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Wrongly jailed man to stage Christmas hunger strike over ‘bed and board’ charge

08 Dec 2023 4 minute read
Michael O’Brien

Martin Shipton

An innocent man who spent more than 11 years in jail for a murder he didn’t commit is planning to start a hunger strike on Christmas Day in protest at the Ministry of Justice’s failure to refund more than £37,000 he was charged for “bed and board” during his imprisonment.

Michael O’Brien, one of the so-called Cardiff Newsagent Three, was convicted of the 1987 murder of newsagent Phillip Saunders in what was assumed to be a robbery outside his home in the city’s Canton district.

After a long campaign, the convictions of Mr O’Brien and his co-accused Darren Hall and Ellis Sherwood were quashed by the Court of Appeal. It was recognised that they were victims of a miscarriage of justice and they later received compensation.

But in Mr O’Brien’s case, the sum of around £37,500 was deducted from the amount he received to take account of the cost of housing and feeding him while he was in prison.

Penalised

He challenged the decision, arguing that he shouldn’t be penalised in any way as a result of his wrongful conviction. But a barrister representing the claims assessor defended the bed and board charge, saying that if someone were earning “at liberty”, they would have to spend money on living expenses.

“To put him in the position he would have been in had the miscarriage of justice not occurred, one must deduct the living expenses,” it was argued.

Eventually, Mr O’Brien abandoned the challenge after receiving legal advice that said he could end up paying £140k in legal costs if his challenge was unsuccessful.

But he received fresh hope following the case of Andrew Malkinson, whose murder conviction was quashed after he had spent 17 years in prison in England. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said shortly afterwards that people who had been wrongly convicted should not have to pay “living expenses” for the time they spent in prison.

Mr O’Brien’s solicitors have been in touch with the Ministry of Justice in recent months, arguing that their client and all others whose compensation for wrongful imprisonment had been subject to the “bed and board” rule should have the deducted money paid to them. So far, however, the Ministry of Justice has simply said that the matter is under consideration.

Absurd

Mr O’Brien said: “After the Prime Minister and the Justice Secretary Alex Chalk scrapped this absurd charge on all future victims of miscarriages of justice, my lawyers in August of this year applied to have my bed and board charges returned. We have still not had a proper response by the Ministry of Justice and it’s been three and a half months since the initial letter was sent to them.

“What has become clear Is that the Ministry of Justice is clearly giving my lawyers the run around and appears to be deliberately delaying making a decision whether or not to reimburse us. In the light of this I have decided as a last resort to highlight the appalling behaviour towards victims of miscarriages of justice like myself and will be fasting for justice and refusing my Christmas meals over the festive period and starting a hunger strike on Christmas Day.

“I want to express my anger at the continuing victimisation of Innocent people who should never have been charged for their wrongful imprisonment by the Ministry of Justice. Where is the logic in this?”

When Nation.Cymru contacted the Ministry of Justice, we were told that the matter was under consideration and that no estimate could be given about the length of time that might pass before a decision was reached.


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Erisian
Erisian
2 months ago

They forgot to charge him for the costs of the original trial too!

Michael O,'Brien
Michael O,'Brien
2 months ago
Reply to  Erisian

What’s that supposed to mean

John Rogers
John Rogers
2 months ago

I think that you will find that Erisian is being sarcastic and indicating that the money grabbing authorities, if they could, would find all sorts of ludicrous ways of getting even more money out of the misfortune of innocent people.

Michael O,'Brien
Michael O,'Brien
2 months ago
Reply to  John Rogers

Sorry I thought he was having a go my apologies

hdavies15
hdavies15
2 months ago

Those bar stewards have some bleedin’ cheek. They should be coughing up an amount bigger than that for subjecting you to the discomfort of being incarcerated. That would be on top of compensation for wrongful conviction, which is the failure of the justice system and corrupt police practices. Not seeing any supportive comments in this report from likes of your local M.P, A.M’s and all sorts of other eminent Welsh politicians who are quick to spout if someone is unfairly treated in another country. Good luck to you and stay well.

Michael O,'Brien
Michael O,'Brien
2 months ago
Reply to  Erisian

Sorry I thought you were having a go at me

Ap Kenneth
2 months ago

£37K for horrible conditions and food not of your choice. I know the costs of incarcerating people are huge but surely it is the police sevice/pps that put Mr O,Brien in that position and should suffer the costs?

Mike
Mike
2 months ago

I expect they’ll keep it ‘under consideration’ until somebody makes enough of a noise. Maybe time for Nation.Cymru to start a campaign?

It is disgraceful and deeply insulting to charge the wrongly convicted for their bed and board. Sounds like an idea from the Middle Ages!

LucyLocket
LucyLocket
2 months ago

This is the same man who has the cheek to slate Paddy Hill. That is a disgrace!!!!

michael obrien
michael obrien
2 months ago
Reply to  LucyLocket

You know nothing thats gone on so best keep it zipped some people obviously don’t like the truth

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