The 'board and lodging' scandal proves investigative journalism still matters
Andrew Malkinson’s 17-year imprisonment for a rape he didn’t commit highlights the importance of investigative journalism and the need for reform in the UK justice system.
Until a few days ago, very few people had heard of Andrew Malkinson.
Thanks mainly to The Sunday Times, and Radio 4’s Today programme, a lot more people have now heard of the man who was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison for a rape he did not commit but who served 17 years in prison because he refused to say he was guilty.
There was also an astonishing Dickensian twist to one of the more egregious recent miscarriages of justice.
If Malkinson wins compensation, now made deliberately difficult even when all charges are dropped, the “board and lodging” costs of falsely holding him in prison can be deducted from any award.
By 2020, Malkinson’s future looked bleak. During his 17 years in jail, he had been refused parole. In 2009, the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) decided not to refer the case to the Court of Appeal even though there was “crime-specific” DNA that did not match either Malkinson or the victim.
The Sunday Times, and its then social affairs correspondent, Emily Dugan got onto the story and on 20 December 2020 published the full details of the case for his innocence.
The story is close to Kafkaesque. Malkinson was arrested because a policeman thought the description given by the victim reminded him of a man he had stopped a couple of months earlier for riding a motorbike off-road.
Malkinson was picked out of a line-up even though he did not match the victim’s description. She said she had scratched her attacker’s face. He did not have a scratch on his face.
She said his chest was clean-shaven but Malkinson has a hairy chest. There was absolutely no DNA evidence linking Malkinson, who worked as a security guard, to the victim.
After finishing his shift on the evening in question, he said he had fallen asleep on the sofa of a colleague — who unfortunately was unable to vouch for his whereabouts because he had been at work.
There was more, but a week after The Sunday Times published, Malkinson was released on parole “for good behaviour.”
He has been helped by the charity Appeal but it looks as if it played an important role.
Although free, he was unable to get a job and because he was on the sex offenders list he was unable to travel abroad.
In April 2022, Malkinson told The Sunday Times he was “still locked in limbo” despite further information about disclosure failures by Greater Manchester Police being sent to the CCRC.
Later that year, a DNA sample was found to be a partial match for another man.
Campaigns must continue
This January, the CCRC finally referred the case to the Court of Appeal, which cleared Andrew Malkinson last Thursday after prosecutors offered no case against him.
There were moving interviews with him on Today, which covered the many troubling issues raised by the case over several days.
The Sun gave the story an excellent double-page spread including a detailed list of questions the Greater Manchester Police must now answer. The tabloid honed in on the “board and lodging” scandal which was “a ludicrous and outrageous extra unfairness which could yet be foisted on him.” Yesterday, the paper reported that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was looking at the issue.
The Sun also concluded that “the cops behind this catastrophe in 2004 should themselves be in the dock.”
Curiously, the Daily Mail did not devote even a single paragraph to the Court of Appeal’s decision.
It hardly needs saying that this story and its implications are far from over and newspapers should continue campaigning to ensure that Malkinson receives adequate compensation — to the extent that such a thing is possible — and to end the “board and lodging” charges introduced in changes to legislation in 2014.
There should also be renewed campaigning against the ridiculous Catch-22 situation where prisoners can be held almost indefinitely unless they admit their guilt.
They should also campaign for the release of many of the more than 8,000 people held under the Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) protocols — indeterminate sentences where prisoners end up serving many more years than the usual tariff for the offence.
The IPPs were introduced by Labour Home Secretary David Blunkett, who has long since admitted that what he did was a mistake and has been campaigning for their repeal.
But that’s a story for another day.
Standing up to vested interests
In a leader, The Sunday Times went far wider than the limitations of the judicial system and on to the importance of established media organisations being able to dig out facts and carry out investigations.
“The important ones still tend to be produced by newspapers, which have the journalistic expertise and legal resources to root them out,” the paper said before citing a string of stories revealed by journalists this year alone.
Apart from the Malkinson scandal, a Sunday Times investigation led to the resignation of Richard Sharp as chairman of the BBC because of his behaviour prior to appointment.
The Guardian showed how the Tory Peer Baroness Mone used a Government “VIP lane” to make millions from providing PPE during the pandemic.
The Daily Telegraph is praised for its role in revealing how Nigel Farage lost his Coutts bank account because of his political views, as is The Daily Mail for exposing “the disgraceful practices of unscrupulous immigration lawyers.”
The Sunday Times also recounted how “The Sun rightly reported the concerns of parents who complained Huw Edwards had given a young person tens of thousands of pounds — money that was used to fuel a drug habit — and received sexual pictures.”
But The Sunday Times has a bigger if less familiar target in its sights, Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, which it believes could still hobble investigative journalism of all kinds.
The Section, which has not been imposed so far, would expose publishers to all costs in a defamation case, irrespective of who won if they had not signed up to Impress, the Government’s preferred media regulator.
The Government has promised to repeal the section while, according to The Sunday Times, Labour could table an amendment to exclude that part of the upcoming media bill.
As the paper notes, investigative journalism often happens in the face of legal threats from vested interests.
“We must not hand over even more power to those vested interests and take it away from those who would hold up their secrets to the light,” the paper argues.
That really is something worth campaigning for and Andrew Malkinson, for one, would certainly agree.
Raymond Snoddy is a media consultant, national newspaper columnist and former presenter of NewsWatch on BBC News. He writes for The Media Leader on Wednesdays — read his column here.