Cleared man awarded pounds 96,500: New pay-out after allegations against West Midlands Police. Jason Bennetto reports

A MAN who spent more than five years in jail for a crime he did not commit was awarded pounds 96,500 yesterday by the Home Office, in what is believed to be the highest single payment made to someone cleared following allegations of misconduct by the disbanded West Midlands Serious Crime Squad.

This payment means hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money has now been paid in compensation and costs in cases involving men who were wrongly convicted or charged by the crime squad, disbanded in 1989. At least six men are still proceeding with civil actions, while a similar number are awaiting compensation from the Home Office.

Delroy Hare, 31, was sentenced to six years in prison in 1987 after being found guilty of robbery. The Court of Appeal quashed the conviction in May 1992 after serious discrepancies were discovered in evidence presented by the crime squad.

Lord Taylor, the Lord Chief Justice, expressed his 'deep regret' that Mr Hare was wrongly convicted. He was told that a scientific examination of the confession inexorably pointed to police 'cheating'. The test showed that the pages containing the confession were not written contemporaneously. Mr Hare had maintained at his 1987 trial that police had fabricated his confession.

'The evidence before the jury that they were genuine is now gravely called into question,' Lord Lane said. The Crown did not oppose the appeal but did not accept that there had been any 'cheating' by the police.

Yesterday's payment came from a Home Office scheme for victims of miscarriages of justice, which covers cases where a conviction has been overturned because of new evidence. Mr Hare is also trying to sue West Midlands Police for malicious prosecution. David Simon, Mr Hare's solicitor, said yesterday: 'For seven-and-a-half years Delroy Hare has insisted he has had no involvement in the robbery for which he spent more than five years in custody. He feels this offer of compensation fully vindicates him and represents an acknowledgement that he has been a victim of serious police misconduct. I'm delighted this matter has finally reached a satisfactory conclusion.'

So far, the force has been ordered to pay pounds 120,000 in damages to two men, as well as an estimated pounds 250,000 in costs; lawyers expect the final compensation bill to exceed pounds 1m.

The force agreed to pay pounds 70,000 damages last October to Paul Dandy, 28, who claimed detectives in the disbanded crime squad had fabricated his confession to armed robbery in 1987. Twenty men have had convictions quashed by the Court of Appeal after evidence compiled by crime squad detectives was discredited.

Last month, Derek Treadaway, 49, who served nine years in prison for armed robbery, won pounds 50,000 damages from the force after a High Court judge said he was satisfied detectives from the crime squad had placed a plastic bag over his head to extract a confession.

The 53-man squad was disbanded in August 1989 after allegations of falsified confessions in a series of failed prosecutions.

Mr Hare is the beneficiary of a system which has paid out pounds 5.5m in six years to about 100 victims of miscarriages of justice. Nearly pounds 500,000 in compensation has been paid in the past four months, including money to Winston Silcott for his wrongful conviction for the murder of Constable Keith Blakelock. The compensation covers the time spent in prison and expenses such as the cost of visits for their families.

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