Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

When An Acquittal Still Means Guilty

I might be unusual or even alone in this, but I find the decision not to award compensation to Sion Jenkins distinctly disturbing.

Jenkins, it will be recalled, was convicted of murdering his foster daughter Billie-Jo in 1997. In was a chilling and brutal case and Jenkins was widely reviled. Two appeals later, in 2004, his conviction was quashed when the appeal judge ruled that specks of blood on Jenkins' jacket, previously seen as highly incriminating, might have had an innocent explanation. At each of the two subsequent retrials the jury was unable to reach a verdict, and on 9 February 2006 Sion Jenkins was formally acquitted of the murder of his foster daughter.

Jenkins spent six years in prison. His marriage was destroyed, his life turned upside down, and he's been denied access to his natural daughters, who now live on the other side of the world. Whatever else you think about the case, you cannot deny that the man has paid a penalty.

There is, in English law, an overriding, all-encompassing principle; that an individual is innocent unless proven guilty. There is no burden of prove whatsoever on the accused to establish his innocence. Rather the entire burden lies with the State, to prove guilt. There is no equivalent of the Scottish verdict "Not proven", and nor should there be in my view. That means that in law, Jenkins is innocent of murder, following his acquittal in 2004. But it seems that the Ministry of Justice can unilaterally take a different view.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman is quoted as saying "For the purposes of paying compensation, the applicant must be shown to be 'clearly innocent'." That's an outrageous view. It pays no regard to the rights of a man who, as things stand, has been found to have been as innocent of this appalling crime as anybody else on the planet, and who has therefore been wrongly incarcerated. It seems that for the Justice Ministry, there are not two but three possible outcomes from a criminal trial; guilty, not guilty and not innocent. These are not the freedoms our forefathers fought and died for.

However much in might stick in the throats of some people, Sion Jenkins deserves redress, and the State should pay it.


Dick Puddlecote said...

It disturbs me too. I didn't like the cut of this case when it first came to court, there was more than a sniff of dodgy about it.

Once acquitted, you'd think that would be the end of it but now this just looks like sour grapes from the state.

I can't remember another judgment like it, TBH.

John R said...

Having created, by arbitrary internal Whitehall decision-making, several shades of "innocence" can we now assume there are also varieties of guilt?

Can I now expect to get a reduced, or even no, punishment if I'm not entirely guilty without a shadow of a doubt of some crime?

Who gave these faceless numpties the right to make decisions like this that actually have an effect on the whole legal system?

nuttycow said...

I do agree with you. The state made a mistake and ruined a man's life, therefore the state should pay.

The awful thing is that everytime I hear him or see him, I can't help but think he's guilty just because he was once found such. What does that say about me?!