Belfast Telegraph

Miscarriage of justice victim calls for change in law after losing court battle

Sam Hallam, who served more than seven years behind bars for murder before being cleared on appeal, lost a Supreme Court fight for compensation.

Sam Hallam, speaking outside the Supreme Court in London after losing his fight for compensation.
Sam Hallam, speaking outside the Supreme Court in London after losing his fight for compensation.

A miscarriage of justice victim has called for a change in the law after losing his Supreme Court fight for compensation.

Sam Hallam was convicted of murder and served more than seven years behind bars before being cleared on appeal.

After being denied compensation he took his case to the UK’s highest court, arguing that current legislation was incompatible with his human rights.

But, by a majority of five to two, seven Supreme Court justices dismissed his appeal on Wednesday.

This terrible law needs to be changed Sam Hallam

Speaking after the court’s ruling, Mr Hallam, from east London, said: “I was released from the Court of Appeal in 2012 having spent seven and a half years in prison for a crime of which I am completely innocent.

“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.”

Mr Hallam was sentenced to life as a teenager following his conviction at the Old Bailey in 2005 for the murder of a trainee chef.

His conviction was quashed in 2012 after the Court of Appeal ruled it was rendered unsafe by fresh evidence, including photographs found on his phone, which had been seized at the time of his arrest but not examined.

He brought his challenge together with Victor Nealon, who 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.

The former postman, who is in his 50s and originally from Dublin, was found guilty in 1997 of the attempted rape of a woman in Redditch, Worcestershire.

But his conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal in December 2013 after new DNA evidence was unearthed.

Both men had applications for compensation rejected by the Justice Secretary.

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 European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the presumption of innocence, because it required a person seeking an award to prove they were innocent.

Their compensation claims were rejected on the basis that it was not the case, as required by the Act, that a “new or newly discovered fact shows beyond reasonable doubt that there has been a miscarriage of justice”.

The two men brought unsuccessful challenges at the High Court in 2015 and the Court of Appeal in 2016.

During a Supreme Court hearing in May last year, their legal teams said the UK was free to make its own decisions, as long as they did not interfere with the “presumption of innocence” enshrined in Article 6 (2).

But the Supreme Court declined to make a declaration that the Act is incompatible with the ECHR.

Lord Mance, giving the lead judgment, said such a declaration would be “inappropriate”.

In one of the dissenting rulings, which would have allowed the appeals by the two men, Lord Kerr said there would be many people charged with criminal offences who are “truly innocent” but “unable to establish their innocence as a positive fact”.

PA

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph