Silcott offered further payment for conviction: Police indignant that some injured officers still waiting for compensation

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The Independent Online
WINSTON SILCOTT, awarded a pounds 10,000 interim payment for his wrongful conviction for the murder of Constable Keith Blakelock, has been offered further compensation and may also win civil damages from the police.

He 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.

Police officers were angry yesterday about the award to Silcott, 34, who was cleared by the Court of Appeal of killing PC Blakelock during the Broadwater Farm riot in 1985. He is still serving a prison sentence for another murder.

But lawyers pointed out that under the present system, which awards about pounds 15,000 for each year served in prison minus amounts deducted for other convictions, Silcott is only getting what he is entitled to.

Silcott said yesterday that the interim payment had been received last year. He said: 'The money was given for the simple reason that the appeal court found that my interview notes were tampered with.'

Asked about the size of the payment, he said: 'That's nothing. At the end of the day that's a joke. We're still going to take the police to the civil courts. I am planning to sue the Metropolitan Police.'

Adrian Clarke, his solicitor, said Silcott was also considering whether to accept a second undisclosed compensation sum.

Speaking by telephone, Silcott who is serving life at Swaleside Prison, Kent, for the earlier murder of a boxer, Anthony Smith, said: 'At the end of the day the people who are complaining don't know what they are talking about. They are falsely reporting this.'

But Mike Bennett, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said that Silcott had received compensation more quickly than some officers injured during the course of their duties.

PC Richard Coombes, awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal for bravery during the Broadwater Farm riot, has yet to reach a final compensation settlement for the facial injuries received that night which forced him to retire. Mr Bennett said: 'We seem to reward the wrong people.'

The compensation scheme for victims of miscarriages of justice was set up under the Criminal Justice Act 1988 to put the existing system of ex-gratia payments on to a statutory basis. It covers cases where a conviction has been overturned due to new evidence.

In such cases, people apply to the Home Office and if officials are satisfied that they come within the terms of the Act they are asked to submit a more detailed claim. This covers the time spent in prison and expenses such as the cost of visits for their families.

The claim then goes to Sir David Calcutt QC, the assessor who decided on the size of Silcott's interim award. There is no fixed scale but payments are generally about pounds 15,000 for each year served which is reduced if there are previous convictions.

There is no appeal against the assessor's award and large sums may mean that the victim is no longer entitled to get legal aid to pursue a subsequent claim for damages in the civil courts.

This is not likely to be a problem for Silcott who said he had given his interim award money to his family because he was unable to spend it in prison.

Among the biggest awards have been pounds 200,000 interim compensation to each of the Birmingham Six, who spent 15 years in jail for the Birmingham pub bombings, and pounds 1.1m in total to members of the Maguire Seven, who served four to nine years for possession of explosive substances.

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