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Criminal law: Supreme Court allows victims of miscarriage of justice to appeal

Two men whose murder convictions were quashed in 2007 have been allowed to appeal the Supreme Court's decision to deny compensation for their imprisonment.

Their claims for compensation had previously been rejected because the men were not seen to be victims of a miscarriage of justice. However, there have been different definitions of 'miscarriage of justice' since a Law Lords ruling in 2004.

One definition, which had caused many cases to be rejected in the past, meant that defendants had to prove their innocence beyond reasonable doubt. But Lord Phillips, president of the Supreme Court, recently said that a new test should be set up to "ensure that innocent defendants are not precluded from obtaining compensation" on this basis.

The Supreme Court panel said, "A claimant for compensation will not need to prove that he was innocent of the crime but he will have to show that, on the basis of the facts as they are now known, he should not have been convicted or that conviction could not possibly be based on those facts."

As a result, Raymond McCartney and Eamonn MacDermott of Northern Ireland, both convicted of murder and membership of the IRA in 1979, successfully appealed against the Supreme Court's earlier decisions.

Following these two successful appeals, many other victims of miscarriages of justice could become eligible for compensation. One such victim is Barry George, who was wrongfully jailed for the murder of TV presenter Jill Dando.

Mr George spent eight years in prison and, since his acquittal in 2008, he has been fighting for compensation after being denied since he could not prove "clear innocence". But now, the new definition of miscarriage of justice means the government will have to reconsider Barry George's compensation claim.

Related links:
Read more on this story (BBC)
Learn more about the appeal process (FindLaw)
Find local criminal lawyers throughout the UK (FindLaw)