May 24 2013 Latest news:
Friday, January 25, 2013
Barry George, who spent eight years in prison after being wrongly convicted of the murder of TV presenter Jill Dando, learns today whether he has won a High Court battle for compensation as a victim of a “miscarriage of justice”.
Mr George argues that, despite his unanimous acquittal by a jury at a retrial, a Ministry of Justice “functionary” unfairly and unlawfully decided he was “not innocent enough to be compensated”.
Yet for more than 30 years those acquitted on retrials in similar circumstances had been compensated, said his QC Ian Glen at a recent hearing.
He said the position seemed to have changed in 2008, the year Mr George was acquitted.
“We are not sure when the policy was changed or whether it was affected by the Barry George case.”
Mr Glen argued that the decision not to treat Mr George’s acquittal as a miscarriage of justice was to go behind the decision of the jury that acquitted him and failed to take account of the fact that no safe conviction could ever be based on the evidence against Mr George.
Mr George, 52, who was not at the hearing at London’s High Court, is seeking a reconsideration of his case that could open the way for him to claim an award of up to £500,000.
His high-profile action is one of five test cases assembled for Mr Justice Beatson and Mr Justice Irwin to decide who is now entitled to payments in “miscarriage of justice” cases following a landmark decision by the Supreme Court in May 2011.
Decisions in all five cases to refuse payouts were defended by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling in a three-day hearing.
Miss Dando was shot dead outside her home in Fulham in April 1999.
After his conviction in 2001, Mr George, of Fulham, west London, was acquitted of killing the 37-year-old BBC presenter at the 2008 retrial.
Mr George’s initial claim for compensation for lost earnings and wrongful imprisonment was rejected in January 2010.
His legal challenge against that decision was put on hold until after a panel of nine Supreme Court justices gave their landmark compensation ruling in the case of Andrew Adams - a former aircraft engineer who spent 14 years in jail before his murder conviction was ruled unsafe.
After the Adams ruling, Mr George was told by the Justice Secretary in June 2011 he was still not entitled to compensation under Section 133 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988.
Asking the High Court to quash the Justice Secretary’s decision, Mr Glen said: “Mr George’s claim has not been properly and fully considered or reconsidered.
“We want the opportunity to have a proper reconsideration at the appropriate level - at ministerial level - when we can have the chance to make our submissions about the state of the evidence and whether a safe conviction (against Mr George) could be based on it.”
The decision to refuse compensation was “defective and contrary to natural justice”.