Sam Hallam: Miscarriage of justice victim fights on for compensation

Sam Hallam and his mother were drenched with champagne as they left the High Court

Sam Hallam and his mother were drenched with champagne as they left the High Court - Credit: Archant

Hoxton man denied pay out despite being wrongly convicted of murder

Sam Hallam with his Mum Wendy Cohen, outside his home in Hoxton.

Sam Hallam with his Mum Wendy Cohen, outside his home in Hoxton. - Credit: National Pictures

A man who spent more than seven years in jail for a murder he did not commit is fighting a landmark case for compensation.

Sam Hallam, from Hoxton, was 17 when he was convicted of the murder of Essayas Kassahun, who died after being attacked by a gang of youths in October 2004 on the St Luke’s estate in Finsbury.

But in May 2012 – seven years and seven months into his sentence – appeal judges quashed the conviction in dramatic scenes.

They ruled new evidence, in the form of timed and dated mobile phone photographs, dramatically undermined accusations that Mr Hallam had deliberately concocted a false alibi.

But the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) later rejected his application for compensation for miscarriage of justice last August – a few months after guidelines on such cases were changed.

The Criminal Justice Act 1988 which governs compensation payments was amended last March, to give a narrower definition of miscarriage of justice. Applicants for compensation must now satisfy the Justice Secretary that “a new or newly discovered fact shows beyond reasonable doubt” that they did not commit the offences for which they were jailed.

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Mr Hallam’s lawyers are now asking the High Court to rule that UK law on miscarriage of justice cases is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) .

Mr Hallam is fighting the case for compensation alongside Victor Nealon, from Worcestershire, and they are waiting for a judgement from the High Court.

Mr Nealson was given a life sentence for attempted rape, and served 17 years in jail – 10 more than the seven-year minimum term – but the conviction was quashed in December 2013, four years after a DNA test pointed to ‘an unknown male’ as being the likely assailant.

Their judicial review challenges are the first to be brought against the coalition government’s decision last year to narrow eligibility for a compensation award.

Lawyers for the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, argue the Supreme Court has decided Article 6(2) of the ECHR – in that anyone charged with a criminal offence is presumed innocent until proven guilty – is not relevant.

And the government’s lawyers also argue that, even if it was, the current rules on compensation do not infringe the presumption of innocence.

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