UK

Supreme Court: Wrongly jailed men lose compensation fight

Sam Hallam Image copyright PA
Image caption Sam Hallam speaking outside the Supreme Court after losing his fight for compensation

Two men who were wrongly jailed for a total of 24 years have lost their fight for compensation from the government.

Sam Hallam served seven years after being convicted of murder and Victor Nealon served 17 years after being found guilty of attempted rape.

Despite their convictions being overturned, current legislation requires them to prove their innocence in order to claim compensation.

The Supreme Court dismissed claims this violated "presumption of innocence".

Speaking after the ruling on Wednesday, Mr Hallam said the law was "terrible".

Mr Hallam, of Hoxton, east London, was sentenced to a minimum of 12 years in prison for the murder of trainee chef Essayas Kassahun, 21, in Clerkenwell, central London, in 2004.

Mr Nealon, who is originally from Dublin, was given a life sentence after he was found guilty of the attempted rape of a woman in Redditch, Worcestershire.

His conviction was quashed in 2013, and Mr Hallam's in 2012, after appeal judges ruled that fresh evidence made their convictions unsafe.

Image copyright Other
Image caption Victor Nealon was convicted of attacking a woman outside a nightclub

The two men took their legal battle to the UK's highest court following defeats at the High Court and the Court of Appeal after each had their applications for compensation rejected by the government.

On Wednesday, seven Supreme Court justices dismissed their appeals by a majority of five to two.

The court declined to make a declaration that the refusal to award them compensation was incompatible with their human rights.

In a statement after the ruling, Mr Hallam said he was "completely innocent", adding: "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."

'Law needs to be scrapped'

A charity which works on miscarriages of justice cases criticised the ruling.

Emily Bolton, legal director of law charity the Centre for Criminal Appeals, said: "The Supreme Court was wrong not to declare this shameful law incompatible with the presumption of innocence.

"Miscarriages of justice destroy lives. Victims of them can never be truly 'compensated' but the current law needs to be scrapped.

"The government should act to ensure all miscarriage of justice victims get the apologies they deserve as well as the support they need to help rebuild their lives."

When the men's challenges were originally aired at the High Court in 2015, they asked judges to rule that UK law is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) because it wrongly restricts compensation in miscarriage of justice cases.

Their lawyers argued that amendments to the Criminal Justice Act 1988, which governs compensation payments, violated Article 6 (2) of the ECHR - the presumption of innocence - because it meant a person seeking compensation had to prove their innocence.

But their claims were rejected on the basis that it was not the case - as required by the act - that a "new or newly discovered fact" showed beyond reasonable doubt that there had been a miscarriage of justice.

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