The price of freedom

Six years after release, the Birmingham Six are still fighting for compensation. Will Jack Straw finally do the decent thing?

According to Sir David Calcutt, the man who assesses the compensation paid to victims of miscarriages of justice, there is such a thing as a "clang factor" that protects you when prison officers are kicking your teeth down your throat.

The clang factor means that it doesn't hurt so much when you are being dragged along a corridor towards your next beating. It renders your despair less acute and the demons that visit you during your endless nights are, thanks to the clang factor, friendlier than those that haunt your fellow prisoners.

The clang factor means simply that you have been to prison before and so, by extension, you are less affected by the metallic closing of your cell door every night than are your fellow inmates. Even if you are innocent.

For Paddy Hill, one of the Birmingham Six, the clang factor cost pounds 25,000. That was the amount Sir David deducted from his offer of compensation for 16 years' wrongful imprisonment because Mr Hill had been to prison before, during the Sixties, for assaulting a nightclub bouncer.

In his explanation for offering Mr Hill, 52, pounds 200,000 for wrongful imprisonment, while four of the Six were offered pounds 225,000 and one - inexplicably - was offered pounds 235,000, Sir David wrote that the "clang factor" was absent for the others. It was just one of the anomalies - which the Six feel amount to insults - that have resulted in six years of legal argument during which all the men have suffered financially and mentally in a nightmare that seems to have no ending.

"I saw Paddy Hill being kicked along a landing by prison officers," says Billy Power, 51, another of the Six. "I saw them kicking and dragging him along for a beating, and I saw his fear. They kicked his teeth out. And then they offered him less compensation than us because he had been to prison before, as though it hurt less.

"We sued over our beatings, and the Home Office admitted that prison officers had been responsible, but we haven't been offered any compensation whatsoever for that. Everything they are doing - the level of their offer, the dragging of the feet - simply reinforces the whispering campaigns that maybe we did it.

"We don't care so much about the money, but it should be high enough to send out the message loud and clear: these men are innocent, and we made a mistake."

In the past six years, since the Court of Appeal released them, the men have been given two interim payments totalling pounds 200,000. Lawyers are still arguing over the final settlement, which should include elements for loss of past and future earnings and damages for the men's appalling treatment. Earlier this year, the Home Office made a "final offer" but Sir David said it was still open for negotiation when it was challenged in the courts by Gerry Hunter.

And there the matter rested, apparently becalmed, until yesterday when the men pledged to camp out on the steps of Jack Straw's office until the Home Secretary agrees to meet them.

The interim payments sound like a lot of money, but they were gone in the blink of an eye. The men dared not resettle in Birmingham, so most of them had to splash out pounds 100,000 immediately for somewhere to live in London.

Then there were the binges, the admitted squandering. "I kept buying presents for my family," says Paddy Hill. "I had these enormous feelings of guilt. I had been away from my children for 16 years. What do you do when your grandchild runs away because she doesn't know you? I suppose I tried to buy their love."

In the meantime, Hugh Callaghan, Paddy Hill, Billy Power, Gerry Hunter, Richard McIlkenny, and Johnny Walker have all suffered anxiety, depression, panic attacks and financial hardship. All their relationships have been put under enormous strain. Only Richard McIlkenny remained living with and married to his original wife. Billy Power divorced his wife and, happily, remarried; Hugh Callaghan, 67, is still married to Eileen, but they live separately.

"We aren't formally separated or anything," he says. "But she has lived in Birmingham since 1949 and needs to be close to her doctor and family. [She has undergone major heart surgery.] I would feel anxious for her and for my daughter, Geraldine, and my two grandchildren if I moved back. People look at you when you walk down the street or in the park, and you think: `Oh, no. The Birmingham Six. They recognise me ...'"

When the men were released, they were offered no counselling, no help to resettle, no support from the state apart from their interim payments. As their money ran out, they have subsequently discovered that they are not entitled to benefits, because no National Insurance contributions were paid during the 16 years they were in prison.

"We're all terribly scarred," says Callaghan. "My neighbours are very patient with me, and they knock on my door in the middle of the night to see if I'm OK. I scream a lot during my nightmares and wake them up."

All the men's families have suffered through their absence - or their presence. Sons and daughters have endured abuse and violence from those who have not accepted the men's innocence. One son was badly beaten. One daughter broke down, and had to be sectioned only this week.

"It hasn't been easy for them," says Paddy Hill. "When I came out, I'd be on buses and just panic. I'd scream at the bus driver to let me out in between stops. My problems were worse on the Tube.

"They [the state] gave us no help ... And we've all had problems with relationships. Living with me is like walking around with a hand-grenade in your pocket. You just never know when I'm going to go off."

When finally they were given help, clinical psychologists, led by Dr Adrian Grounds of the Institute of Criminology in Cambridge, said that the Six's trauma was comparable to that suffered by people who have been in serious car crashes.

"Research showed signs of irreversible psychological damage," says their solicitor, Gareth Peirce. "Until they came out, no one knew what to expect. There had never been a case like this before, so the psychologists are only now gathering information about the effects of long-term wrongful imprisonment."

When a Birmingham newspaper recently reported that a whispering campaign was circulating, criticising the men, Hugh Callaghan's psychologist, Dr Ray Aldridge, wrote to the newspaper staking his reputation on Mr Callaghan's innocence. It was a welcome gesture, given that no government minister has had the decency to do the same thing.

The Six are now hoping that Jack Straw will be courageous enough to lay the matter to rest, and to say "Sorry" on behalf of us all.

"I don't think money would solve most of their difficulties," says Ms Peirce. "Money would not compensate them for the lost time and the problems associated with their imprisonment, but the fact that so small an award has been offered represents another rejection and has caused great pain in its own right. It is not sending the message that needs to be sent - that these men are innocent - and it has not been accompanied by an apology"n

Sport
footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + echSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Clinical Negligence Solicitor

    Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

    Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

    £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

    Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

    Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM A high qual...

    DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, Linux, Shell, Bash)

    £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, L...

    Day In a Page

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone