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Thursday, 23 May, 2002, 15:33 GMT 16:33 UK
Cleared prisoner billed for jail meals
Michael O'Brien
Michael O'Brien has branded the charge "absurd"
One of three men wrongfully jailed for the murder of a Cardiff newsagent in 1987 has been charged 37,158 for his bed and board during more than 11 years in prison.

Michael O'Brien, 34, said he was staggered by the deduction and also described his compensation payment of 648,000 from the Home Office as "derisory".


I would have ordered caviar and chips if I knew I was going to be charged - it is so absurd

Michael O'Brien

Mr O'Brien and two other men were arrested and jailed 14 years ago following the death of newsagent Phillip Saunders.

All three were released on bail in December 1998 and were cleared by the Court of Appeal a year later.

"They don't charge guilty people for bed and board, they only charge innocent people," said Mr O'Brien.

"I'm absolutely livid and I'm really angry about the size of the award because it doesn't reflect the hardship I suffered, the effect it had on my standing within the community and my distress.

"My daughter and my father died while I was in prison and my whole life was turned upside down."

Mr O'Brien had been working as a painter and decorator when arrested.

"I'm taking legal advice at the moment but I'm not prepared to accept the award as a whole," he said.

"I would have ordered caviar and chips if I knew I was going to be charged - it is so absurd."

No police charges

A Home Office spokeswoman has said that details of individual awards are not disclosed and that publication of such details is "a matter for the recipients of the award".

"While the Home Secretary decides whether compensation should be paid, the determination of the amount of the award is solely a matter for the assessor, appointed by the Home Secretary."

Philip Saunders, murder victim
Philip Saunders, murder victim
In February 2001, the Crown Prosecution Service announced no officers involved in the case would be charged.

South Wales Police also confirmed no action was to be taken against any officers connected with the so-called Cardiff Newsagent Three case.

Mr O'Brien was found guilty of Mr Saunders' murder in Fairwater in 1987 together with Darren Hall and Ellis Sherwood, from Cardiff.

Having repeatedly protested their innocence and following a lengthy legal campaign, the three men were freed in 1999 when their convictions were overturned by the Court of Appeal amid concerns over the way the investigation was conducted.

Mr O'Brien has become a campaigner against injustice and, in March 2001, he launched The Miscarriages of Justice Organisation (Mojo) at the House of Commons alongside Paddy Joe Hill - one of the Birmingham Six.

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 ON THIS STORY
BBC Wales's Jason Mohammad
"When Michael O'Brien was released he vowed to clear his name"
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