Sean Hodgson, who spent 27 years in jail for a crime he did not commit, has been given just £46 by the government with which to restart his life.
The Prison Service has awarded the mentally ill former prisoner the equivalent of £1.70 for every year he was wrongly imprisoned.
The payout, a resettlement grant to help ease the victim of one of Britain’s gravest miscarriages of justice back into society, was condemned as “the final insult” last night.
Julian Young, Hodgson’s solicitor, said: “I am absolutely astounded. I find it quite unbelievable, it is scandalous that, in these exceptional circumstances, additional funds could not be found. He has served 27 years for something he didn’t do and this is just insulting.”
Hodgson, who requires psychiatric care and is described as deeply institutionalised, is staying at a hostel in central London. Lawyers said the payment, designed to tide the 57-year-old over until he can start supporting himself or apply for emergency loans, had left Hodgson even more confused following his release last week.
“He has no idea of budgeting or the cost of living. Every element of society – and his life – has changed,” said Young.
This week, his lawyers will take the first steps to suing the state-owned Forensic Science Service whose mistakes meant Hodgson served almost 11 years longer than he should have. Last week, it emerged that the FSS wrongly claimed to have lost vital DNA evidence when lawyers asked about it in 1998. Friends are hopeful that the FSS, used by all police forces in England and Wales, will concede liability and offer a sum to compensate Hodgson.
Hodgson was jailed after confessing to the 1979 murder of 22-year-old barmaid Teresa de Simone in Southampton. Last Wednesday, the Court of Appeal cleared him of the crime, stating that analysis of blood and semen samples at the crime scene eliminated him as the killer.
This week, Hampshire Constabulary will launch a fresh appeal for witnesses, with the possibility of a voluntary DNA campaign, amid speculation that the real culprit could be a local man.
Hodgson, who is unmarried, was one of 300 suspects questioned by Hampshire detectives about Miss de Simone’s rape and murder in December 1979. Details of a new murder inquiry, led by detective chief inspector Phil McTavish, will be released, with officers keen to re-interview those questioned in the original inquiry.
The part-time barmaid was strangled with her gold necklace, then raped in her Ford Escort parked outside Southampton’s Tom Tackle pub.
At Hodgson’s trial at Winchester Crown Court in 1982, his defence claimed he was a pathological liar and that he was not guilty.
The jury was told that Hodgson knew crucial facts about the murder that, it was claimed, only the killer could know, although questions over police interview methods may shed light on how Hodgson knew such facts. At the time of his arrest, police interviews were not routinely tape-recorded.
Hodgson is also expected to sue the Home Office for wrongful conviction, with the former inmate eligible to receive £1m in statutory compensation as the victim of a miscarriage of justice. Two years ago, ministers announced smaller awards for such victims, but have yet to implement laws that would have capped claims for damages at £500,000.
Mark Townsend, crime correspondent
Sunday 22 March 2009
Source: The Observer