It’s amazing how quickly things can change as a result of a bit of scrutiny. No sooner was Andrew Malkinson exonerated by the Court of Appeal than the press – print and electronic media – turned a spotlight on the insidious practice, in England and Wales, of the Ministry of Justice in deducting from compenation the cost of an exoneree’s bed and board while he was wrongfully imprisoned. This scrutiny was as welcome as it was overdue; we and others have been drawing attention to this for years. And in the environment of that scrutiny, the Lord Chancellor announced, with remarkanble speed and on a Sunday indeed, the removal of that practice “with immediate effect”.
The Ministry of Justice press release explained the thinking in clear and unambiguous terms:
- This common sense change will ensure victims do not face paying twice for crimes they did not commit.
- Fairness is a core pillar of our justice system and it is not right that victims of devastating miscarriages of justice can have deductions made for saved living expenses.
We wholeheartedly agree, and we welcome this change of policy – which replaces a policy that was manifestly unfair. On that point, the Lord Chancellor clearly agrees with us.
The problem is that, as announced, this is to apply only to future recipients of compensation for a miscarriage of justice. Hopefully that will include Mr Malkinson. But what of those who have been legitimately compensated for past miscarriages, and whose compensation was reduced in this now discredited way? This organisation supports several individuals for whom this insult was their experience – individuals who each spent long years wrongfully imprisoned for crimes they did not commit.
Our position on this is quite clear. If it is unfair and unjustifiable now, it was equally unfair and unjustifiable then.
We have today written to the Lord Chancellor, seeking his confirmation that he will reverse the decisions taken to make a “bed and board” deduction from compensation paid to past exonerees, and repay the sums deducted from those victims. If fairness is truly at the heart of the recent change in policy, then it’s hard to imagine a justification for a refusal to do so.
We’ll keep you posted as this develops.
photo credit – BBC