In the past week, there have been two painful reminders that it is now almost impossible for people who have suffered a miscarriage of justice in the UK to obtain compensation. In two separate cases, in England and in Northern Ireland, men who have served years in prison before having their convictions overturned have been refused compensation by the State. These men have now had these decisions confirmed by the high courts.
In Northern Ireland Gerard Magee lost an appeal against being denied compensation. Convicted of involvement with an IRA bombing in 1988 and sentenced to 20 years, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2000 that his right to a fair trial had been breached after his admissions to police were made without seeing a solicitor for two days. The Northern Ireland courts subsequently overturned his conviction (he had served 10 years before being released under the Good Friday agreement). The courts have now ruled that because there were no ‘new facts’ in the case, his case does not merit compensation. To add insult to injury, he is now facing paying the legal costs of the Dept of Justice as well as his own. During the ruling Mr Justice Deeny said: “It seems clear to us that the Department of Justice was correct in arriving at the conclusion that there was no new or newly discovered fact… The Department was therefore entitled to refuse the application for compensation without going on to consider whether, in any event, there could be said to be a miscarriage of justice where the defendant had subsequently admitted to the truth of the statements which he had made admitting the offences.” Read more here…. Man wrongly jailed for IRA bombing loses appeal over compensation
Meanwhile, in England and Wales, Victor Nealon and Sam Hallam (read more about their cases here…. and here…. and in various earlier posts regarding UK compensation on these blog pages) have lost their appeal against the Ministry of Justice decision to not award them compensation for the years they spent behind bars for crimes they did not commit. After the passing of an Act in 2014, exonerees in the UK now essentially have to prove their complete innocence in order to be compensated. Simply having their conviction ruled ‘unsafe’ and overturned by the appeal courts is insufficient. For an insight into the case and the shocking state of the law in this area, read a post on the appeal and the law on compensation by Victor Nealon’s solicitor Mark Newby here… ‘Without recompense for the wrongfully convicted, the integrity of our justice system is in question’
One can only hope that their fight will now continue to the Supreme Court, who may be persuaded that the laws governing compensation for miscarriages of justice in the UK not only breaches our human rights obligations, but brings shame upon our justice system internationally.