Men who spent years in prison before their convictions were overturned are losing out on compensation offers

Two men who served years behind bars before their convictions were overturned have lost their case at the European Court of Human Rights over rejected compensation claims.

Sam Hallam, who was convicted of murder, and Victor Nealon, who was found guilty of attempted rape, had previously brought claims to the High Court over the Justice Secretary’s refusal to award them compensation.

Their compensation offers were rejected on the basis that it was not the case that “new or newly discovered fact establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that a miscarriage of justice has occurred.”

After losing trials in British courts, including the Supreme Court in 2019, the couple took their case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg, arguing that the basis for refusing compensation violated their right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The Court of Appeal overturned Sam Hallam’s 2012 conviction (Mike Hornby/PA)

However, in Tuesday’s judgment, a panel of ECtHR judges ruled by a 12-5 majority that there had been no violation of Hallam and Nealon’s human rights. The couple’s lawyers argued that there was a violation of part of Art. 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that any person charged with a crime should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

However, UK government lawyers said the decision-maker “had a duty to make a decision on compensation according to criteria that focused solely on the specific effects of the new or newly discovered fact, rather than on making an overall assessment of guilt or innocence.”

In its decision dismissing the couple’s complaint, the Strasbourg panel said: “The Secretary of Justice’s refusal to award compensation cannot be said to have imputed criminal guilt to the applicant, reflecting the view that he was guilty of committing the offense to the standard of committing the offence, thereby suggesting that criminal proceedings should should have been resolved in a different way.

“A negative finding that it could not be shown, to a very high standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, that the applicant did not commit the offense – by reference to a new or newly discovered fact or otherwise – does not amount to a positive finding that in fact committed a crime.”

Hallam, from east London, has served more than seven years after being jailed for life as a teenager following his conviction at the Old Bailey in 2005 for the murder of a trainee chef.

Mr Nealon, from Dublin, was sentenced to life imprisonment after a trial at Hereford Crown Court and served 17 years in prison – 10 years more than the minimum sentence of seven years, after he insisted he was innocent.

Both were freed after appellate judges ruled that new evidence made their convictions unsafe.

Hallam’s conviction was overturned in 2012.

Former postman Nealon, convicted in 1997 of attempting to rape a woman in Redditch, Worcestershire, won his appeal in December 2013.