Miscarriage of justice victims let down by the state
In a 2 day hearing beginning on 8 May 2018, the Supreme Court heard a case which challenged the definition of 'miscarriage of justice' currently used by the courts.
The two individuals bringing the case, Victor Nealon and Sam Hallam, were separately convicted of serious criminal offences and each spent many years in prison before their convictions were quashed by the court of appeal. Both had their applications for compensation rejected and it is this decision that they are appealing.
Victor Nealon spent almost 17 years in prison after being convicted of attempted rape until it was shown that DNA evidence linked an unknown male to the offence rather than Victor. After three reviews by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), his case was finally referred back to the Court of Appeal where he was successful. When guilty prisoners are released at the end of their sentence, they are given support from the probation services and help with housing in order to reintegrate them into society. However, there is no such provision for prisoners whose convictions are quashed; Victor was given £46 and a train ticket on his release and would have been immediately homeless if it wasn't for the assistance of his supporters.
Sam Hallam was wrongfully imprisoned for 7 years after a murder conviction when he was 17. The conviction was a result of flawed police investigation and withheld evidence which led Court of Appeal judges to rule his conviction as "unsafe".
Although both men are now innocent of the offences they were originally convicted of, a change in the law introduced by the coalition government requires them to prove their innocence again.
The Antisocial Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 restricts compensation to those who can demonstrate their innocence "beyond reasonable doubt". This in the majority of cases is obviously impossible as you are trying to prove a negative. DNA or other forensic evidence might strongly suggest that someone else committed the crime, however it cannot satisfy beyond a reasonable doubt that there was no way that the individual could have been involved. The decision as to whether innocence is proven beyond a reasonable doubt lies solely with the secretary of state,
The Supreme Court are now tasked with examining whether the current scheme is incompatible with the presumption of "innocent until proven guilty" afforded under article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Numerous other European countries have post-acquittal compensation schemes that recognise the European convention definition. The government has failed to identify a single other scheme where a presumption of innocence does not operate.
It is evident that the test is prohibitive as over the last 5 years there have been 195 applications for compensation from individuals who have had their convictions quashed yet only five applications have been successful. However before the law was changed, in the year 2006/2007, 29 out of 39 applications were granted.
Saunders Law frequently represent individuals who have been subject to a miscarriage of justice and are currently working alongside Inside Justice https://www.insidejusticeuk.com/ to represent Kevin Nunn whose case is being re-examined by the CCRC.