Appeal judges to rule on 'miscarriage of justice' compensation


Two men who spent years behind bars before their convictions were overturned are to find out the result of the latest round of their legal battle for ''miscarriage of justice'' compensation.

Sam Hallam, who was convicted of murder, and Victor Nealon, who was found guilty of attempted rape, suffered a defeat at the High Court last year.

But they took their cases to the Court of Appeal - and three judges are giving their decision today.

Mr Hallam, from east London, served more than seven years after he was sentenced to life as a teenager following his conviction at the Old Bailey in 2005 of the murder of a trainee chef.

Mr Nealon, who is originally from Dublin, was given a life sentence after his trial at Hereford Crown Court and served 17 years in jail - 10 more than the seven-year minimum term - after he persisted in asserting he was innocent.

They were both set free after appeal judges ruled that fresh evidence made their convictions unsafe, but each had applications for compensation rejected by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

Mr Hallam was aged 24 when his conviction was quashed in 2012.  Former postman Mr Nealon, who was convicted in 1997 of the attempted rape of a woman in Redditch, Worcestershire, won his appeal at the age of 53 in December 2013.

At the High Court, they asked two 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.

Lawyers argued on their behalf that the Criminal Justice Act 1988, which governs compensation payments, was amended in 2014 in a way that violated Article 6 (2) of the ECHR because it required a person seeking an award to prove they were innocent.

Applicants for compensation now have to satisfy the Justice Secretary that ''a new or newly-discovered fact shows beyond reasonable doubt'' that they did not commit the offences for which they were jailed.

Lord Justice Burnett, announcing the High Court's decision last June, ruled that the law ''does not require the applicant for compensation to prove his innocence''.

He said: ''It is the link between the new fact and the applicant's innocence of which the Secretary of State must be satisfied before he is required to pay compensation under the 1988 Act, not his innocence in a wider or general sense.''

Mr Hallam and Mr Nealon challenged the High Court's findings at a Court of Appeal hearing in London last month before Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson, Sir Brian Leveson and Lord Justice Hamblen.

The three judges have been asked to rule that the lower court ''erred in law'' when reaching its decision.