Wrongly jailed mum Lorraine Allen loses compensation bid

Lorraine Allen
Image caption Lorraine Allen had argued the current criteria meant she effectively had to prove her innocence to get compensation

A mother who was wrongly imprisoned for killing her four-month-old son has lost a legal battle for compensation.

Lorraine Allen, formerly Harris, was jailed in 2000 for the manslaughter of her son, Patrick, in December 1998.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled the refusal was "not inconsistent with her innocence".

The conviction of Ms Allen, originally from Derbyshire but now living in Scarborough, was quashed in 2005 following fresh medical evidence.

The decision cannot be appealed against.

Barry George

The BBC's home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw says the ruling has major implications for other miscarriage of justice victims who have been denied damages for the time they have spent behind bars.

One of the highest profile of these is Barry George, who was convicted in 2001 of shooting TV presenter Jill Dando.

He was acquitted at a retrial in 2008 after doubt was cast on the reliability of gunshot residue evidence.

Currently, compensation is paid if the conviction is reversed on the grounds a new, or newly discovered, fact shows beyond reasonable doubt there had been a miscarriage of justice.

'Very disappointed'

Ms Allen claimed this was contrary to her right to be presumed innocent and placed a burden on her to prove her innocence.

But the European Court of Human Rights found UK judges properly considered whether any miscarriage of justice had taken place, and concluded this had not been established beyond reasonable doubt.

However, this decision, the court ruled, did not represent a comment on her guilt or innocence.

It said: "The language used by the UK courts in their decisions to decide on compensation had not undermined Ms Allen's acquittal or treated her in a manner inconsistent with her innocence."

Ms Allen was originally convicted after a jury was told her son had died from "shaken-baby syndrome", also known as Non Accidental Head Injury (NAHI).

After serving 16 months of a three-year sentence, the conviction was quashed at the Court of Appeal after fresh evidence from medical experts suggested the baby's injuries could have been caused in other ways.

She challenged the original compensation decision by Judicial Review, but this was refused by the High Court in 2007 and the subsequent appeal was dismissed in 2008.

Her fight then went to the European Court in Strasbourg, which heard her case in November but only now published its judgment.

Mike Pemberton, Mrs Allen's solicitor, said: "We are very disappointed with the outcome of today's case - it has been a long battle for Lorraine and she has been very stalwart in trying to get the justice she thinks she deserves.

"I would now call on the government to seriously consider bringing back the previous scheme to allow a discretionary and moral approach to compensation.

"It is abhorrent that the right to compensation following a miscarriage of justice relies entirely on the strength of evidence... in complex cases concerning differing expert views, it is highly likely that the high threshold required to obtain compensation will never be met."

UK Justice Minister Damian Green said: "I am pleased that the European Court of Human Rights has agreed with the judgment of our domestic courts and agrees that compensation is not applicable in this particular case."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites