Free - Now Get On with Your Life!
By Julian Young onShare:
From Inside Time August 2009
Sean Hodgson's Lawyer Julian Young is concerned at how miscarriage of justice cases are financially left to fend for themselves.
When an inmate leaves prison he is normally entitled to a release grant of about £46.00! That sum is intended to help until a job is found or benefits are calculated. Anyone who knows the Social Security and Benefits system knows that assessing benefits by the Department of Work and Pensions takes a considerable period of time, and a crisis loan, if granted, gives rise to an immediate debt which the Government is always anxious to have repaid as soon as possible. The Government position is that the Benefits Agencies are supposed to assess entitlements and arrange payments as soon as possible. However, a person released after a custodial sentence frequently will not be near the place where a bank account is held, the account may have been closed or dormant for a number of years, let alone months, and advising the agencies of rent etc. takes time! This, in itself, delays the assessment whilst the claimant has to exist on £46.00!
A convicted person is released on licence with a Probation officer assigned to him or her and the proper and reasonable expectation that Probation staff will help in sorting out accommodation, benefits, job interviews, access to a GP, hospital, Community Mental Health Team etc.
The system in the High Court really is not acceptable in this day and age. This is, in this sophisticated country, an unfortunate [I use that word instead of a much stronger one] and unacceptable state of affairs. This latter comment is not intended as any criticism whatsoever towards the Miscarriages of Justice Support Unit to whom I made reference above, their budget is small and they are doing the very best that they can within that budget especially when faced with an inmate whose needs may be considerable.
For Sean Hodgson and others there has been a need to seek guidance from a Solicitor and, especially in his case, assistance from Members of Parliament. To their considerable credit Hilary Armstrong [Labour] and Mark Field [Conservative] have both gone out of their way to help Sean and cut through administrative red tape – and he is a constituent of neither of them. But the point I make is that it should not be for our elected representatives to deal with such issues in this way.
If we can afford to keep an innocent man in custody for 27 years, we can, as a society, afford to look after him properly, at least in the short and medium term, when it is found that the system made an error. Perhaps that is one of the tests of a fair society.
The Benefits Agency awarded the client this amount of money despite knowing that the client had had his conviction quashed after being in prison for 15 years. The whole situation distressed the client as he could not believe this was how he was being treated after years of being wrongfully convicted. The way he found himself being treated further compounded the mental trauma he was experiencing as a result of the last 15 years.