Next month, human rights judges will hear a complaint brought by a British mum refused compensation after her conviction for the manslaughter of her child was quashed.
The European Court of Human Rights has scheduled a Grand Chamber hearing into the case Allen v. the United Kingdom (no. 25424/09) on 14 November at 9.15h (CET).
The applicant, Lorraine Allen, is a British national who was born in 1969 and lives in Scarborough. On 7 September 2000, Ms Allen was convicted of the manslaughter of her four-month old son and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment.
The conviction was based on evidence given at her trial by expert medical witnesses who testified that her son’s injuries were consistent with “shaken baby syndrome,” also known as “non-accidental head injury” (NAHI), because of the presence of a triad of intracranial injuries.
In her appeal, Allen claimed that new medical evidence suggested that the triad of injuries could be attributed to a cause other than NAHI. In the meantime, she was released from prison, having served her sentence.
On 21 July 2005 the Court of Appeal quashed Allen’s conviction on the grounds that it was unsafe. It found that the new evidence might have affected the jury’s decision to convict Allen and therefore her conviction was unsafe.
The prosecution did not apply for a re-trial given that, by the time Allen appealed her conviction, she had already served her sentence and a considerable amount of time had passed. Allen lodged a claim with the Secretary of State under section 133 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, which provides that compensation shall be paid to someone who was convicted of a criminal offence but has subsequently had that conviction reversed on the ground that a new or newly discovered fact shows beyond reasonable doubt that there has been a miscarriage of justice. Her claim was refused on 31 May 2006 on the grounds that the new medical evidence in her case did not count as a new or newly discovered fact.
She brought judicial review proceedings challenging this decision. In December 2007 this claim was also dismissed. The judge considered the meaning of the phrase “miscarriage of justice” and concluded that new evidence which created the possibility that a jury might acquit a claimant fell well short of demonstrating beyond reasonable doubt that there had been a miscarriage of justice in Allen’s case. Her appeal was also subsequently dismissed by the Court of Appeal in July 2008 on the ground that the acquittal decision did not begin to carry the implication that there was no case for the applicant to answer, and that the test for a miscarriage of justice had accordingly not been made out. Leave to appeal to the House of Lords was refused in December 2008.
Relying on Article 6 § 2 (presumption of innocence), Allen alleges that the decision not to award her compensation breached the presumption of innocence.
The application was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 24 April 2009 and a statement of facts was communicated to the parties for observations on 14 December 2010. On 26 June 2012, the Chamber to which the case had been allocated relinquished jurisdiction in favour of the Grand Chamber.