Supreme Court: shades of innocence
Innocent until proven guilty. But if you are proved guilty, then ruled to be the victim of a miscarriage of justice, are you proved innocent? Can law squeeze the toothpaste back into the tube? You can read Isobel Williams’ Drawing from an uncomfortable position here.
The court is hearing two joined appeals: R (on the application of Hallam) v Secretary of State for Justiceand R (on the application of Nealon) v Secretary of State for Justice.
Sam Hallam and Victor Nealon had been imprisoned for serious crimes, then had their convictions quashed. A miscarriage of justice, as defined in the Criminal Justice Act, bars compensation unless a new fact shows beyond reasonable doubt that the person did not commit the offence. But is that incompatible with the presumption of innocence in Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights?
Outside the court, the first day of the hearing is marked by two veterans of notorious miscarriage of justice cases related to IRA bombing campaigns: Paddy Hill (of the Birmingham Six) and Patrick Maguire (of the Maguire Seven) are among those who’ve come to hold up a banner for Sam Hallam.
Paddy Hill is “driven by seemingly endless reserves of fury” – I’m quoting Jon Robins in his new book Guilty Until Proven Innocent (Biteback Publishing, £12.99) which dissects the calamitously underfunded, under-resourced British criminal justice system.
Robins writes that “Patrick Maguire visited Hallam in prison in 2006 and, convinced of Hallam’s innocence, campaigned for his release. ‘My biggest sentence started when I was released – and Sam will have to go through this too,’ Maguire said when Hallam was freed [in 2012].”
Sam Hallam served seven years in prison. Victor Nealon served 17 years.