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Tuesday April 13, 6:20 AM

No Compensation For Bentley Family, Straw Rules

The family of Derek Bentley, who was hanged for murder in 1953, are not entitled to compensation even though the Court of Appeal has quashed his conviction, Home Secretary Jack Straw has ruled.

Mr Straw said because Bentley's conviction was overturned on the basis of mistakes by the trial judge his case fell outside the compensation scheme.

There were no other "sufficiently exceptional" circumstances leading up to his conviction to merit a payment, Mr Straw said.

Bentley, 19, was convicted with 16-year-old Christopher Craig of the shooting of Pc Sidney Miles during a break-in at a confectionary warehouse in Croydon, south London, in 1952, although it was Craig who fired the fatal shot.

The jury was never told Bentley had a mental age of 11 and controversy over the case helped to fuel the campaign for the abolition of capital punishment.

Bentley's conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal in July last year on the basis that the summing up and direction to the jury of the trial judge Lord Chief Justice Lord Goddard was flawed on several counts, meaning the teenager did not receive a fair trial.

An application for compensation on behalf of Bentley's surviving relatives, who fought a long campaign to clear his name, was lodged within days of the Court of Appeal ruling.

In his ruling, Mr Straw said he had "enormous sympathy" for them, but added: "Because the Court of Appeal judgment did not completely exonerate Derek Bentley, because there is no evidence that his wrongful conviction was due to serious default by a (non-judicial) public authority and because there are not other sufficiently exceptional circumstances leading up to his conviction, it would not be consistent with my policy to make an ex-gratia payment in this case.

"Nor do I think that the particular points to which Derek Bentley's family have drawn attention, or any other factors in this case, justify making an exception to that policy and paying compensation."

He added: "I am deeply sorry that Derek Bentley was executed as a result of a miscarriage of justice and that the quashing of his conviction has come so late for his surviving relatives. My decision not to make a compensation payment must not be interpreted as detracting from Derek Bentley's acquittal."

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