Bentleys will not get any payout

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The Independent Online
THE FAMILY of Derek Bentley, whose conviction for murdering a policeman was quashed 45 years after the teenager was hanged, will not receive any compensation, Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, said yesterday.

He said the circumstances of the case fell outside the compensation scheme; he had considered using his discretionary powers to order a payout but decided against it. He also argued that the Court of Appeal judgment last July did not completely exonerate Bentley.

Bentley's niece, Maria Bentley-Dingwall, and his brother Dennis said they would seek a judicial review to try to overturn the ruling. Bentley's niece said she wept when she heard the news. "The compensation would have represented for my family some form of justice in a very small way." Any money she did receive would go towards fighting capital punishment in the US and setting up a scholarship in Britain.

Bentley, 19, was convicted with 16-year-old Christopher Craig of the shooting of Sidney Miles during a break-in at a confectionery warehouse in Croydon, south London, in 1952, although it was Craig who fired the fatal shot. Bentley was convicted on the word of policemen who said he told his accomplice: "Let him have it, Chris."

The jury was never told Bentley had a mental age of 11. Controversy over the case helped to fuel the campaign for abolishing capital punishment.

Bentley's conviction was overturned on the basis that the summing-up and direction to the jury of the trial judge, Lord Chief Justice Lord Goddard, was flawed on several counts.

Yesterday Mr Straw said that because Bentley's conviction was overturned on the basis of mistakes by the judge, his case fell outside the compensation scheme. There were no other "sufficiently exceptional" circumstances leading up to his conviction to merit a payment. Mr Straw said: "I am deeply sorry Derek Bentley was executed as a result of a miscarriage of justice and that the quashing of his conviction has come so late ... My decision not to make a compensation payment must not be interpreted as detracting from Derek Bentley's acquittal."

Bentley's relatives intend challenging the decision in the English courts and, if necessary, the European Court of Human Rights.

Ms Bentley-Dingwall said: "As soon as they killed him my family gave up their lives to make sure he was exonerated. What price can you put on that? It's just a form of justice for us. We can't take anyone to court for Derek's killing. This is our only form of retribution. I really thought we would receive something."

No compensation payments have been made to relatives of people wrongfully executed. But it is believed the Home Office is preparing to pay relatives of Mahmood Mattan, executed in 1952 for murder and cleared last year.

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