Report No. 277
B. United Kingdom
(i) Criminal Justice Act 1988
3.6 In conformity with its international obligation under ICCPR, the United Kingdom has incorporated the aforesaid provision of Article 14(6) into its domestic legislation, the Criminal Justice Act 1988, under Part XI subtitled "Miscarriages of Justice", sections 133, 133A, 133B.
3.7 The said section lay down the legislative framework under which the Secretary of State, subject to specified conditions, and upon receipt of applications, shall pay compensation to a person who has suffered punishment as a result of a wrongful conviction, that was subsequently reversed or pardoned on the ground that there has been a miscarriage of justice- where a new fact came to light proving beyond reasonable doubt that the person did not commit the offence.
It also provides the factors to be considered while assessing the amount of compensation i.e. harm to reputation or similar damage, the seriousness of the offence, severity of the punishment, the conduct of the investigation and prosecution of the offence. In terms of the amount of compensation, the said sections provide an overall compensation limit (distinguishing on the basis of period of incarceration i.e. less than ten (10) years or ten (10) years or more).26
3.8 Prior to 2011, the eligibility for compensation under this law requires that the claimant be exonerated and not acquitted on grounds of legal technicalities or evidence falling short of "beyond reasonable doubt." However, in 2011 vide the case of R (on the application of Adams) v. Secretary of State for Justice27, the UK Supreme Court widened the definition of 'miscarriage of justice and the notion of innocence'. A majority judgment ruled that the requirement of conclusive innocence was too narrow and held that even those who cannot prove their innocence beyond reasonable doubt were entitled to compensation; further noting that:
Innocence as such is not a concept known to our criminal justice system. We distinguish between the guilty and the not guilty. A person is only guilty if the state can prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.. if it can be conclusively shown that the state was not entitled to punish a person, it seems to me that he should be entitled to compensation for having been punished. He does not have to prove his innocence at his trial and it seems wrong in principle that he should be required to prove his innocence now.