On not getting it

Iain Dale makes what I consider to be an error here.

This may be very unchristian of me (which I suppose is unsurprising for a self-confessed Agnostic) but I was none too impressed when I read in the Evening Standard that Colin Stagg had been awarded £706,000 for his wrongful arrest and prosecution over the murder of Rachel Nickell on Wimbledon Common in 1992.

My first thought was: I wonder what kind of compensation Rachel\’s son Alex and her partner Andre got. Does anyone know?

Criminal compensation is a very difficult area, and most comparisons are probably completely unreasonable, but when a woman gets £12,000 for being raped, can a payout of £706,000 for wrongful prosecution really be justified? Stagg described the award as "like winning the lottery" – a singularly insensitive thing to say in the circumstances.

He\’s comparing two entirely different things. Criminal compensation for injuries is what happens when the State tries to compensate for the actions of an individual. It might indeed be too low (or too high, just right, whatever) but that\’s an entirely different thing from compensation paid by the State for injuries perpetrated by the State.

In the first situation the State is not responsible, while still trying to make amends. In the second the State is responsible for ameliorating it\’s own fuck up.

Think of it this way: if we as an individual have hurt someone, our duty to them, our duty to apologise, to try to make whole, is really rather different from our duty to aid those who have been hurt by others.


12 thoughts on “On not getting it”

  1. Three cheers at this post.

    Also, anyone throwing vitriol at Stagg for being ‘insensitive’ should be locked in a cell for 14 months labelled as a rapist/murderer; if their reaction on release meets whatever criteria Ian Dale is using for ‘sensitiveness’, then they can claim the moral high ground.

    Also also, it’s interesting that this case and the George case have united the most unpleasant, authoritarian elements of both conservatism and feminism in an unholy alliance versus everyone who isn’t completely fucking mad…

  2. This reminds me of the recent post you had about Barry George. And posts such as these explain why I love reading your blog: an issue identified and clarified in a few lines.

    I completely agree with your analysis. Additionally, when one examines the sustained campaign of the police to push Stagg into confessing (which he didn’t do), and the reaction after the evidence was ruled inadmissible (“we’re not looking for anyone else” – i.e. he did it, the court got it wrong), and the consequences for his employability and position in society as a direct result of this, the compensation paid to Stagg may be viewed as being a little on the low side. But, that – of course – involves a different set of values and considerations.


  3. But the State was responsible for her death, albeit indirectly. We hire the state to protect us and at the same time forego some methods of self defence as part of the deal eg guns.

    The state failed her so she/her family get compensation.

    No, I’m not arguing for the legalising of guns

  4. “The state failed her so she/her family get compensation.”

    Where the state does fail, as it has from time to time by negligently bad policing, a separate legal action is usually launched, with specific compensation paid (which may run to the millions). That’s very different from the CICB awards we’re talking here.

  5. Apparently the police officers (and CPS lawyers) guilty of perpetrating this injustice have not noticeably suffered or, if they have, have been generously compensated. For instance, the policewoman involved in the honeytrap operation received £125,000 damages for stress in an out of court settlement from the Met. I expect La Bindel to instance that as the only good thing to come out of the whole shambles.

  6. “..also, it’s interesting that this case and the George case…”

    I wouldn’t lump them together if I were you. In fact, Stagg would rather you didn’t too…

    “Apparently the police officers (and CPS lawyers) guilty of perpetrating this injustice have not noticeably suffered…”

    And probably never will. Sir Ian Blair is still sucking up Met tea and bicuits, after all…

  7. Well said, Tim. Mind you, I’d abolish the criminal injuries compensation thingy anyway – it was a daft idea from the beginning. And like Umbongo, I’d like to see policemen and lawyers brought to book properly. Not every time they make a mistake, but every time they take leave of all sense, as in this case and the Barry George case. Judges too, if the error is flagrant enough, if we could find a way that doesn’t put them at the mercy of politicians. or “enquiries”.

  8. “I wouldn’t lump them together if I were you.”

    True, George spent eight years behind bars on no evidence, whereas the judge at least had the decency to throw Stagg’s case out when it came to trial…

  9. “Mind you, I’d abolish the criminal injuries compensation thingy anyway – it was a daft idea from the beginning.”

    On the contrary, I’d strengthen it to include all personal injuries, like New Zealand does. The benefits of living in a society free of the cancer of scum sucking ambulance chasers cannot be understated.

  10. The Pedant's Apprentice

    “the cancer of scum sucking ambulance chasers”; shouldn’t that allusion to our learned friends read “the cancer of scum-sucking ambulance chasers”?

  11. I don’t know if it’s true in the UK, but courts in the USA have ruled many times that the police have no duty to protect any given individual. But in the USA it’s not illegal to protect yourself.

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