Compensation boost after rape conviction quashed

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A man who waited seven years before his conviction for raping an underage girl was overturned has won a major legal battle in his bid to secure compensation.

Desmond Dinnell or Uttley, who had denied the offence, spent nearly 30 months in prison before being freed in 2004 pending an appeal after he was found guilty on a majority decision of the rape of the 15-year-old in June 2002 at his then home in Edinburgh.

His conviction was only quashed in 2009, when he was aged 35, by judges at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh who heard fresh evidence linked to advances in DNA testing.

Lady Dorrian, who gave the court’s decision, said: “We are satisfied that the verdict, returned in ignorance of this evidence, must be regarded as a miscarriage of justice.”

He has since sought compensation for the miscarriage of justice from the Scottish Government but was refused.

A judicial review was taken of the Scottish Government decisions at the Court of Session in Edinburgh and Lord Burns earlier held that the refusal under an ex gratia scheme for people jailed after wrongful conviction failed “to take account of material and relevant considerations”.

The judge said the decisions were “irrational and unreasonable” and set them aside and ordered that the Ministers reconsider the application for compensation.

The Scottish Government challenged his decision but three judges at the Court of Session today refused the appeal.

Lord Eassie, who heard the appeal with Lord Brodie and Lady Clark of Calton, said previous ministerial statements had acknowledged payment should be made if a person was jailed following a wrongful conviction through a serious default by the police or other public authority and that it could be made in exceptional circumstances.

The senior judge said Dinnell maintained that in the circumstances of his case, where seven years passed between conviction and his appeal being upheld, amounted to exceptional circumstances.

As well as spending a period in prison Dinnell, who was jailed for six years, was subject to the stigma of having been convicted of the rape of a 15-year-old and being on the sex offenders’ register.

Lord Brodie said he did not consider that letters conveying the Scottish Government decisions in January and October 2012 “demonstrate rational and adequately reasoned exercises of their undoubtedly wide discretion in determining the questions as whether there were, in the respondent’s (Dinnell’s) case, exceptional circumstances that justify compensation”.

Lady Clark said that the Ministers had concluded that as the conviction was overturned in the normal course of the appeal process, which was there to identify miscarriages of justice, compensation was not payable.

But she said: “I consider that this completely misses the point which is being made on behalf of the respondent. The respondent contends that the appeal process was not normal because of the time it took.”

The judge said: “It is difficult to understand how one could conclude in this case that the length of the appeal process was normal.”

She added: “I consider that the reasons given in the decision letters do not bear scrutiny and are irrational.”

During Dinnell’s appeal over his conviction judges were told by a senior forensic science lecturer who examined swabs that DNA was present from three separate males, none of whom was Dinnell.