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Pair wrongly imprisoned for 24 years demand compensation

by Sam Tobin at the Supreme Court

TWO men wrongly imprisoned for a total of 24 years took their battle for compensation to Britain’s highest court today.

Victor Nealon spent 17 years in jail — 10 years more than his recommended sentence because he maintained his innocence — for attempted rape before the conviction was quashed in December 2013 after new DNA evidence was found.

Sam Hallam, who was jailed for the murder of Essayas Kassahun in east London in October 2004, was cleared and released after seven years in prison in May 2012.

Both men have been denied compensation for their wrongful imprisonment because of a 2014 change to the Criminal Justice Act that restricts payments for miscarriages of justice.

Under the new law, individuals whose convictions have been quashed must prove their innocence “beyond reasonable doubt,” even if the Court of Appeal finds their convictions were unsafe.

Mr Nealon was denied compensation in June 2014, when the Ministry of Justice told his lawyers that then justice secretary Chris Grayling considered that Mr Nealon had “not suffered a miscarriage of justice.”

Lawyers for the two men argue that the restrictive definition of a miscarriage of justice is incompatible with their right to the presumption of innocence.

Human rights group Justice, which is intervening in the case, argues that the “amended test is a wholly inadequate response to miscarriage of justice” that is “virtually impossible to satisfy.”

Paddy Hill, who served 16 years for a wrongful conviction over the 1974 Birmingham bombings before he was released, would not have received compensation under the law change.

He told the Star: “If there is any justice in the courts, they will overturn this ruling because it is diabolical.

“We shouldn’t have to prove anything. It isn’t for Sam Hallam to go out and prove his innocence.”

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