Paddy Hill figured spending 16 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit was bad enough, but now, to add insult to injury, the Scotland resident is being charged by the British government more than ?3,000 for each year he was incarcerated to cover the cost of his housing and food.

And Hill is not alone. Many others wrongly convicted are receiving similar demands from London.

Britain’s David Blunkett, the Labour home secretary, sees nothing wrong with charging an innocent man for what he cost the government in upkeep, reported Scotland’s Sunday Herald.

In fact, Blunkett is scheduled to fight in court tomorrow for the right to charge victims of wrongful convictions. While critics have called the bureaucrat’s crusade “outrageous,” “morally repugnant” and the “sickest of sick jokes,” according to the report, his spokesmen say it’s a completely “reasonable course of action” since the innocent men and women would have spent the money anyway on food and housing if they weren’t in prison.

Hill spent time unjustly behind bars for 1974 bombings by the Irish Republican Army. The Herald reports Hill now lives on a farm with his wife and children near Beith, Scotland. The British Home Office has charged him ?50,000 for prison living expenses.

“The whole system is absurd,” Hill told the paper. “I’m so angry about what has happened to me. I try and tell people about being charged for bed and board in jail and they can’t believe it.

“When I left prison I was given no training for freedom – no counseling or psychological preparation. Yet the guilty get that when they are released. To charge me for the food I ate and the cell I slept in is almost as big an injustice as [framing me] in the first place.”

Two years ago, Hill received a settlement from the government in the amount of ?960,000.

“While I was in prison, my family lost their home, yet they get no compensation,” Hill said, according to the report. “But the state wants its money back. It’s like being kicked in the head when someone has beat you already.”

Hill pointed out no one in the government has been convicted of framing him and sending him to prison unjustly.

According to the Herald, Mike O’Brien, who spent 10 years in jail wrongly convicted of murder, is leading the court effort against the government. His baby daughter died while he was in prison, and he was charged ?37,500 by the Home Office for his time behind bars.

O’Brien won the first round in court, but Blunkett appealed. Tomorrow’s hearing is before the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

“Morally, the position of the government is just outrageous, O’Brien told the paper. “It shows total contempt for the victims of miscarriages of justice. It makes me livid.

“I really believe if we win the appeal this week, the government is evil enough to take me to the House of Lords. They are trying to break us. I really think this is personal as far as the government is concerned.”

Concluded O’Brien: “A government really can’t get much worse than this. But I am confident that we will win as the law and morality are on our side.”

Robert Brown served 25 years in prison unjustly before being freed 14 months ago. He faces an ?80,000 bill.

“I feel like ending my life,” Brown is quoted as saying. “I’ve tried to maintain my dignity, but the state has treated me with nothing but contempt – now they are asking me for money for my bed and board in jail.

“I never contemplated suicide once while I was in prison, but it’s different on the outside. I have received no counseling or support. Society is treating me like something you’d wipe off the bottom of your shoes, but I’m an innocent man and a victim of a terrible injustice. … Can you think of a more disgusting way to abuse someone? I really feel that my heart is truly and finally broken.”

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