As several of my blog posts have pointed out (here…. and here…. and here…), seeking compensation for a wrongful conviction in the UK is becoming nigh on impossible. Recent decisions to severely restrict compensation to only those who can demonstrate ‘innocence’ is now set to be enshrined in legislation. This is being done without any fanfare, media attention, or political debate. Academic expert Dr. Hannah Quirk from the University of Manchester is trying to highlight the new provisions that will forever restrict compensation (to the point where I can barely see how anyone will qualify for compensation) for exonerees. Quirk has just had a letter published on this issue in The Times newspaper. Mr Murdoch keeps this behind a ‘paywall’, so it cannot be viewed without payment, so I have reproduced the text of the letter here:
“Tucked away in the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill 2013-14 is a provision to restrict compensation for miscarriages of justice to cases in which “if, and only if the new or newly discovered fact shows beyond reasonable doubt that the person was innocent of the offence.” (s.143) There is no mention of this in the preamble to the Bill and only a brief reference from Theresa May (the Home Secretary) during the Bill’s second reading. Eligibility is already very restrictive since the previous government ended the ex gratia scheme. Very few successful appellants are able to establish their innocence (which is why the Court of Appeal considers the ‘safety’ of a conviction). Under this test, the Guildford Four, notwithstanding an apology from the Prime Minister for the grievous wrong they had suffered, would not have been entitled to compensation. It is not clear that this provision complies with our international obligations. When the ICCPR was drafted, every proposal that compensation should be restricted to the innocent was rejected. The European Court of Human Rights has said that the existing provisions do not infringe Article 6 (Allen v UK) noting specifically that the appellant was not obligated to demonstrate her innocence. Finally, a small but significant number of successful appellants do not know on what basis their conviction has been quashed. These could be cases relating to undercover policing or collusion – areas in which the State may have directly contributed to or caused the miscarriage of justice. It is hard to see how the decision-making process regarding compensation in these cases could possibly be regarded as fair”.
Dr Hannah Quirk, University of Manchester.