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What sort of sick country am I living in?

Postby jase on Mon Mar 15, 2004 9:33 pm

From the Sunday Herald (Glasgow), http://www.sundayherald.com/40592

We locked you up in jail for 25 years and you were innocent all along? That’ll be £80,000 please

Blunkett charges miscarriage of justice victims ‘food and lodgings’
By Neil Mackay, Home Affairs Editor

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 ‘Saved 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% – 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 – 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 – 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.”

O’Brien took the Home Office to court last March and won, but Blunkett appealed the decision. On Tuesday, the rights and wrongs of the government policy will be decided at the Royal Courts.

O’Brien said: “Morally, the position of the government is just outrageous. It shows total contempt for the victims of miscarriages of justice. It makes me livid.

“I really believe if we win the appeal this week, the government is evil enough to take me to the House of Lords. They are trying to break us. I really think this is personal as far as the government is concerned.

“A government really can’t get much worse than this. But I am confident that we will win as the law and morality are on our side.”

Vincent Hickey, one of the Bridgewater Four who was wrongly convicted for killing a paperboy, was charged £60,000 for the 17 years he spent in jail. He said: “If I had known this I would have stayed on hunger-strike longer, that way I would have had a smaller bill.”

John McManus, of the Scottish Miscarriage of Justice Organisation, said: “This is reprehensible. How can we call ourselves a democratic, civilised society when our government is acting like this?

“The government seems intent on punishing innocent people. The state wants to be paid for making a mistake. It’s hard to believe someone actually thought this policy up. If you tell a child about this they will think it insane.

“Only a sick mind could have invented this policy, yet the government is fighting to retain the right to act like this. It is cruelty with intent. They seem to want to punish people for having the audacity to be innocent.”

The SNP’s shadow justice minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said: “This is outrageous. It is another assault by Blunkett on the rule of law and on civil liberties. These people didn’t chose to go to prison. They were wrongly convicted, and to charge them for it beggars belief.”

The Home Office said an “independent assessor appointed by the Home Secretary takes into acccount the range of costs the prisoner might have incurred had they not been imprisoned”. The spokes man said the assessor was “right” to do this, adding: “Morally, this is reasonable and appropriate.”

‘I was a hostage, now they are billing me’
ROBERT Brown was just a 19-year-old from Glasgow when he was jailed for life for murdering a woman called Annie Walsh in Manchester in 1977. He served 25 years before he was finally freed in 2002, when the courts ruled him innocent of the crime.
He is now facing a bill of around £80,000 for the living expenses he cost the state. For Brown, it is the final straw. An interim payment he was given pending his full compensation offer is exhausted; his mother recently died; his relationship with his girlfriend has fallen apart and he is facing eviction from his home following a mix-up over benefits.

“I feel like ending my life,” he says. “I’ve tried to maintain my dignity, but the state has treated me with nothing but contempt – now they are asking me for money for my bed and board in jail.

“I never contemplated suicide once while I was in prison, but it’s different on the outside. I have received no counselling or support. Society is treating me like something you’d wipe off the bottom of your shoes, but I’m an innocent man and a victim of a terrible injustice.

“It’s horrific. I’ve been out of jail for 14 months and in that time the state has put me through a war of attrition that it never needed to conduct. I feel my life is disintegrating around me.

“Making me pay for my bed and board is abhorrent. I was arrested, fitted up and held hostage for 25 years and now they are going to charge me for being kept as their prisoner against my will.

“Can you think of a more disgusting way to abuse someone? I really feel that my heart is truly and finally broken.”

14 March 2004

This is just sick. I can't believe my country has sunk this low. Whenever you guys think Tony Blair is a good leader for Britain, remember this report and see how this authoritarian arsehole and his government are destroying any sense of decency we once had.

It made me feel quite ill reading this. To think I helped vote this bastard into power :evil:
Last edited by jase on Tue Mar 16, 2004 6:51 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby dodecahedron on Mon Mar 15, 2004 11:12 pm

truely horrible! :( :x
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Postby VEFF on Mon Mar 15, 2004 11:56 pm

That is outrageous! Literally.
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Postby cfitz on Tue Mar 16, 2004 2:20 am

Unbelievable. How can this go on after it has been publicized? Aren't there massive protests? (Not saying that it would be okay if it weren't publicized, but rather saying that governments often do truly horrible things when no one is looking but can at times be convinced to do the right thing when their wrongdoings are exposed. They're kind of like cockroaches that scatter when you turn on the light).

I suspect that the people who made this policy don't really believe that the victims are innocent. They probably think that the acquittals are based on nothing but technicalities and feel they need to punish the "criminals" who got off "easy".

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Postby CDRecorder on Tue Mar 16, 2004 2:51 am

That is terrible! If anything, they should be paying the people who were wrongfully imprisoned, not charging them for staying there! :evil:
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Postby aviationwiz on Tue Mar 16, 2004 10:16 am

WTF, That's terrible!!!

He really should be recieving compensation, not paying out 80,000 sterling. That's a lot of money!!! Not even Amerika is that bad!!
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Postby NoSmartz on Tue Mar 16, 2004 8:11 pm

How stupid.Funny how the logic is lost on the leaders of that country but not on the newspaper.
He'll probably win in court.

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Postby JamieW on Wed Mar 17, 2004 12:07 pm

With the direction the UK has been going this isn't surprising. It is still disturbing, though.
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Postby CowboySlim on Wed Mar 17, 2004 4:50 pm

Just the opposite here on the LEFT coast. The ultraliberal, leftwing, soft on crime, slimebags in the state government are now sending "developmentally disabled" (DD) convicted sex offenders to "half way" houses in residential neighborhoods upon release from the slam. We taxpayers will pay $800,000 per year to house four sexual predators in one house. The current newsworthy case includes a guy who sodomized/raped a 14 month old infant (male). He was initially sentenced to 14 years but the socialists have decided that 8 is enough. There is no evidence that he was categorized as devlopmentally disabled (a category created to include the feeble minded) prior to his crime. Without that designation, he would have been commited to general prison where the general population would have performed the death sentence that he so richly deserves. Labeled as "DD" by the left wing, socialist lawyers, judges and bureaucrats (before they all got busy marrying another liberal of the same sex) they can put him in a lock down hospital type institution instead of the death row where he belongs.

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Postby jase on Thu Mar 18, 2004 12:10 pm

Strangely, there doesn't seem to have been any publicity about this other than this one newspaper report. Indeed I can't even find any info on the cases in the human rights sites and the like. I think I'm right in saying though that this is money being taken out of compensation awards rather than being asked for from people who have not yet been compensated for injustices (which generally run into hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars in compensation); not that this makes any difference as it's the principle of the idea that's flawed and perverted, not the actual taking of money from victims itself per se.

I'm not sure if this has been happening elsewhere, but the international climate post 9/11 has led to significant curtailing of fundamental human rights in this country by one of the most right-wing home secretaries (David Blunkett) we've ever had. Ironic then that he is a leading member of a so-called liberal, social democratic party -- it's usually right-wing bigots in the Conservative Party who come up with rubbish like this.

I'm convinced the courts will rule against this -- they have done so already, and even if they don't again Blunkett will be laughed out of town in the European Court of Human Rights if it gets that far. I just find it difficult to comprehend how Blunkett, a blind man from a Northern council estate who surely must know what it means to be the victim of bigotry and intolerance, could turn out the way he has. Unbelievable.
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Postby LoneWolf on Thu Mar 18, 2004 3:29 pm

Interesting how the gov't. points out that "These are the same expenses they would incur living outside of jail" and then conveniently forget that people outside of jail can have the right to have a job to pay for them, and the flexibility to decide how and where they are going to work and spend/save to budget. If these rights are taken away by prison, how can one expect someone to pay for them?

I'm also curious...why don't the guilty have to pay for their incarceration?
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Postby MediumRare on Thu Mar 18, 2004 4:16 pm

jase wrote:Strangely, there doesn't seem to have been any publicity about this other than this one newspaper report.

jase- are you sure this is real and not something like the fake Stella Liebeck awards? It really sounds too absurd to be true. :roll:

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Postby jase on Fri Mar 19, 2004 7:40 am

I am starting to wonder. I think I'll email the reporter asking him for links to further information, then I'll be able to ascertain if it is true or not.

Something certainly doesn't ring true however; Blunkett did lose a case yesterday in court, but it related to an alleged terrorist who the government wanted to keep locked up for questioning under new anti-terror laws, rather than this story. I wouldn't have thought there'd be two High Court cases involving the Home Secretary going on simultaneously....
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Postby Kennyshin on Tue Apr 13, 2004 2:56 pm

South Korean government is low everyday so I like to think to myself I am not here, sort of escape from reality to maintain some kind of mental equilibrium.

They are plain savage. The mass-killer Chon Du-hwan was found again to have more than 20,000,000 dollars in Korean Won currency in secret accounts recently and this year is no less than SEVENTEEN years after he gave up his South Korean presidential power. The amount itself is negligible by conventional South Korean standard but he seemed to apologize in the 1990s and DJ seemed to forgive him instead of killing him or at least making him nearly powerless and moneyless a few years ago during his presidency. That much was just public media show for sentimental South Korean public (idiots.)

He killed thousands of Gawngju citizens, publicly found guilty of the crime, apologized for it, and still lives like Kim Ilsung exerting political influence and spending a lot of money.

It will take more generations to change South Korea into European level democracies at least. Unlike most South Koreans, I'm not criticizing the politicians, but the public that support such people and policies. Idiot nation.
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Postby Spazmogen on Wed May 05, 2004 9:00 pm


Oddly enough, I can see how Maggie would have done this too- back in the mid 80's. She is/was a tough PM. Sometimes tough is what a country needs.

Canada had Pierre Trudeau in the 70's & 80's, England had Maggie, USA had Gerald Ford :wink:

But charging an innocent man his room/board after he had to fight to get out of there is inhumane.
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