Belfast Telegraph

Over £9m spent in Northern Ireland wrongful conviction compensation

A total of 84 people were wrongly convicted of crimes between 2007 and 2017
A total of 84 people were wrongly convicted of crimes between 2007 and 2017

More than £9m has been paid to compensate 16 people in Northern Ireland who have had their criminal convictions overturned.

Figures show that a total of 84 people were wrongly convicted of crimes between 2007 and 2017, with charges ranging from murder to rape, the BBC reports.

Of those 84 people, 12 were serving life sentences when their convictions were quashed.

Suspect cases can be referred to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Case Review Commission (CCRC), which investigates wrongful convictions in the UK.

Dr Hannah Quirk, a former case manager at the CCRC, said it is important to note that a wrongful conviction does not necessarily mean a defendant is innocent.

"It would be very unusual for the Court of Appeal to say someone is innocent, instead it decides whether any new evidence has come to light that makes a conviction unsafe," she said.

"So not all these cases will necessarily be about innocence and more about if the criminal justice system applied the rules fairly at the time and whether or not if the trial happened today that the person would be convicted based on the latest available evidence."

One person who was wrongfully convicted is Charlie McMenamin, who was 16-years-old when he was charged with terrorist offences in 1978. He spent three years in prison.

It was only in 2007 that the Court of Appeal ruled that he was wrongfully convicted, as he was in a training school at the time he was supposed to have committed his alleged crimes.

Mr McMenamin said that he was told that if he fought the charges he could go to prison for 17 years.

"I was really reluctant to admit to something I hadn't done, but eventually I just give up because I didn't have faith in the justice system either way," he said.

"Jail was tough, I got a lot of beatings. I felt why should I be here, so I just fought against the system.

"I was being told I was a political prisoner, but I was saying I wasn't because I was in jail for something I didn't do. So as a teenager I had all those battles going on as well, but you just go into survival mode."

"When I came out of jail, everything had changed, friends had moved on. I had a girlfriend, my teenage sweetheart, and in my last year in prison she died of cancer.

"Even practical things like travelling, I couldn't go to America and employment was a problem. It had huge impact on the rest of my life."

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