The long fight for justice for Andrew Adams reaches the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom

Tuesday, 15 February 2011 -  The long fight for justice for Andrew Adams reaches the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, when his legal team will try to persuade nine justices that it was unlawful of the Justice Secretary to refuse in January 2008 to award Andrew statutory compensation as a victim of a miscarriage of justice.

The case, which is due to last three days, will be heard with two cases from Northern Ireland (where the appellants are asking the Supreme Court to make the same order against the Northern Ireland Secretary who refused to accept them as victims of miscarriages of justice). As well as hearing from the lawyers for the two respondent secretaries of state, the Supreme Court will also hear from lawyers representing two ‘interveners’, the criminal justice NGO, JUSTICE, and Barry George (wrongly convicted of the murder of BBC presenter Jill Dando).

Section 133 CJA

Section 133 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (CJA), which was introduced into our law in order to comply with our international obligations under the 1966 UN ‘bill of rights’ (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ICCPR), provides:

‘…when a person has been convicted of a criminal offence and when, subsequently, his conviction has been reversed or he has been pardoned on the ground that a new, or newly discovered, fact shows beyond reasonable doubt that there has been a miscarriage of justice, the Secretary of State shall pay compensation for the miscarriage of justice to the person who has suffered punishment as a result of such conviction…, unless the non-disclosure of the unknown fact was wholly or partly attributable to the person convicted.’

Andrew Adams is appealing the November 2009 ruling by the court of appeal (civil division), which upheld the decision made in January 2008 by the Justice Secretary that he had not been the victim of a ‘miscarriage of justice’.

The issues

Andrew Adams says that he ‘ticks all the boxes’ to qualify for compensation under s133 CJA, because: 

  1. In January 2007 the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) quashed his conviction for murder on the ground that new evidence (that had not been available at his trial or first appeal) conclusively showed that the murder verdict was unsafe.  That ruling therefore established the miscarriage of justice – along the lines envisaged in a speech by the (late) Law Lord, Lord Bingham, in a 2004 case called Mullen
  2. He did suffer punishment as a result of the wrongful conviction, namely 14 years imprisonment
  3. The non-disclosure of the unknown facts (here three sets of evidence in the prosecution’s ‘unused material’ that seriously undermined the prosecution case but which his original defence team never even examined), was not wholly or partially attributable to Andrew Adams.

The Justice Secretary continues to defend his 2008 decision in Andrew’s case, on the basis that: 

  1. Unused material held by the prosecution and available to the defence to view cannot be ‘new or newly discovered’; and
  2. A ‘miscarriage of justice’ occurs only where someone is eventually found to be ‘clearly innocent’, as stated by Lord Steyn, another Law Lord in Mullen, with whom Lord Rodger agreed at the time.

In turn, Andrew Adams will point out that neither the ICCPR nor section 133 mention the concept of being ‘clearly innocent’ and so miscarriage of justice must mean something else and, in any event, the Court of Appeal (criminal division) has no mechanism or legal duty to distinguish cases where they decide to quash the conviction as being ‘unsafe’ as between those found ‘clearly innocent’ and other wrongful convictions. 

Andrew Adams will probably have to wait several months for the outcome of the appeal, but he hopes that the result will enable him to require the Justice Secretary to finally accept him as the victim of a miscarriage of justice, leading on to compensation payments which, while they can never bring back the lost years, should help to bring him out of the abject poverty and misery that he has lived through for over four years, following his release from custody in January 2007 and which he would never have experienced if he had not been locked up for the previous 14 years.

For further information please contact:
Daniel Machover on 0207 702 5334