Supreme Court to hear Adams appeal on meaning of "miscarriage of justice"

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal later this year of Andrew Adams against a refusal by the Justice Secretary to compensate him for 14 years in prison for a conviction which was subsequently overturned.  Hickman & Rose have been fighting for compensation for Mr Adams for three years.

Mr Adams had his 1993 conviction for Alfred “Jack” Royal’s murder quashed by the Court of Appeal in 2007, because his trial lawyers let him down. Several years after his conviction, it emerged that evidence had been missed by his original defence team, which meant he didn’t get a fair trial.

But the Ministry of Justice said he was not entitled to a penny in compensation, because (a) his conviction was not overturned due to “new or newly discovered” facts and (b) he is not, beyond reasonable doubt, the victim of a miscarriage of justice.  Mr Adams challenged this decision in the High Court.  The Justice Secretary’s decision was upheld at the High Court in February 2009.

Court of Appeal ruling

Mr Adams challenged that ruling at the Court of Appeal in London in October 2009.  The Court of Appeal delivered its judgment on 27 November 2009, inflicting a major blow to the compensation regime for victims of miscarriages of justice.

The Court of Appeal ruled that compensation should be paid only (a) where newly discovered facts showed that the person was innocent, or (possibly) (b) where something had gone “seriously wrong” in the investigation of the offence or the conduct of the trial such that someone had been convicted who should not have been. The Court of Appeal went on to conclude that although Mr Adams’ defence team had failed to uncover a raft of unused evidence in possession of the police which seriously undermined the prosecution case, and although trial counsel had had insufficient time to prepare for trial, this was not a case where anything had gone seriously wrong.

Daniel Machover, solicitor for  Mr Adams’ said then: “The Court seems to have not only downplayed how badly wrong things went at the trial itself, but ignored the fact that the trial was deprived of vital evidence because the solicitors for Andrew Adams never examined evidence held by the Crown Prosecution Service as ‘unused material’.”

The case raises the bar which defendants would have to jump to gain compensation to the point where no-one whose conviction is quashed will be recompensed for years in prison unless they show that they were innocent.  As Lord Bingham, a former Lord Chief Justice, commented in an earlier case, the Court of Appeal generally seeks to avoid making such a judgment.  Most successful appeals would therefore not be followed by any compensation. The Legal Services Commission is funding Mr Adams appeal, in recognition of the public importance of resolving this question and the need to have a fair compensation system for miscarriages of justice.

The case

Mr Adams, of Chapel Park, Newcastle, was 23 when he was found guilty in May 1993 of the shotgun murder of ex-science teacher Jack Royal.

Mr Royal, 58, was gunned down on his doorstep in Sunniside, Gateshead, in 1991, and Mr Adams was jailed for life.

He was the second man to be charged and cleared of the murder.

Detectives had also arrested a 19-year-old man called Walter Hepple, although he was cleared by a jury at Newcastle Crown Court.

For further information contact Daniel Machover on 0207 702 5331