High Court Rules on Compensation for Miscarriages of Justice Amidst Fresh Evidence Challenge

Citation: [2023] EWHC 3059 (Admin)
Judgment on

Introduction

In the recent High Court of Justice case of Ahmed Mohamed Ali Adan v The Secretary of State for Justice, key legal principles surrounding judicial review and compensation for miscarriages of justice were examined. Through a meticulous analysis of the case law provided, this article seeks to invoke clarity on the legal precedents applied, parsing the intricate balance between the fresh evidence presented and established case law within the UK judicial system.

Key Facts

Ahmed Mohamed Ali Adan was convicted of two counts of indecent assault in 2004 and served over 13 years in prison and hospital detention. His conviction was quashed in 2021 on the grounds of fresh DNA evidence linking the offence to another individual, “S.” Following the reversal of his conviction, Adan sought compensation under section 133 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, which the Secretary of State refused, leading to the judicial review claim.

Miscarriage of Justice and Compensation

Central to this case is the application of section 133 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. Post-amendment through the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, the section stipulates that compensation is warranted only if a new fact “shows beyond reasonable doubt that the person did not commit the offence.” This effectively enshrines the “Category 1” miscarriage of justice from Adams v Secretary of State for Justice [2011], wherein only those who can demonstrate factual innocence are eligible for compensation.

Standard of Proof

The Secretary of State must ascertain whether the new evidence incontrovertibly shows that the applicant did not commit the offence, thereby placing the burden of establishing factual innocence on the claimant. This standard underscores the stringency of qualifying for compensation and mirrors the Court of Appeal’s assertion that a “reasonable doubt” could persist even with the fresh evidence furnished.

Rationality and Judicial Review

The decision-making process of the Secretary of State was meticulously dissected to ensure it corresponded with rationality—one of the cornerstones of public law and judicial review. Rationality in this context requires a decision that falls within the range of reasonable outcomes open to the decision-maker. It also implies a process devoid of logical flaws or gaps in reasoning, particularly when juxtaposing a conclusion with the evidence supporting it.

Outcomes

The High Court dismissed the claim for judicial review, concurring with the Secretary of State that the fresh DNA evidence did not incontrovertibly prove Adan’s innocence. There were two primary hurdles: consistent witness identification of Adan despite the fresh evidence and an element of residual doubt regarding the exact role the mobile phone—linked to S—played in the offence. Despite the fresh evidence being “cogent,” it fell short of the certainty required for a Category 1 miscarriage of justice.

Conclusion

The High Court’s judgment illuminates the lofty threshold required for compensation under section 133 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. Even when evidence sheds new light on a case, disrupting the veracity of previous convictions, without reaching the height of demonstrating innocence “beyond reasonable doubt,” the path to compensation remains obstructed. This underscores the judiciary’s stringent interpretation of “miscarriage of justice,” crystalizing that only evidence that unequivocally exonerates an individual will suffice for reparation under the Act.

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