Case study: Barry George.

The case of Barry George, a man who spent 7 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit (Lomax, 2003). He once told a story to The Independent (2011), where some people approached him and congratulated him on his successful appeal, but when he first saw them, he thought he will get beaten up, he was scared.

His suffering did not finish when he was freed. He was still seen as a guilty man by many (Naughton and Tan, 2010a), for example when he was stopped and searched by the police for dozens of times for ridiculous reasons (Penrose, 2013; The Telegraph, 2009) or when he had been accused of crimes by the media (Sky News, 2009; The Sun, 2009) as well as when he was forced to leave the country he called home (Penrose, 2013). He never received any compensation either (Edwards, 2010; Hall, 2013; Williams, no year).

After Barry George’s release, the police was trying to secure Mr George’s surveillance through Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) (The Metro, 2008a), which was developed for people who may pose risk to the public, but are not necessarily registered as sex offenders (National MAPPA Team et al., 2012; The Metro, 2008a;). However, the police was also aware of the legal difficulties of keeping Mr George under surveillance, such as the fact that he has not been caught offending for more than 20 years (The Metro, 2008a; The Metro, 2008b; Williams, no year) and that these offences are now spent (The Telegraph, 2009). Apart from the surveillance plan, Mr George claims he had been stopped and searched for dozens of times before he fled to Ireland (Penrose, 2013). The telegraph (2009) and Penrose (2013) stated that the reasons for stopping and searching Mr George included “Paying close attention to coffee shops” and “Looking in shop windows and watching cars go by” respectively. It had also been stated that Mr George is afraid to come back and live in the UK, because he believes that he might get charged with an offence in similar circumstances to his 2001 arrest (Penrose, 2013).

Paddy Hill once said that being in a prison is like being in a war zone, because of all the threats you see around you and, when something happens to somebody else, you think you might be next (Hill, 2010). Does somebody who experienced a prison like that for no reason deserve to be treated so badly by the police?

Apart from being stopped and searched for countless times, Mr George was accused of committing crimes by multiple newspapers (The Independent, 2011). As a result of that he, for example, received an apology from The Sun (2009) for publishing articles that indicated his guilt as well as from The News Group Newspapers, which  withdrew some of their articles, apologised and agreed to pay libel damages for false allegations (Sky News, 2009).

Even the UK Government did not acknowledge Mr George’s innocence by refusing any compensation for the miscarriage of justice he suffered. The then home secretary Jack Straw refused compensation one the grounds that Mr George did not prove his innocence and the police had no other suspects (Edwards, 2010; Williams, no year). Is lack of other suspects a reasonable ground to refuse compensation for somebody who has been found not guilty in a retrial? With this kind of thinking all Birmingham Six men, for instance, would not receive any compensation, although every piece of evidence against them has been discredited and there is basically no case against them at all (Bell, 2014; Morning Star, 2015). Even if a lot of people think Barry George suffered enough, the Government went even further and refused to compensate Mr George after the Supreme Court redefined what a miscarriage of justice is in 2011 (The Huffington Post, 2013; Whitehead, 2011). As a result of such decision, many newspaper articles stated that the Government thinks Mr George is “Not innocent enough” (Bates, 2015; Gye, 2013; Hall, 2013; ITV News, 2013; The Telegraph, 2013).

It does not matter whether a victim of a miscarriage of justice is guilty or innocent for as long as such person cannot claim compensation on the grounds that a reasonable jury could have prosecuted (Quirk, 2014). The important part of the new definition is “No conviction could possibly be based upon it”, and if this part cannot be satisfied, some people will still consider the acquitted person as guilty. Reasons for such public assumption are, for instance, the successful appeal of M25 Three, where Lord Justice Mantell said “This is not a finding of innocence, far from it” (R v Davis, Rowe, Johnson, 2000) and another successful appeal of Bridgewater Four, where it was said that “This Court is not concerned with the guilt or innocence of the appellants; but only with the safety of their convictions” (R v Hickey & Ors [1997] EWCA Crim 2028). Such judgements lead to a public belief that many appeals are allowed due to a technicality. Similarly, Campbell (2015) stated that in most cases people suffering from miscarriages of justice will have to find the actual offender before they will receive compensation and clear their names.

Considering everything above, it seems clear that even after Barry George was released from prison; some people still doubted his innocence and neither the police nor the Government, nor the media helped him change that. Naughton and Tan (2010b) implied that appeal courts are only concerned about the safety of conviction rather than factual guilt or innocence; hence the public lacks trust in miscarriage of justice victims’ innocence even after a successful appeal, as it can be seen in Mr George’s case.

Police’s attention he received made a devastating impact on his quality of life; therefore leaving the UK was a reasonable step to improve his wellbeing. Most likely his opinion about returning to the UK will not change for as long as the real offender is not caught, which would mean that the evidence would be so discredited that “No conviction could possibly be based upon it”.

References

Bates, M. (2015) Innocent – But Not Innocent Enough, The Justice Gap [Online]. Available at: http://thejusticegap.com/2015/02/innocent-innocent-enough/ (Accessed: 22 April 2016).

Bell, B. (2014) Birmingham Pub Bombings: Why Has No-One Been Brought to Justice?, BBC [Online]. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-30118137 (Accessed: 04 November 2015).

Campbell, D. (2015) Why is Britain refusing to compensate victims of miscarriage of justice, The Guardian [Online]. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/feb/23/britain-refusing-compensate-victims-miscarriage-justice (Accessed: 23 September 2015).

Edwards, R. (2010) Barry George Refused £1.4 Million Compensation Claim Over Jill Dando Murder, The Telegraph [Online]. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/7603460/Barry-George-refused-1.4-million-compensation-claim-over-Jill-Dando-murder.html (Accessed: 23 October 2015).

Gye, H. (2013) Barry George Loses Compensation Bid for Being Wrongly Convicted of Jill Dando’s Murder as Judges Agree with Former Justice Secretary thet He was ‘Not Innocent Enough’, The Daily Mail [Online]. Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2358815/Barry-George-loses-compensation-bid-wrongly-convicted-Jill-Dandos-murder.html (Accessed: 26 October 2015).

Hall, J. (2013) ‘Not Innocent Enough to be Compensated’: Barry George Loses Legal Battle for Compensation Over Wrongful Conviction for Jill Dando’s Murder, The Independent [Online]. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/not-innocent-enough-to-be-compensated-barry-george-loses-legal-battle-for-compensation-over-wrongful-8697397.html (Accessed: 27 October 2015).

Hill, A. (2010) Paddy Hill: ‘All I Think About Is Shooting Police. I am Traumatised’, The Guardian [Online]. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/law/2010/nov/04/paddy-hill-birmingham-six-counselling (Accessed: 02 November 2015).

ITV News (2013) Barry George Wants Justice for Jill Dando’s Family, Itv [Online]. Available at: http://www.itv.com/news/2013-07-17/barry-george-wants-justice-for-jill-dandos-family/ (Accessed: 30 October 2015).

Lomax, S. (2003) Trial and Error. The Case of Barry George, The Libertarian Alliance [Online]. Available at: http://www.libertarian.co.uk/lapubs/legan/legan040.htm (Accessed: 27 October 2015).

Morning Star (2015) Fitted up, Beaten up and Left to Rot in Jail. The Birmingham Six, Morning Star [Online]. Available at: http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-3f03-Fitted-up,-beaten-up-and-left-to-rot-in-jail-The-Birmingham-Six-1-2/#.VjolZfntmko (Accessed: 04 November 2015).

National MAPPA Team, National Offender Management Service, Offender Management and Public Protection Group (2012) MAPPA Guidance 2012: Version 4, Ministry of Justice [Online]. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/406117/MAPPA_guidance_2012_part1_v4_Feb_2015.pdf (Accessed: 31 May 2016).

Naughton, M. and Tan, G. (2010a) The Right to Access DNA Testing by Alleged Innocent Victims of Wrongful Convictions in the United Kingdom?, International Journal of Evidence and Proof, 14 (4), pp. 326-345 Networked Knowledge [Online]. Available at: http://netk.net.au/CCRC/Naughton4.pdf (Accessed: 12 October 2015).

Naughton, M. and Tan, G. (2010b) Restoring the presumption of innocence to successful appellants, in: Claims of Innocence: An introduction to wrongful convictions and how they might be challenged. Bristol: University of Bristol, pp. 70-72.

Penrose, J. (2013) Barry George First Interview for Five Years: I Hope I Live Long Enough to Find Out Who REALLY Murdered Jill Dando, The Mirror [Online]. Available at: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/barry-george-first-interview-five-2051448 (Accessed: 27 October 2015).

Quirk, H. (2014) Justice – and Compensation – Denied by New Legislation, The University of Manchester [Online]. Available at: http://blog.policy.manchester.ac.uk/featured/2014/04/justice-and-compensation-denied-by-new-legislation/ (Accessed: 02 December 2015).

R v Davis (Michael George), Rowe (Raphael George) and Johnson (Randolph Egbert). Court of Appeal Criminal Division. 17 July 2000 (Unreported).

R v Hickey & Ors [1997] EWCA Crim 2028

Sky News (2009) Barry George Wins Libel Payout Over Reports, Sky News [Online]. Available at: http://news.sky.com/story/745901/barry-george-wins-libel-payout-over-reports (Accessed: 27 October 2015).

The Huffington Post (2013) Barry George Compensation Denial Over Jill Dando Murder Is A ‘Travesty Of Justice’, The Huffington Post [Online]. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/07/09/barry-george-jill-dando-murder-compensation-appeal_n_3566579.html (Accessed: 27 October 2015).

The Independent (2011) Barry George: ‘I Am Not Angry, Certainly Not at Society. But I Would Use the Word Disgusted&rsquo, The Independent [Online]. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/barry-george-i-am-not-angry-certainly-not-at-society-but-i-would-use-the-word-disgustedrsquo-1987499.html (Accessed: 30 October 2015).

The Metro (2008a) George ‘Poses no Danger to Women’, The Metro [Online]. Available at: http://metro.co.uk/2008/08/05/george-poses-no-danger-to-women-348885/ (Accessed: 29 October 2015).

The Metro (2008b) Bid to Keep Eye on George, The Metro [Online]. Available at: http://metro.co.uk/2008/08/05/bid-to-keep-eye-on-george-348624/ (Accessed: 29 October 2015).

The Sun (2009) Barry George: Apology, The Sun [Online]. Available at: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/2775370/Barry-George-An-apology.html (Accessed: 27 October 2015).

The Telegraph (2009) Barry George Wants ‘Police off His Back’ Court Hears, The Telegraph [Online]. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/6833611/Barry-George-wants-police-off-his-back-court-hears.html (Accessed: 23 October 2015).

The Telegraph (2013) Jill Dando: Barry George ‘Not Innocent Enough to Receive Compensation’, The Telegraph [Online]. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/9827262/Jill-Dando-Barry-George-not-innocent-enough-to-receive-compensation.html (Accessed: 27 October 2015).

Whitehead, T. (2011) Court Paves Way for More Compensation Claims in Miscarriages of Justice, The Telegraph [Online]. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/8507274/Court-paves-way-for-more-compensation-claims-in-miscarriages-of-justice.html (Accessed: 23 October 2015).

Williams, R. (No year) Guilty Until You Prove Your Innocence? The Case of Barry George, Robert Williams [Online]. Available at: http://www.robert-williams.co.uk/blog/30-guilty-until-you-prove-your-innocence-the-case-of-barry-george (Accessed: 27 October 2015).

 

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