Eight years in prison, but Barry George is refused compensation

High Court rejects claim for £500,000 as judges set new benchmark for  miscarriages of justice

Barry George, who spent eight years in prison after being wrongly convicted of Jill Dando’s murder, had his claim for compensation thrown out yesterday after judges ruled that his conviction, later overturned in a retrial, did not amount to a “miscarriage of justice”.

Lawyers for the 52-year-old, who would gain up to £500,000 if his claim was successful, argued the Justice Secretary illegally withheld the payment after his conviction was quashed in 2007 by effectively suggesting that Mr George was “not innocent enough” to be compensated.

But a panel of High Court judges rejected the claim of Mr George and three other men whose convictions had been quashed. They were part of a test case to decide when a victim of a wrongful conviction can be declared innocent beyond all doubt,  and therefore potentially entitled to a cash award.

One of the five claimants, Ian Lawless, who spent eight years in jail for a murder he did not commit, won his case and was granted permission to have his compensation claim reconsidered.

Nicholas Baird, the solicitor for Mr George, said he and his family were “terribly disappointed” at the finding and would continue their fight for redress from the Government.

Mr George, who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, is seeking damages for lost earnings and wrongful imprisonment following his conviction of the murder in 1999 of Ms Dando, who was shot dead on the doorstep of her home in Fulham, west London. The Court of Appeal overturned the conviction after doubt was cast on crucial evidence of a “firearms discharge” particle found in a pocket of a coat worn by Mr George. When he was subsequently acquitted in a retrial, prosecutors said he had “the right to be regarded as innocent”.

The test case followed a landmark decision by the Supreme Court in 2011 which found that the “mere quashing” of a conviction could not be an automatic “trigger for compensation”.

The ruling by nine judges set a new test for a miscarriage of justice which required that damages should only be paid if a person could prove there were no circumstances that could have led to their conviction by a jury.

Yesterday’s ruling found that Mr George and three others whose convictions had been overturned failed to meet that test.

In a judgment which raises the question of a distinction in the judicial system between acquittal and a declaration of innocence, two High Court judges said there were no new facts in Mr George’s case which would have meant he could never have been convicted. Lord Justice Beatson and Mr Justice Irwin said: “There was indeed a case upon which a reasonable jury, properly directed, could have convicted the claimant of murder.”

The finding was greeted with dismay by Mr George’s legal team, who had argued the decision of the Government not to grant him compensation, which would have been capped at £500,000, was “flawed” and “contrary to natural justice”.

Mr Baird said his client was not yet giving up this fight.

He said: “We are very disappointed with the judgment and we shall be applying for permission to leapfrog the Court of Appeal to have the matter heard before the Supreme Court.”

Legal experts said the ruling was about “shutting down” the flow of compensation and was unfair on Mr George who is considered innocent of Ms Dando’s death in the public mind.

Michael Turner QC, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, said : “What this is about is a change of the law making it harder for people who have suffered miscarriages of justice to get money out of the Government.

“It is about giving people in these cases the least amount of money and shutting down this stream of compensation. As far as Mr George is concerned this is not fair, because no one now thinks that he is guilty of this crime.”

Case winner: Unreliable evidence

Ian Lawless was jailed for life in 2002 after he told several people that he was involved in the murder of a retired sea captain on a Grimsby estate.

Mr Lawless was released in 2009 and his conviction was overturned after the Court of Appeal heard that his “confessions”, made to pub regulars and a taxi driver, arose from a mental condition that resulted in a “pathological need for attention”.

Despite a consensus among experts that his confession was unreliable and no jury could convict him on the basis of these admissions, the Justice Secretary refused an application by Mr Lawless to be compensated for his eight years of imprisonment. The High Court ruled yesterday that the Government had wrongly rejected the claim. The Ministry of Justice must now reconsider how much to award him.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Office Administrator - Full or Part Time

£14600 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 2003 the company...

Recruitment Genius: Social Media & Content Marketing Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing, Google certi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 business...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has won the award ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn