April 12 2024
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‘Why have you never been told?’

‘Why have you never been told?’

Earlier this month as the Jubilee celebrations were underway across the country, a Glasgow-based organisation had another idea.   Alongside Govanhill based artist Anne Flynn, the Miscarriages of Justice Organisation (MOJO) – the campaign group set up by Paddy Hill of the Birmingham Six – lit up the Glasgow skyline with projections delivering uncomfortable statistics about the Scottish criminal justice system.  Party-goers, late-night walkers and general passers-by, confronted with these, were horrified to learn of the injustices rife in the system.

The spectacle began at the Tollbooth Steeple, in years long past the scene of public hangings.  From there it moved to the High Court of Justiciary, at the foot of the Saltmarket, where many of MOJO’s clients became acquainted with injustice, and from there, to the People’s Palace.

The artist behind the work commented: ‘It was really important to ensure an element of the work had complete freedom. People who have been wrongfully convicted have had their box, they’ve been locked up and confined in one for sometimes many years. I didn’t want to re-create that environment by just putting the art about them and the issue back inside four walls. It was equally as important to talk about the justice-system on the Jubilee. On a day of celebrations about the Monarchy I wanted to highlight the damage done in the name of the Crown.’

Anne Flynn with the artist Patrick Maguire (of the Maguire Seven)

The guerrilla projections were in combination with the launch of art exhibition: The System’s Grim.  This pop-up art show, ran from June 4 to 10 in the Saltmarket, featured a visual interpretation, by the artist, of the more stark failings of our criminal justice system.  It included work by five wrongfully convicted including Patrick Maguire whose art work featured in Proof magazine, and imprisoned, people in the form of paintings, sculpture and poetry. You can read an interview with Patrick on the Justice Gap here.

One of the participants was Jim Boyle.  He welcomed the opportunity, provided by the exhibition, for his and the other contributors’ work to educate the wider community.

Anne Flynn explains: ‘In a world where we are heavily focused on true crime in America, being horrified by stories told in Netflix’s ‘Making A Murderer’ or ‘The Staircase’, it is about time the stories of people in our community were heard, and through art. The System’s Grim has begun to open a dialogue.’

The show ran from June 3rd until 10th, at Saltmarket, Glasgow. The event was free to enter, accessible for everyone, with donations welcomed, as 100% of any funds raised go towards supporting the vital work undertaken by MOJO.

The exhibition aimed to develop the public’s consciousness on the issues relating to miscarriages of justice and the experiences post-release of those who suffered at the hands of this phenomenon. By stimulating discussion and engaging the public through the medium of art, the artist and MOJO hope to raise awareness before it happens to you or a member of your family, by then it is too late.

The event also gave victims of injustice the space to express themselves, with featured poems, paintings and sculptures from the five participants, who spent a combined total of 49 years wrongfully imprisoned. A number of those wrongly convicted have featured on the Justice Gap – including this interview with Rob Brown and Paddy Hill.

Why have you never been told?

As reported on the Justice Gap, it is very rare that the wrongly convicted are compensated in England and Wales due to changes introduced to the scheme in 2014. Only eight payouts have been made under the new arrangements in the last six years and £10,000 paid out. To put this into context, in a two-year period from 2007 to 2009 the Ministry of Justice paid out a total of £20.8 million in respect of justice 19 applications granted and 78 applications received.

North of the border the situation is different but not much better. As Ann Flynn explains, there is only one way that the wrongly convicted can receive compensation in Scotland: that is on the grounds of ‘fresh evidence’. It does not matter, procedurally speaking, whether the accused has been set up by the police, or had poor representation. The years of life spent behind bars won’t be compensated.

But what sort of payment could those who do fit the criteria for a successful compensation claim expect to receive? Between 2016-2020, among the 67 miscarriages of justice formally recognised by the Court, a sum of £376,987.00 was paid out to individuals wrongly convicted in Scotland. This includes interim payments and payments made to individuals who were found to be eligible before 1 January 2016. This information was retrieved by a Freedom of Information (FOI) Response by the Justiciary Office dated 10 August 2021.

We do know that not all of these cases are eligible for compensation, due to the ‘fresh evidence’ stipulation mentioned earlier. However, we can pretend, for argument’s sake, that all 67 individuals received an equal share of the total sum paid out: that would be just over 5 and a half thousand pounds (£5,500), for years of their life wrongfully imprisoned.