Leading Article: Silcott deserves his money

Share
Related Topics
THERE is an outcry in the media against the reported award of pounds 10,000 compensation to Winston Silcott for his wrongful conviction for the murder of PC Keith Blakelock in the Broadwater Farm riot of 1985. The original guilty verdict was overturned in 1991, when the Court of Appeal ruled that evidence against him had been fabricated.

The reaction to the compensation is based on a complex mix of emotional and more rational arguments. At the time of his conviction, Mr Silcott was already in prison for killing a boxer called Anthony Smith, having been on bail at the time of the Broadwater Farm riot. So arguably he suffered no loss of liberty, the main basis for compensation.

Less logically, the objection is raised that the initial pounds 10,000 payment - made last year, Mr Silcott revealed from prison yesterday - came through more swiftly than any final settlement for PC Coombes, who was severely injured in the same riot and later received an award for his gallantry. Other elements in the outrage have been a disgusted reaction from PC Blakelock's widow, who said the payment made a mockery of British justice; and the evident reluctance of the police, two of whose detectives were last week cleared of fabricating evidence against Mr Silcott, to accept that he is innocent.

All these arguments are irrelevant where they are not downright unfair. The rules of this country's criminal justice system are of little value if they are not applied equally to everyone. The salient fact is the Court of Appeal's conclusion that Mr Silcott had been wrongfully convicted. Yet during, after and even before that trial he was demonised by much of the press to an extent rare in the annals of crime. A clearer case for compensation it would be hard to imagine, regardless of whether or not he was in prison at the time.

In the eyes of the law, Mr Silcott's capacity to feel distress is no less than that of a white, middle- class victim of a miscarriage of justice. In fact, because of his previous conviction, his interim compensation is actually lower than the norm of pounds 15,000: Paul Hill of the Guildford Four, who had been (wrongly) convicted of the previous murder of a British soldier, received the same pounds 10,000 award.

As for the relative speed of the various compensation mechanisms, that is a separate issue. The Silcott payment was recommended by an independent assessor appointed by the Home Office: Sir David Calcutt, QC, no less. Cases such as that of the injured PC Coombes are decided by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board.

The alternative to semi-automatic Home Office compensation is for victims of miscarriages of justice to sue, a much more expensive and lengthy process in every respect. Mr Silcott and his solicitor are now pressing ahead with a separate legal action, while considering whether to accept a second undisclosed sum as final payment. All those offended by the first should brace themselves for one or even two further rounds of indignation.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Seven per cent of young men have recently stopped using deodorant  

‘Sweaty-gate’ leaves a bad smell for PRs and journalists

Danny Rogers
Alison Parker and Adam Ward: best remembered before tragedy  

The only way is ethics: Graphic portraits of TV killings would upset many, not just our readers in the US

Will Gore
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border