It is impossible to put a true value on all that Siôn Jenkins has lost since he was first wrongly accused of murder. He was the victim of a legal system which got it wrong. Yet despite the depth of the suffering inflicted on him, and even though his case is recognised as a major miscarriage of justice, the system refused to recognise his entitlement to compensation.
There is no justifiable argument for this refusal by the legal system to acknowledge the victims of injustice. Nothing can erase the moral imperative for it to acknowledge the enormity of what happened to Siôn Jenkins, and others who, like him, have been wrongly convicted
What price justice?
Sussex police were desperate not to pay compensation to Siôn Jenkins. They had already had to pay out substantial compensation to the family of the late James Ashley, and to Linda Watson and her daughter. The family of the late Jay Abatan are also due compensation for their losses at the hands of Sussex police. For a police force which is the fifth most poorly funded in the country, the prospect of handing over any more payments in the glare of publicity must be intolerable.
The Jenkins case was estimated to have cost an estimated £10m of public money, squandered on a prosecution case which was generally regarded as weak from the outset, yet pursued to almost incredible lengths. There were three very costly and highly-publicised prosecution cases. They were all flawed, inconsistent and ultimately unsuccessful.
Even then the media, could not resist the impulse to savage their victim. Enough misinformation was tossed around to destroy a man’s reputation and cause immeasurable personal damage, but one truth survived the onslaught:
Siôn Jenkins did not kill Billie-Jo.
The Home Office view
When Charles Clarke was Home Secretary he wished to reflect public opinion by tipping the scales of justice in favour of the victims of crime. It is reasonable to ask if he was equally concerned that there were victims of the criminal justice system itself, individuals whose lives had been totally disrupted by the miscarriages of justice they had suffered. According to Charles Clarke at that time, the Home Office was not fit for purpose.
- When Billie-Jo Jenkins was murdered in February 1997, there was a Conservative government and Michael Howard was the Home Secretary.
- When Siôn Jenkins was wrongly convicted of murder in July 1998 the Labour party had been in power for a year and Jack Straw was the Home Secretary.
- When the Criminal Cases Review Commission started examining his case during 2001, David Blunkett was the Home Secretary.
- When Siôn Jenkins was awaiting his first retrial, following the quashing of his conviction in 2004, Charles Clarke was the Home Secretary.
- When Siôn Jenkins was starting to rebuild his life after enduring a total of three murder trials and two appeals, John Reid was the Home Secretary
- When Siôn Jenkins’ lawyers applied for compensation Jacqui Smith was the Home Secretary. Alan Johnson replaced her for less than a year until the General Election of 2010 produced a change of government.
- Today Theresa May holds the office of Home Secretary.
Since Billie-Jo was murdered there have been three general elections, eight Home Secretaries, and disarray at the Home Office. Political careers have soared and foundered. At a more local level the same is true of careers within Sussex police. Individuals connected with the case have retired or moved on.
The demands of justice, meanwhile, are constant and unchanging. Siôn Jenkins and others in his situation are just left to get on with their dismantled lives. After the battle to overturn a wrongful conviction, they face a further battle to claim what is morally their entitlement.
Siôn Jenkins was cleared by the law of the charge of murder. In doing so the legal system acknowledged that a major miscarriage of justice had been perpetuated for almost a decade. He has never received any apology and there has been no move to compensate him for all his losses.