Birmingham Six to challenge `insulting' offer

Click to follow
The Birmingham Six are heading for a confrontation with Jack Straw today, despite an eleventh-hour attempt to end their six-year fight for compensation.

Four of the men plan to picket the Home Office to vent their fury at an "insulting" offer which would see the eldest - Hugh Callaghan, 67 - being paid up to pounds 200,000 less than the other men.

Despite serving 16 years in prison for a pub bombing that they did not commit, the six - Hugh Callaghan, Billy Power, Paddy Hill, Richard McIlkenny, Gerry Hunter and Johnny Walker - have still not been fully compensated, six years after winning their freedom. They have received interim payments totalling pounds 250,000, but having to buy property away from Birmingham and not being able to work has strained the men financially and psychologically.

Following a report in The Independent last week, Sir David Calcutt, who is responsible for compensating victims of miscarriages of justice, made a new interim offer on Tuesday which has served only to anger the men even more.

His offer, which has not yet been fully explained, would see Mr Walker and Mr McIlkenny receive pounds 250,000; Mr Hunter would be given pounds 200,000; Mr Power and Mr Hill would get pounds 100,000; and Mr Callaghan would be given just pounds 50,000.

It is understood that the men plan to refuse the offer and to insist that they be paid the same amount, given that they all endured 16 years of suffering. Sources say that the men at the top end of the scale are determined that their higher offers should not result in a "divide and rule" scenario.

"This is a downright insult," Mr Callaghan said yesterday. "Calcutt has never even been to interview us. He doesn't know how we feel, what we went through and how it has left us. I'd like to see him removed from this - he's made a complete hash of it.

"This is an attempt to divide and rule but we're all standing together on this one and we plan to tell Jack Straw [the Home Secretary] to make a serious offer."

They are prepared to accept pounds 250,000 as an interim payment on condition that the full and final settlement is concluded within three months. Mr Power said: "We stood together in 1974 and we are standing up together now. We will not accept the divisions that the Home Office is trying to wedge between us."