Scotland Yard refuses to pay pounds 500,000 Silcott legal bill

COMPENSATION WRANGLE Police pay man wrongly convicted of PC Blakelock murder pounds 50,000, but will go to court to challenge legal costs
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The Independent Online
SCOTLAND YARD is to challenge a pounds 500,000 legal bill which it is being asked to pay, after the wrongful conviction of Winston Silcott for the murder of PC Keith Blakelock.

The Metropolitan Police yesterday formally agreed at the High Court in London to pay Silcott pounds 50,000 damages for malicious prosecution. But requests for an estimated pounds 500,000 costs, incurred by both sides during the six-year legal battle, were rejected by the Metropolitan Police as "not a figure we recognise".

The police are considering whether to go to court for an independent assessment of the costs. If they lose the appeal they will have to pay further expenses. The family of PC Blakelock and his former colleagues have strongly attacked the payment of damages to Silcott and have threatened civil action.

Silcott, 37, accepted the out-of-court settlement, which the Metropolitan Police made without admitting liability, after his conviction for the murder of PC Blakelock in the 1985 Broadwater Farm riots in north London was quashed on appeal. He is currently serving a life sentence for the murder in 1984 of boxer Anthony Smith, 22.

Tony Murphy, of Silcott's solicitors Bindman & Partners, said yesterday that his firm's costs were pounds 200,000 to pounds 250,000 and that police lawyers' costs were significantly more. Mr Murphy said the Metropolitan Police had agreed to an out-of-court settlement because "they are desperate to avoid a trial".

Reports of the costs are said to have angered Sir Paul Condon, the outgoing Metropolitan Police Commissioner. Yesterday the police issued a strongly worded statement sayingthat it would not be paying the pounds 500,000 court costs to Mr Silcott's solicitors. It added: "[It] is not a figure we recognise. The agreement provides for the payment of reasonable costs and if Mr Silcott's solicitors are looking for such a figure they are likely to be disappointed."

A spokesman added: "If we can't reach an agreement it will be a matter for the courts."

Silcott's counsel, Tim Owen, told the High Court yesterday that his client was arrested six days after the murder of PC Blakelock and interviewed on five occasions. The notes of the first four interviews showed that Silcott made no reply to the questions put to him. The notes of the fifth recorded allegedly incriminating remarks, which Silcott maintained were false. He was charged with the murder the day after his arrest and was convicted in March 1987.

In June 1991, the notes of the fifth interview were subjected to a forensic science examination and were found to have been tampered with. As a result, Silcott's conviction was quashed as unsafe and unsatisfactory. He was later awarded pounds 17,000 compensation for his wrongful conviction.

Outside court, Stafford Scott, a friend of Silcott's, said: "Winston was not on trial in these proceedings, the police were. The police have backed down at the 11th hour at huge cost to the public purse. It is not possible to compensate Winston or his family for the damage that this case has done."

Silcott's mother Mary said after the hearing: "We have had enough. It's 14 years now. We are suffering ... just leave [my son] alone and let him get his life together."