An article in the December 2011 ABA Journal noted the now-disputed science around shaken baby syndrome (1). This decision, reported in the Belfast Telegraph, adds to the questions around criminal prosecutions based on this syndrome and raises the issue of compensation for persons convicted in respect of it.
In 2000 Lorraine Allen (then Harris) was convicted of the manslaughter of her son by shaking. A term of imprisonment was imposed. Further expert evidence was put forward in 2005 which resulted in her conviction being quashed.
Ms Allen sought compensation for the unjustified imprisonment which was denied by the UK government. Her appeals of this denial – based on administrative law – were rejected by UK courts. Ultimately she appealed to the European Court of Human Rights on the basis that this denial breached her right to the presumption of innocence under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The ECHR concluded that the UK courts has properly concluded that she had not established beyond a reasonable doubt that there had been a miscarriage of justice: the handling of the matter by Britain’s courts had been consistent with a presumption of her innocence.
(1) Mark Hansen, Unsettling Science, 97(12) ABA JOURNAL 49 (2011).