Saturday, January 26, 2013

British man cleared of killing woman loses battle for a £500,000 payout: Judges rule that another jury could have found him guilty

The man sensationally acquitted of murdering Jill Dando yesterday lost his High Court bid for compensation – on the grounds that another jury could have found him guilty.

Two judges ruled Barry George, who spent eight years in jail before being cleared of the TV presenter’s killing at a retrial, was not eligible for up to £500,000 as a victim of a ‘miscarriage of justice’.

Lawyers for the convicted sex offender claimed that the Justice Secretary had unfairly and unlawfully decided Mr George, 52, was ‘not innocent enough to be compensated’.

But in ruling that Mr George had ‘failed the legal test’ for an award, Lord Justice Beatson and Mr Justice Irwin said the minister who had opposed his compensation bid was ‘entirely justified in the conclusion he reached’. They added: ‘There was indeed a case upon which a reasonable jury, properly directed, could have convicted the claimant of murder.’

Crimewatch presenter Miss Dando, 37, was shot outside her home in Fulham, south-west London in April 1999.

The murder prompted an enormous inquiry by Scotland Yard and resulted in unemployed loner Mr George being convicted in July 2001. He was granted a retrial on appeal, and received a unanimous acquittal by a jury in August 2008.

Mr George then made a claim for compensation for lost earnings and wrongful imprisonment, but this was rejected in January 2010.

He went to court again to seek a reconsideration of his case, which could have opened the way for him to claim as much as £500,000.

His barrister, Ian Glen QC, insisted that the original decision to refuse compensation was ‘defective and contrary to natural justice’, arguing that for more than 30 years, those acquitted on retrials in similar circumstances had been compensated.

Previously, compensation was only awarded for a miscarriage of justice if a claimant could effectively prove they were innocent.

But a Supreme Court hearing in 2011 widened this to say a person is eligible for compensation if they can prove that no set of circumstances could possibly lead to their conviction by a jury. The judges ruled Mr George’s case did not pass this second test.

His solicitor, Nick Baird, said: ‘We are very disappointed with the judgment and shall be applying for permission to leapfrog the Court of Appeal to have the matter heard before the Supreme Court.’

Mr George’s action was one of five test cases to decide who is now entitled to payments in ‘miscarriage of justice’ cases.

Decisions to refuse payouts in all five cases were defended by current Justice Secretary Chris Grayling in a three-day hearing last October.

Only one claimant, Ian Lawless, who spent eight years in jail for murder before being freed by the Court of Appeal in 2009, was successful. The judges ruled the decision to refuse compensation was flawed and must be reconsidered.

Mr George – who has a record for attempted rape and indecent assault – and the three other claimants failed in their challenges.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: ‘We welcome the Court’s decision in these cases, in that it confirms that our decision not to grant compensation to the named individuals was correct.’

In 2010, the Mail revealed how former deputy headmaster Sion Jenkins had been refused compensation for the six years he spent in jail accused of murdering foster daughter Billie-Jo. He had sought up to £500,000 damages for the term he served before he was acquitted.

But although Mr Jenkins said he fitted ‘all the criteria’ for a payout, the Ministry of Justice rejected his request after officials assessed the case. Rules stated that applicants for miscarriage of justice compensation had to show they were ‘clearly innocent’ to receive money.

Original report here

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