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Adams to appeal to Europe after miscarriages of justice ruling

16 May 2011

The Supreme Court has extended the category of people entitled to compensation following a miscarriage of justice, but not far enough to include Andrew Adams, who was wrongly convicted of murder in 1993 and released after 14 years.

The court was split 5:4 on the issue, with Lord Phillips in favour of extending compensation and Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, dissenting.

Lord Phillips said the new test would provide a more “satisfactory approach” that accorded with the language of the statute, section 133 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, and was workable in practice.

In a statement released by his solicitors, Hickman & Rose, Andrew Adams said he was “particularly disappointed” by the rejection of his arguments on the presumption of innocence and would be appealing to the European Court of Human Rights.

“All decisions by the state based on my acquittal must respect the presumption of innocence, which this new test does not do,” he said.

Lord Phillips proposed the following test for a miscarriage which deserved compensation: “A new fact will show that a miscarriage of justice has occurred when it so undermines the evidence against the defendant that no conviction could possibly be based upon it.”

He said the new test “will not guarantee that all those who are entitled to compensation are in fact innocent.

“It will, however, ensure that when innocent defendants are convicted on evidence which is subsequently discredited, they are not precluded from obtaining compensation because they cannot prove their innocence beyond reasonable doubt.”

The president of the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal by Adams, on the grounds that he did not meet the new test. The other justices agreed.

However, Lord Phillips allowed appeals by two men from Northern Ireland, Eamonn MacDermot and Raymond McCartney, both convicted of murder by a judge without a jury in 1979.

Lord Hope, Lady Hale, Lord Kerr and Lord Clarke agreed with Lord Phillips, for their own reasons, that these appeals should be allowed. Lords Judge, Brown, Walker and Rodger dissented.

“Why should the state not have a scheme which compensates only the comparatively few who plainly can demonstrate their innocence – and, as I have shown, compensate them generously – rather than a larger number who may or may not be innocent?” Lord Brown asked.

“That, at all events, is the scheme which in my opinion parliament enacted here.”

Lord Brown said the “man in the street” would be “appalled at a construction which, on the contrary, would not infrequently result in the compensation of the guilty, sometimes, as already indicated, to the extent of hundreds of thousands of pounds”.

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