On Wednesday 14th November, there is to be a hearing in the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Lorraine Allen (nee Harris) versus the UK. Mrs Allen is claiming that the UK government wrongly denied her compensation for her wrongful conviction for shaking her baby son to death. Her conviction was overturned in 2005 (see details of her case here…). The hearing will consider whether somebody who wins an appeal and has their conviction overturned, is then to be considered ‘innocent’. As an article in The Independent newspaper explains:
Hugh Southey QC, Mrs Allen’s barrister, added: “The issue for the court is whether the UK has infringed her right to a presumption of innocence by refusing her compensation. Anyone who has been refused compensation on this basis will benefit. This is not an isolated case.”
The case, which will be heard by 20 judges, wound up in Europe after John Reid, then Home Secretary, refused an initial appeal for compensation in 2006. The High Court refused her attempt to challenge the decision by judicial review, and a subsequent appeal was dismissed in 2008.
In the UK, rules on compensation for victims of miscarriages of justice have been tightened up considerably, so that you have to be able to clearly demonstrate that a ‘newly discovered fact(s)’ used in your appeal shows that you are innocent. Many fail to satisfy the Home Office of this.
I, along with many others, await the ruling of the Court with anticipation. I hope that the 20 judges seize the opportunity to expound an unequivocal principle that those who are exonerated return to their original ‘innocent’ state and whilst they should be entitled to compensation, perhaps most importantly, they should be considered ‘innocent’ in the eyes of the State, and treated as such. I shall of course update readers as news comes in.