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Saturday 21 July 2018

'It is an impossible burden on anybody' - Irish man now seeking compensation for wrongful rape conviction

Victor Nealon (inset) spent 17 years in prison
Victor Nealon (inset) spent 17 years in prison
Denise Calnan

Denise Calnan

An Irish man who spent 17 years in prison before his rape conviction was overturned is now seeking compensation in the UK Supreme Court.

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 and then lost his case in the Court of Appeal.

Victor Nealon (34)
Victor Nealon (34)

Now, former postman Mr Nealon is appealing the decision in the Supreme Court in London.

Speaking on RTE Radio One's Morning Ireland, Mr Nealon's lawyer Mr Mark Newby of QS Jordans said it is a "very difficult time" for his client.

"What happened in 2013 was the law changed in Britain so someone who wants to claim compensation [in this instance] has to prove beyond reasonable doubt that they're innocent," Mr Newby said.

"It is an impossible burden on anybody wrongfully convicted. It is effectively asking them to prove their innocence twice."

Mr Newby said Mr Nealon proved his innocence in the rape case with DNA testing.

"We arranged DNA testing with the original exhibits, we showed it wasn't Victor's DNA, it was an unknown male and it was consistent on most of the clothing.

"As a result, Victor's conviction was quashed in 2013 on the basis that it looked very likely that someone else was responsible and that's what the jury may well have concluded if they'd heard this evidence."

Mr Newby explained that, as a result of the change in law, just one or two people have taken cases in the past 24 months for compensation for wrongful convictions.

"You would have expected eight, 10, 11 in a year before," Mr Newby said.

He continued; "Victor is in a poor condition, as you would be if you've spent that time in prison protesting your innocence. He also has mental health difficulties, he's had a very difficult time and continues to do so.

"We hope at the end of this process, although judgment is likely to be reserved, they will say that the law isn't compatible with the European right to have a fair trial.

Background

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.

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