Barry George, the man wrongly convicted for the murder of TV presenter Jill Dando, has been told he isn’t entitled to a penny of compensation even though he served eight years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. George is one of four people whose faulty convictions and subsequent claims for compensation were reviewed by the London high court.
This is because of a Supreme Court ruling in 2011 concerning compensation payments to victims of miscarriage of justice. The Supreme Court ruling states:
“[A miscarriage of justice occurs] when a new or newly discovered fact shows conclusively that the evidence against a defendant has been so undermined that no conviction could possibly be based upon it…
“A claimant for compensation will not need to prove he was innocent of the crime but he will have to show that, on the basis of facts as they are now known, he should not have been convicted or that conviction could not possibly be based on those facts.”
Not all miscarriages of justice, it follows, will lead to compensation. “Procedural deficiencies that led to irregularities in the trial or errors in the investigation of offences will not suffice to establish entitlement to compensation,” the supreme court judges explained.
This means that it makes no difference whether you have committed the crime or not. You’ll get compensation only if compelling new evidence comes to light. A flawed police investigation, or faulty behaviour by court officers at the time of the trial, mean nothing. So Barry George, who wrongly served eight years, gets nothing by way of compensation. Neither will Ismail Ali, who was convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm upon his wife at Luton Crown Court in 2007; Kevin Dennis, whose conviction of the murder of Babatunde Oba was declared unsound and whose retrial was abandoned when the trial judge agreed with submissions there was no case answer and directed the jury to acquit Dennis of murder; and Justin Tunbridge whose convictions for two counts of indecent assault in 1995 were eventually quashed by the Court of Appeal in April 2008. Another eleven miscarriage of justice cases are due to come before the High Court soon, but these rulings make it unlikely that any compensation will be paid to these innocent people.
This is what it boils down to: it doesn’t matter if you actually committed the crimes you were sent to jail for. In Barry George’s case, he served eight years for a crime he did not commit. His wrongful conviction made him a hate figure to the public who loved Jill Dando. And now he’s been denied compensation, which will make people think “there’s no smoke without fire – he must have done it, otherwise he’d have got compensation.” This could happen to any of us. And this is British justice? Gaddafi’s Libya would probably have been fairer.
Make no mistake: George, Ali, Dennis and Tunbridge did not commit the crimes for which they were imprisoned. They’ve had years stolen from their lives, they have been labelled murderers,or sex offenders, labels which tend to stick. And what compensation do they get? None. British justice is a sadistic farce.