R (on the application of Adams) v Secretary of State for Justice [2010] UKSC 18

In a case in which nine Justices sat, the Supreme Court was asked to determine the circumstances in which compensation would be paid for a miscarriage of justice. Section 133 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 provides that compensation should be paid where a conviction has been reversed on the ground that a new or newly discovered fact shows beyond reasonable doubt that there has been a miscarriage of justice. The Supreme Court recognised that the primary object of this was to compensate someone who had been punished for a crime which he did not commit, but it was also an object not to compensate someone who had in fact committed the crime. The court was divided as to whether the right to compensation was restricted to those cases where the new evidence showed that a defendant was in fact innocent of the crime. Five justices held that the ambit of s 133 should extend to defendants whose conviction was quashed because the new or newly discovered fact so undermined the evidence against them that no conviction could possibly be based upon it. It should not however extend to convictions which were simply quashed because they were unsafe. Four justices, however, dissented on this interpretation, considering that compensation should be reserved to those who were shown to be truly innocent. Mr Adams was unable to qualify for compensation even under the expanded test
laid down by the majority, but the convictions of two other defendants in a related case from Northern Ireland, which were based on impugned confessions to police officers, were held to have met the test.