Ian Lawless wins murder conviction compensation ruling

Ian Lawless cuddling his daughter Laura Jayne Lawless outside the High Court in central London in 2009 Mr Lawless, pictured here with his daughter after his release in 2009, could be awarded a six-figure sum

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A man who spent eight years in jail for a murder he did not commit could get up to £500,000 in compensation after winning a High Court case.

Ian Lawless was jailed for life in 2002 for the murder of retired sea captain Alf Wilkins in Grimsby.

In 2009 his conviction was ruled unsafe after judges heard fresh evidence.

High Court judges ruled that a previous decision to refuse Mr Lawless compensation was legally flawed and must be reconsidered.

Four other people whose convictions had been quashed including Barry George, the man wrongly convicted of the murder of BBC TV presenter Jill Dando, lost their bids for compensation.

'Need for attention'

Mr Lawless's solicitor Mark Newby said he was "absolutely delighted" with the ruling in his client's case.

He said the government would now have to reassess whether compensation should be awarded to Mr Lawless, taking the judges' ruling into account, and he expected that it would be.

Mr Newby said: "It's likely to still take a while for Mr Lawless but at least he now knows it will move in the right direction.

Analysis

Innocent until proven guilty, right? Not when it comes to compensation claims for people whose convictions have been quashed - the government sets a very high bar.

In essence, the wrongfully convicted have to show there's no existing evidence on which they could be found guilty - that they are "clearly innocent". Unless all the key evidence in the case has been demolished at their appeal they're unlikely to succeed.

Those who have had a retrial, after their conviction was overturned, will also probably lose out. The grounds were widened a little by the Supreme Court in May 2011, which gave renewed hope to Barry George that his damages claim might succeed.

But the High Court's decision has closed the door - unless the Supreme Court justices can be persuaded to reconsider the issues.

"There's an overall cap of £500,000 for the sort of length of time that Mr Lawless served. Certainly it would be more than £100,000 for an eight-year sentence."

The solicitor said Mr Lawless was "struggling with his life on the outside" and while a compensation payout would help provide for his future, it would "never make up" for the years he had lost.

Mr Wilkins' body was found in the kitchen of his smoke-damaged flat on Grimsby's Yarborough estate with his 12-year-old Alsatian dog Lucky lying nearby.

Mr Lawless was convicted of murder after making various "confessions" to third parties, including regulars in a pub and a taxi driver,

His conviction was later ruled unsafe after fresh medical evidence revealed he had a "pathological need for attention".

His freedom at the age of 47 followed a referral of his case to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, the independent body which investigates possible miscarriages of justice.

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