EIT: Oikeusmurhan aiheuttamien vahinkojen korvaamatta jättäminen ei loukannut syyttömyysolettamaa

12.6.2024 | Oikeusuutiset

Markku Fredman

Rejection of claims for compensation for miscarriage of justice did not breach the European Convention

In yesterday’s Grand Chamber judgment in the case of Nealon and Hallam v. the United Kingdom (applications nos. 32483/19 and 35049/19) the European Court of Human Rights held, by a majority of 12 votes to 5, that there had been:

  • no violation of Article 6 § 2 (presumption of innocence) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case concerned the rejection of the applicants’ claims for compensation for a miscarriage of justice after their convictions had been quashed when new evidence had undermined the cases against them.

The statutory scheme for compensation for miscarriages of justice in the Criminal Justice Act 1988, as amended by the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, provided for compensation for a miscarriage of justice only where a new or newly discovered fact showed beyond reasonable doubt that the person concerned had not committed the offence. The applicants argued that the statutory scheme was incompatible with Article 6 § 2 because it required them to “prove” their “innocence” in order to be eligible for compensation.

In its case-law the Court has acknowledged a second aspect to Article 6 § 2, which comes into play after criminal proceedings have concluded in order to protect formerly accused persons who have been acquitted, or in respect of whom criminal proceedings were discontinued, from being treated by public officials and authorities as though they are in fact guilty. Those persons are innocent in the eyes of the law and must be treated as such.

In this case, the Court confirmed that Article 6 § 2 of the Convention was applicable in this second aspect. Furthermore, following a review of its case-law on this issue, the Court considered that in all such cases, regardless of the nature of the subsequent proceedings, and regardless of whether the criminal proceedings had ended in an acquittal or a discontinuance, the question for the Court to consider was whether the decisions and reasoning of the domestic courts or other authorities in the subsequent proceedings, when considered as a whole, and in the context of the exercise which they were required by domestic law to undertake, amounted to the imputation of criminal liability to the applicant. To impute criminal liability to a person was to reflect an opinion that he or she was guilty to the criminal standard of the commission of a criminal offence.
The Court noted that the test in section 133(1ZA) of the amended 1988 Act required the Justice Secretary, in the context of a confidential civil and administrative procedure, to comment only on whether the new or newly discovered fact showed beyond reasonable doubt that the applicant had not committed the offence in question. The refusal of compensation by the Justice Secretary did not, therefore, impute criminal guilt to the applicants by reflecting the opinion that they were guilty to the criminal standard of committing the criminal offences, nor did it suggest that the criminal proceedings should have been determined differently. Finding that it could not be shown beyond reasonable doubt that an applicant had not committed an offence – by reference to a new or newly discovered fact or otherwise – was not  tantamount to finding that he or she had committed the offence. Therefore, it could not be said that the refusal of compensation by the Justice Secretary attributed criminal guilt to the applicants.
The Court concluded that the refusal of the applicants’ claims for compensation under section 133(1ZA) of the 1988 Act had not breached the presumption of innocence in its second aspect.



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