some of the Innocent Prisoners Released after Years of Being Locked Up, but If He Meant It, He'd Have Offered Money to Look after Their Mental Health
Thomas, Mark, New Statesman (1996)
I feel the need to explain myself to you, my dear readers, you curious onlookers at this journalistic car crash that I call a column. Yet again "Baby Blunkett", Charles Clarke, features in this week's light-hearted romp through our postmodern, liberty-lite, corporately sponsored Labour landscape. Though I will admit to being mildly fascinated by some aspects of Clarke, in particular how his face manages to look like a scrotum with a hangover, I insist that I am not fixated on him. There are no pictures of him covering my bedroom walls nor do I send him Hallmark cards with pictures of kittens on the front and "I thought our love was special" written in blood on the inside. He features yet again simply because he is so steeped in new Labour funk.
Recently, Clarke's boss managed to apologise on behalf of the British state to the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven for their wrongful imprisonment. Admittedly, it was long overdue, but the apology when Tony Blair met Gerry Conlon and others face to face in private was hugely important for them, and is indeed an example of what our judiciary and executive should be doing more often. Yet for me, this apology, when placed alongside the general practice of dealing with such cases, has about the same sincerity and commitment to justice as an al-Qaeda victim support hotline.
How does the British state apologise to those it wrongfully imprisons?
Vincent Hickey and his cousin Michael Hickey served 18 years after being wrongfully convicted of the murder of Carl Bridgewater, a newspaper delivery boy. The home Office gave them a special type of apology: it charged them [pounds sterling]60,000 each for food and lodgings they received while wrongly imprisoned. The Home Office is fighting legal challenges for the right to charge B & B to innocent people, to be deducted from their compensation, no doubt for all the trouble they caused by not being guilty.
What kind of "sorry" did Johnnie Kamara get? Sentenced to life imprisonment in 1981 for the murder of a betting-shop manager, Kamara served more than 19 years, of which nearly 16 were spent in solitary confinement, one continuous stretch lasting four and a half years. He was released suddenly, when the authorities produced a mere 201 eyewitness testimonies that had not been disclosed at the trial. One of these came from the headmaster at Kamara's sister's school; he vouched that Kamara was in his office at the time the murder took place. …