Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Murky Waters

Sion Jenkins has been refused compensation for the time he spent in jail for his step-daughter's murder. The rationale that the Ministry of Justice has given is that "For the purposes of paying compensation, the applicant must be shown to be 'clearly innocent'."

I'm not sure that I'm very comfortable with this. Ultimately, guilt or innocence should be black and white. If you are guilty beyond reasonable doubt, then you are guilty. Otherwise you are innocent. It seems here that the Ministry of Justice are saying - "he's innocent, but we don't think he is so we're not going to compensate him for 6 lost years of his life".

I don't want to speculate on his guilt by the way, not my place as I haven't followed the case, but this to me seems like a slippery slope. It's the same logic of using ASBOs to jail people without trial - someone other than a jury finding people guilty or innocent. He may be a shit. He may have killed her. But since he has been acquitted, he should be compensated for his time spent in jail for something the court has decided he did not do.

The whole thing reminds me a bit of the civil case following the OJ Simpson trial. No doubt that if the police had done things differently, OJ would be in jail, if not already executed. But they didn't, and as such the court was obliged to acquit him. Subsequently, a civil court ruled against him and he paid a massive compensation claim to the victims' families. This again sits badly with me - if you're ruled innocent by a court of law, no other court should be able to dispute that verdict. It's not about whether he did it. It's about the principle of guilt and innocence being decided by a jury alone.

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