Sorry, the hardest word?

Posted: September 6, 2008 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

Barbara Wilding, Chief Constable of South Wales Police, has responded to the Wales This Week programme on Michael O’Brien by publishing a statement on the force’s website.
In the statement she refers to the civil action which the force settled out of court with Michael O’Brien and his co-accused Ellis Sherwood in 2006.
O’Brien and Sherwood had started proceedings to sue the force for malicious prosecution back in 2001.
Mrs Wilding states that the force made the settlement – and paid the accompanying damages – “without any admission of liability”.
She then says that they “chose to accept the payments on that basis rather than going to trial” and that both they and their legal advisers “were fully aware that this made an apology inappropriate”.
The force’s unwillingness to apologise to O’Brien, Sherwood and the third member of the Cardiff Newsagent Three, Darren Hall, has been a major motivating factor behind O’Brien’s continuing campaign.
It is something he describes in detail in his new autobiography, The Death Of Justice. It would help him move on after an 11-year jail sentence which he did not deserve.
In Monday’s programme on ITV Wales, O’Brien’s lawyer claimed that he clearly deserved an apology from South Wales Police, and most observers with knowledge of the murder investigation into Phillip Saunders’ death in 1987 and of evidence put before the Court of Appeal in December 1999 would surely have to agree.
Today, Ms Ofer has responded to the South Wales Police statement. In a letter to the press (see Western Mail) she states that O’Brien “did not reach an out-of-court settlement willingly”.
He was forced into a financial situation which meant he had no choice but to settle out of court.
“He was desperate for the case to go to trial, but once the police paid £300,000 into court he was forced to settle against his will as his legal aid would be stopped as a result,” she explains.
“Legal rules mean that if he had gone to trial and won and been awarded £300,000, all of the legal costs of both sides would come out of his damages. He therefore had no choice but to accept a settlement.”
She adds: “South Wales Police were quoted as saying that an apology would be inappropriate. This is completely incorrect. Apologies are made by police forces as part and parcel of settlement on some occasions and one was requested in this case.
“South Wales Police chose to make a payment into court a month before trial because they realised that there was a real risk that they would lose at trial.
“Had they simply wished to save money they could have made a payment five years earlier, instead of spending these years and a huge sum of money on legal costs fighting the case all the way to the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords.”

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