Victor Nealon, wrongly imprisoned for 17 years – appeal dismissed

30 January 2019

The Supreme Court has today dismissed appeals by Victor Nealon and Sam Hallam (the appellants) concerning the system of compensation which applies to victims of miscarriages of justices.

The background to the appeals was the introduction of a new statutory test by which individuals are required to established their innocence beyond reasonable doubt before they will be compensated. The appellants argued that this offends the presumption of innocence guaranteed by Article 6(2) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). They asked the Court to make a declaration that the relevant statutory provision (section 133(1ZA) of the Criminal Justice Act 1988) is incompatible with Article 6(2) ECHR.

The Supreme Court dismissed by the appeals by a majority of five to two.

Lord Mance, with whom Lord Lloyd-Jones agreed, held that the current state of the case law from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) is not settled and that it would be inappropriate to interpret Article 6(2) ECHR as applying to applications of this kind (paragraphs 73-74).

Lord Wilson considered that the case law from the ECtHR is settled and recognised that the appellants could likely apply to the ECtHR for a ruling that section 133(1ZA) violates Article 6(2). But he declined to subscribe to the ECtHR’s analysis of Article 6(2) is terms of how it applies in these circumstances (paragraph 94).

Lord Hughes and Lady Hale dismissed the appeals for reasons which substantially overlapped with those given by Lord Mance and Lord Wilson (paragraphs 81-82, paragraph 127).

Lord Reed (paragraph 192) and Lord Kerr (paragraph 207) would have granted the declaration of incompatibility which the appellants sought.

Victor Nealon was represented by Dinah Rose QC of Blackstone Chambers and Garden Court North Chambers’ Matthew Stanbury, instructed by Mark Newby of Quality Solicitors Jordans. A press release issued by Quality Solicitors Jordans can be found here.

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