Judge rejects 'trial error' claims

A SENIOR judge has rejected bids for Government compensation made by three applicants whose high-profile convictions were quashed following errors during their trials.

A SENIOR judge has rejected bids for Government compensation made by three applicants whose high-profile convictions were quashed following errors during their trials.

Mr Justice Hooper, sitting in London, rejected yesterday test case claims that they were "miscarriage of justice" victims entitled to awards under a non-statutory, ex gratia scheme.

Two of the cases, involving Elizabeth Forsyth, from Essex, and Peter Dimond, related to prosecutions following the collapse of Asil Nadir's Polly Peck business empire, while the third, involving Ali Daghir, was an "arms to Iraq' case.

The judge said that, if the cases were typical, "then a great deal of time and money is being spent in the search for compensation' under the scheme, which was now 25 years old.

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He "invited' Home Secretary David Blunkett "to consider whether the time is now right for the scheme to be simplified or clarified'.

A key issue in all yesterday's cases was whether judges who make errors in trials can be described as "a public authority', giving rise to claims under the scheme.

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Ruling that they could not, the judge said he was bound by previous House of Lords decisions "that judges fall outside the expression 'public authority'.' It was also the conclusion he would independently reach.

The judge rejected a legal challenge against a refusal of compensation brought by Ms Forsyth, from Duck End, Finchingfield, a former aide to Nadir, who said she became "a political scapegoat' after Nadir fled to northern Cyprus.

She was convicted in March 1996 on two counts of handling stolen goods and sentenced the following month to five years in prison.

Her conviction was overturned after appeal judges ruled the trial jury had been misdirected.

Peter Dimond, from Petersfield, Hampshire, was jailed following his conviction for assisting the flight of the Polly Peck chief, who faced £150 million fraud allegations.

Following his conviction in August 1998, Mr Dimond, a pilot, was jailed for two years, but was released in January the following year.

The Appeal Court judges quashed his conviction, ruling Nadir was not technically on bail when he left the UK in May 1993 for northern Cyprus.

Accusing the SFO of "a vendetta' against associates of the former head of Polly Peck, Mr Dimond said he spent nine months behind bars, suffering "trauma and anguish'.

In the third case, Ali Daghir, from Esher, Surrey, owned a company called Euromac, which was asked in 1988 to supply electrical capacitors manufactured by a US company to a company called Al-Qaqaa in Iraq.

He was prosecuted by Customs and Excise for being knowingly concerned in attempting to export capacitors specifically designed for nuclear use.

But the trial judge instructed the jury members that they only had to be satisfied the prohibited items were for general military use.

The businessman was convicted in June 1991 and sentenced to five years' imprisonment on the basis the capacitors were for nuclear use.

Mr Daghir served 465 days before his conviction was quashed on appeal in 1994 on the basis that the judge had misdirected the jury.

Mr Justice Hooper ruled there were no grounds for allowing any of the three judicial review of the Government refusals to grant compensation.

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