My brother, Barry George, who was wrongly convicted of the murder of TV presenter, Jill Dando, has never been awarded any compensation for the years he spent incarcerated for this killing. His conviction was quashed in 2007, and he was then released in 2008, when the jury at his second trial unanimously found him not guilty. Since then, we have tried every avenue we could think of to get this government to correct the wrong, and to make recompense for all that he has lost.
- Sign the ‘Not innocent enough’ petition here
- You can read about compensation for the victims of miscarriages and the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing 2014 here
Barry has been told by British Justice that he has ‘not proven his innocence’ and that ‘a jury, properly directed, could have found him guilty.’ Therefore, he is not considered a miscarriage of justice…because they had evidence! How many trials are proceeded with that have NO evidence? Just living in the area is considered evidence. When that (circumstantial) evidence was put before a jury, at retrial, they found him, unanimously, not guilty. Were they NOT properly directed?
After battling the British Justice System for fourteen years, we were left in limbo. Should we just give up, or was there a way of taking this to Europe, to the European Court of Human Rights?
But why should we have to go to Europe to fix our broken justice system. Surely we can do that ourselves? Then, via social media, I came across another man, fighting the same issue. He had also been refused compensation under Section133 of the Criminal Justice Act. This man, Martin Foran, has had two convictions overturned; he is the only double miscarriage of justice victim in British history.
While I was pondering what we should do, I read of the plight of another recently released man, Victor Nealon. I’d known of Victor’s case through the social media ‘community’ of those who are also battling injustice, and who support each other online. Victor was released from prison with just three hours’ notice, given £46 and sent on his way. After 17 years in prison, where was he to go when he had lost his home and all of his possessions?
Enough is enough
Having reviewed Victor’s case, and his acquittal, it came as a great shock to me to hear that, he too, had been refused under S133. Each of these men were fighting the colossal might of the justice system, alone, and being brushed off at every turn. Their battle was so huge, that I did not feel equipped to do anything to help, but on doing some research, I discovered that there is no way, under British law, to prove one’s innocence. This is because we have an ‘adversarial’ system, whereby, a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty, beyond reasonable doubt, and it is for the prosecution to prove guilt.
Enough is enough. We must now act, and fight this together. Not only because these men deserve to be allowed to re-start their lives, but because this is an unworkable amendment to our justice system. If the defendant at trial has nothing to prove (the defence are given a smaller budget because of this precept), why, when the conviction is overturned, is the presumption of innocence not restored?
Actually, it is, in that under our justice system one is either guilty or innocent, there is no middle ground, unlike Scotland, where you can have a verdict of ‘not proven’.
Prison is a terrible place. Full of violence and intimidation, and for the person who refuses to accept guilt, and fights the system, this is intensified. Families can be sundered and may never recover from a wrongful conviction. I have first-hand experience of just how destructive and terrifying the whole nightmare is.
Do we really live in a country where we incarcerate innocent people and then toss them out to fend for themselves, in a world they don’t even recognise? There is no phased release, as there is for an offender, to rehabilitate them. No counselling to help them to readjust to normal society. They become outcasts. The public perception is that, all wrongly convicted persons receive compensation, and everything’s all right Jack! Well that is certainly not the case, and if this disgraceful situation with S133 is not corrected, no one will ever receive recompense again (unless the real perpetrator is convicted).
‘Not innocent enough’ is unworkable. There is no framework in the justice system for the acquitted person to prove innocence. At trial they are told ‘you have nothing to prove’, at acquittal they are told ‘you have not proven your innocence’. This is not acceptable and must be challenged.
More men have since joined us and, as a group we have planned a protest to coincide with day one of the Magna Carta 800 year commemoration, which takes place at Westminster on 23rd February.
The Magna Carta enshrines ‘Justice for all’, but we will be highlighting the fact that there is no justice for the little man.
It also states that ‘no man is above the law’, although that is exactly where the Secretary of State has placed himself with these amendments. And if the way these men have been treated is anything to go by, British Justice affords no safeguards for the human rights of the wrongly convicted!
Surely the state has a moral duty to correct its wrongs and to reinstate that which was wrongly taken away?
Author: Michelle Bates
Michelle is Barry George’s sister. She is campaigning to amend the laws that refuse compensation to people whose convictions have been overturned, or who have been found not guilty at retrial. https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/not-innocent-enough-unlawful