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
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
News
Ernesto Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, right, met at Havana Golf Club in 1962 to mock the game
newsFidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Sport
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?