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Wrongly convicted lose payout case

Three men whose criminal convictions were overturned have lost the latest round of a test case legal battle for "miscarriage of justice" compensation.

Their cases were rejected by leading judges at the Court of Appeal in London.

Compensation bids by the trio - and by Barry George, who spent eight years in prison after being wrongly convicted of the murder of TV presenter Jill Dando - were originally dismissed by High Court judges in January last year.

Following that ruling, Mr George failed to win the go-ahead to challenge the High Court's decision, leaving the cases of Ismail Ali, Kevin Dennis and Justin Tunbridge to be decided upon by Court of Appeal judges.

Today, Lord Justice Maurice Kay, Lord Justice Patten and Lady Justice Sharp, sitting at the Court of Appeal in London, announced that they had dismissed the three appeals following a hearing in December.

The High Court action last year involved a total of five test cases - those of Mr Ali, Mr Dennis, Mr Tunbridge, Mr George and Ian Lawless - which were assembled to decide who is entitled to payments in "miscarriages of justice" cases following a landmark judgment by the Supreme Court in May 2011.

The ruling by the UK's highest court was in the case of Andrew Adams, a former aircraft engineer who spent 14 years in jail before his murder conviction was ruled unsafe.

The five test cases heard at the High Court all involved different factual scenarios in which applications for compensation under Section 133 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 had been refused by the Justice Secretary and where the decision was challenged by an application for judicial review.

After the Adams case ruling, Mr George was told by the Justice Secretary in June 2011 that he was still not entitled to compensation.

When the test cases came before two High Court judges, Lord Justice Beatson and Mr Justice Irwin, they rejected Barry George's claim that the Justice Secretary unfairly and unlawfully decided he was "not innocent enough to be compensated".

The two judges also rejected the cases of Mr Ali, Mr Dennis and Mr Tunbridge, but found in favour of Mr Lawless, who was jailed for life in 2002 after confessing to the murder of retired sea captain Alf Wilkins on the Yarborough estate in Grimsby, Lincolnshire.

They concluded in the case of Mr Lawless, who spent eight years behind bars before being freed by appeal judges in 2009, that the decision to refuse compensation was legally flawed and must be reconsidered in the light of their ruling.

Mr Ali was convicted at Luton Crown Court in 2007 of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, which arose out of a domestic argument between him and his wife. He was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment. The following year the Court of Appeal Criminal Division quashed the conviction on the ground that it was unsafe in the light of new evidence adduced by Mr Ali.

After the Supreme Court decision he contended that his claim for compensation fell within the definition of a miscarriage of justice set out by the court, but the Justice Secretary notified him that the decision to refuse compensation was maintained as it was not considered his claim fell within the definition of miscarriage of justice.

In December 2000 at the Old Bailey, Mr Dennis was convicted with three others of the murder of Babatunde Oba, who was stabbed to death in the course of a brawl, and of violent disorder. He was sentenced to life for murder, with a concurrent term of four years for the violent disorder offence.

In 2004 his conviction for murder was quashed. There was no appeal against the violent disorder conviction. He was retried for murder and in March 2005 the trial judge ruled there was no case to answer.

Mr Tunbridge was convicted of two counts of indecent assault by a majority verdict at London's Snaresbrook Crown Court in September 1995, and later sentenced to nine months on each count to run concurrently.

His conviction was overturned in 2008 following a referral of his case to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), which investigates possible miscarriages of justice, on the basis that a witness had come forward to say that the complainant had admitted she lied to secure his conviction.

Both Mr Tunbridge and Mr Dennis, following the Supreme Court ruling, made further applications for compensation after earlier refusals. The Justice Secretary stated that as there were no new facts he considered that there was no basis for either considering an application or reconsidering the original application.

The Court of Appeal judges, rejecting all three challenges, said they had "rejected argument that Mr Dennis and Mr Tunbridge were dealt with unfairly".


From Belfast Telegraph