07:56, January 30 65 0 theguardian.com

2019-01-30 07:56:10
Miscarriage of justice victims lose compensation claim

Not all victims of miscarriages of justice are entitled to compensation, the supreme court has ruled, denying appeals by two men who spent a total of 24 years in jail for crimes of which they have been cleared.

By a majority of five to two, the justices declared it should not be surprising that there is a difference between conclusions reached in criminal and civil proceedings.

The supreme court case was brought by Sam Hallam, who served seven years for murder, and Victor Nealon, who spent 17 years in jail for attempted rape. Both were freed after the court of appeal ruled they should not have been convicted. Neither, however, has received any apology or recompense.

Hallam, from Hoxton in east London, was released in 2012. He had been convicted aged 17 for participating in a gang fight that left a man dead. His original trial heard conflicting testimonies in which witnesses retracted their identification evidence. His mobile phone was not examined to support his claim that he had never been at the scene of the attack.

Nealon, a former postal worker, was released in 2014. He had been found guilty in 1997 of the attempted rape of a woman leaving a nightclub in Redditch, Worcestershire. His conviction was overturned by the court of appeal after examination of fresh DNA evidence.

Nealon could have left prison after seven years but was repeatedly refused parole because he refused to accept his guilt or undergo rehabilitation for the crime he was accused of.

Delivering the majority decision, Lord Mance said: “The criminal standard of proof [beyond reasonable doubt] may on occasions lead to acquittal or discontinuance [of a case] in circumstances where the commission of the offence could be established on the balance of probabilities.”

Concurring, Lord Wilson attacked the European court of human rights interpretation of the right to a presumption of innocence under the right to a fair trial. The Strasbourg court, he said, “had allowed its analysis to be swept into hopeless and probably irretrievable confusion” like a boat which, “once severed from its moorings, floats outs to sea and is tossed helplessly this way and that”.

But in a dissenting judgment, Lord Kerr said the majority decision “would cut out a swathe of deserving applicants when they have not been able to prove that they are innocent when they are in fact”.

Responding to the ruling, Hallam said: “I was released from the court of appeal in 2012 having spent seven and half years in prison for a crime of which I am completely innocent.

“In 2019 I am still having to fight to prove my innocence. This is a very disappointing decision. My lawyers will look at an appeal or what I can do next. This terrible law needs to be changed.”

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