Mother loses legal bid after jail over son’s death

Lorraine Allen was jailed for killing her son, but the conviction was later quashed. Picture: Contributed
Lorraine Allen was jailed for killing her son, but the conviction was later quashed. Picture: Contributed
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A MOTHER who has fought for compensation after she was wrongly jailed for killing her son lost her case at the European Court of Human Rights yesterday.

Lorraine Allen, 39, was jailed for three years in 2000 after a jury found her guilty of the manslaughter of her four-month-old son Patrick, but the conviction was quashed in 2005 after fresh expert evidence was put forward.

Ms Allen, from Scarborough, applied for compensation but this was refused by the Home Secretary because her claim, it was argued, did not meet statutory criteria.

She took the claim to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg which ruled yesterday that the government’s compensation decision did not imply or state she was guilty and so breach her right to the presumption of innocence.

Yesterday’s ruling is expected to have an impact on a number of other cases in which convictions have been overturned but compensation has not been paid.

Ms Allen, 39, was jailed in a so-called “shaken-baby” case. She was called Lorraine Harris at the time and lived in Long Eaton, Derbyshire.

A child born while she was serving that sentence was taken away from her and placed up for adoption, before her conviction was quashed.

After the Home Secretary refused her compensation claim, Ms Allen challenged that decision by judicial review but this was refused by the High Court in 2007 and a subsequent appeal was dismissed in 2008. She took her fight for compensation to the European Court of Human Rights which heard her case in November and delivered its judgment yesterday.

The judges found unanimously that there had been no violation of Article 6 (presumption of innocence) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The court found that UK judges properly considered whether any miscarriage of justice had taken place and concluded that this had not been established beyond reasonable doubt.

The court said: “We noted that Ms Allen’s acquittal had not been an acquittal ‘on the merits’ in a true sense. Although formally an acquittal, the termination of the criminal proceedings in her case shared more of the features present in a case in which criminal proceedings had been discontinued.”

The judges stressed that the relevant UK legislation set out that compensation should be paid if someone had been convicted, suffered punishment as a result, an appeal had been allowed and “a new fact showed beyond reasonable doubt that there had been a miscarriage of justice”.

The court said: “The courts had not commented on whether Ms Allen should be, or would likely be, acquitted or convicted.

“Equally, they had not commented on whether the evidence was indicative of her guilt or innocence. Indeed, they had consistently repeated that it would have been for a jury to assess the new evidence, had a retrial been ordered.”

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.”