Mean-minded, petty and, to be honest, quite disgusting.
I have long been chary of how the UK has increasingly sought to save pennies of public money at the expense of victims. So, in recent years, individuals released from prison after years locked up for crimes they did not commit – I repeat, crimes they DID NOT commit – have been awarded thousands in compensation by the courts, and have then seen sums of money clawed back because the government thinks itself entitled to be paid for the costs of their uptake during that period.
That’s almost as though, having gone out into the street and kidnapped some hapless victim, I decide to charge them for food and lodging whilst I keep them locked in my under-stair cupboard.
Then, if you suffer a crime, you are generally entitled to compensation from the state. Nowhere near enough. But compensation nonetheless.
Except even here government is determined to carry on with its penny-pinching: to divide victims into the worthy and the unworthy; or in this case “good girls” and “bad”.
Because if you yourself have committed a criminal offence – and it is not yet spent – you won’t get a penny in compensation, no matter how seriously you have suffered. No doubt that plays all too well in the conservative middle-class shires.
But here’s the reality. This week, at least 16 women and girls, victims of rapist cop, Stephen Mitchell, were denied compensation (in any case no more than a measly £11,000) because of previous convictions of their own.
Many of their offences were in respect of drug addiction, shoplifting or fraud. They are crimes, in many instances, of poverty: sometimes – not always – born of desperation.
The story, as such stories often are, has just been subject to debate on the Beeb: again, as always happens in such cases, one (Scottish) plonker phoned in to explain how these women deserved – oh, he hurriedly interjected: not to be raped – but to lose such compensation because they were themselves criminals.
I’m not sure what more there is to say. It is utterly grotesque. The sort of verdict that makes me fantasise about going out and slapping the nearest MP done for fiddling his expenses. Because, of course, such people ought to be just as much outside the protection of the law as these women. Only we all know they aren’t.
Its all part and parcel of how society deals with the most marginalised. There is no clear suggestion that any of the women in this case were involved in sex work – though it would not surprise me if one or two convictions were for that. And the evidence from elsewhere over the last couple of years is that faced with complaints by sex workers, who have been subject to threats of violence, police and CPS are as likely – more likely, even, to take the women to court than deal with the abusers.
Three cheers for our brave law enforcers!
It would of course be completely wrong of me to argue in any way that these women should take the law into their own hands. .. though I know that is where my heart, where the heart of many involved in such cases must lie. My only hope, since direct retribution is not a good idea, is that those who suffered at the hands of an on duty serving police officer do take up the law in one way at least: by suing him for compensation, and by suing his employers.
The courts ought to order compensation well in excess of the paltry £11,000: though given how mean-minded we have become of late, I won’t hold my breath.