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Sunday 25 September 2016

Innocent Irishman who spent 17 years behind bars for rape loses compensation battle

Published 12/04/2016 | 13:25

Victor Nealon (34)
Victor Nealon (34)

An Irishman who spent years behind bars before his rape conviction was overturned has lost the latest round of his legal battle for 'miscarriage of justice'' compensation.

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Victor Nealon, 54, who is originally from Dublin, was found guilty of attempted rape and was given a life sentence after his trial at Hereford Crown Court.

He served 17 years in jail - 10 more than the seven-year minimum term - after he persisted in asserting he was innocent.

He suffered a defeat at the High Court last year but took his case to the Court of Appeal.

On Monday, three judges in London dismissed the human rights challenges.

Mr Nealon was set free after appeal judges ruled that fresh evidence made their convictions unsafe, but he had applications for compensation rejected by the Ministry of Justice.

Former postman Mr Nealon, who was convicted in 1997 of the attempted rape of a woman in Redditch, Worcestershire, won his appeal in December 2013.

At the High Court, he asked two judges to rule that UK law is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) because it wrongly restricts compensation in ''miscarriage of justice'' cases.

Lawyers argued on their behalf that the Criminal Justice Act 1988, which governs compensation payments, was amended in 2014 in a way that violated Article 6 (2) of the ECHR because it required a person seeking an award to prove they were innocent.

Applicants for compensation now have to satisfy the Justice Secretary that "a new or newly-discovered fact shows beyond reasonable doubt" that they did not commit the offences for which they were jailed.

Lord Justice Burnett, announcing the High Court's decision last June, ruled that the law "does not require the applicant for compensation to prove his innocence".

He said: "It is the link between the new fact and the applicant's innocence of which the Secretary of State must be satisfied before he is required to pay compensation under the 1988 Act, not his innocence in a wider or general sense."

Mr Hallam and Mr Nealon challenged the High Court's findings at the Court of Appeal last month in proceedings before Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson, Sir Brian Leveson and Lord Justice Hamblen.

The three judges were asked to rule that the lower court "erred in law" when reaching its decision, but on Monday they announced that the appeal was dismissed.

The judges also refused permission to appeal to the UK's highest court, but it is still open to Mr Nealon to apply directly to the Supreme Court in a bid to take his case further.

Press Association

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