Rapist Samuel Betteridge wins damages from government

A funfair worker who raped a 14-year-old girl after forcing her to drink alcohol has won damages for a 13-month delay to his 2008 parole hearing.

Samuel Betteridge, 58, from Mablethorpe, Lincs was jailed after pleading guilty to two counts of rape and one of attempted rape in 2005.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg awarded him 750 euros (£640) damages and 2,000 euros (£1,710) costs for the delay due to a cases backlog.

The Government has said it may appeal.

Betteridge's three-year minimum term in his indeterminate sentence came to an end in December 2008 without a Parole Board review having taken place.

His hearing did not actually happen until January 2010. Then it was recommended he be moved to an open prison.

The case delays came amid a crisis for the Parole Board. It was swamped with hundreds of applications for prisoner release after the introduction of Indeterminate Sentences for Public Protection (IPP).

A UK High Court judge found in 2009 that there had been a violation of Betteridge's right to a speedy hearing under the European Convention.

But the High Court also said there was no claim for damages as an earlier "pre-tariff hearing" made it clear there was no chance of him being released.

In handing down its decision on Tuesday, the European court criticised the way the UK government introduced IPP sentences.

It said: "The delay in reviewing Mr Betteridge's case was the direct result of the failure of the authorities to anticipate the demand which would be placed on the prison system following the introduction of IPP sentencing."

It said the state must make sure its judicial system had speedy hearings to review whether detentions were lawful.

Reacting to the ruling, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said: "This is yet another example of a decision I think should be taken by the British courts.

"I am very disappointed and am considering an appeal."

Sentencing abolished

IPPs were introduced under the 2003 Criminal Justice Act and aimed at offenders of a violent or sexual nature deemed to be dangerous to the public.

Convicted offenders remain in custody until considered safe to be released.

Betteridge was released from prison before Christmas 2012.

A Parole Board spokesman said there had been a significant increase in the number of prisoners becoming eligible for reviews since 2005, mainly due to the 2003 changes.

He said that had caused resource problems for the board, as well as prison and probation authorities.

"Various measures taken by the Board and the Ministry of Justice have helped reduce this backlog to a manageable level," he said.

The IPP sentence has now been abolished under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.

Parole pay-outs

The Parole Board says is not anticipating a significant number of compensation claims following the European court judgment, but other High Court claims are in progress.

The board revealed it paid out more than £100,000 to prisoners last year - mainly because of delays in reviewing cases.

The board spokesman said: "Not every prisoner will be entitled to monetary compensation for delays, and where it has a good case to argue the Parole Board will vigorously defend such claims. Where it is unable to defends, the board will seek to settle out of court to save legal fees."

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