In some circumstances, a person who has had their conviction quashed or set aside by the court can apply for compensation for the time that they have spent in prison as a result of that wrongful conviction.
There's no legal right to compensation for wrongful conviction and imprisonment. However, the Government in its discretion can compensate someone wrongfully convicted and imprisoned by making an ex gratia payment. Compensation under the following scheme is only payable to people who:
Cabinet has established guidelines for deciding whether or not someone receives compensation for wrongful conviction and imprisonment and how much compensation they receive. The guidelines require claimants to:
The Ministry of Justice initially assesses each claim. Claims meriting further assessment are referred by the Minister of Justice to a Queen’s Counsel for advice. The Queen’s Counsel then reports to the Minister on the merits of the claim. If the Queen’s Counsel is satisfied that the applicant is innocent on the balance of probabilities, the Queen’s Counsel will recommend an appropriate amount of compensation in line with the guidelines. Cabinet makes the final decision on the recommendation of the Minister.
The Cabinet guidelines contemplate 3 kinds of compensation for successful claimants:
In making the guidelines, Cabinet reserved the discretion to pay compensation to an applicant who was not eligible, in extraordinary circumstances where it is in the interests of justice.
Non-eligible claimants include people who have had their convictions quashed or set aside under the following circumstances:
Cabinet prescribed no additional criteria or process for consideration of claims falling outside the Cabinet guidelines. However, current practice is to ensure that, where relevant, important principles in the Cabinet guidelines are applied in a consistent manner to such claims.
Claimants outside guidelines must show, at a minimum, that they are innocent on the balance of probabilities. They must also show that there are extraordinary circumstances that justify compensation.
Unlike claims inside the Cabinet guidelines, there is no requirement that the claim be considered by a Queen’s Counsel. The Ministry of Justice may, however, seek a Queen’s Counsel’s assistance in relation to any or all aspects of a claim.
There is no requirement to apply the Cabinet guidelines relating to calculation of compensation. However, an approach is usually adopted that is generally consistent with the guidelines.
If you believe you've been wrongfully convicted and imprisoned, you can apply to the Minister of Justice for compensation.
You can make an application yourself or someone, such as a lawyer, can apply on your behalf. A lawyer can advise you on the merits of making an application and, if you go ahead, can also help you collect relevant information and prepare your submissions.
You’ll need to provide information about your convictions and imprisonment, and how your convictions were quashed or set aside.
At a minimum, you'll need to explain why you are innocent of the charges and state what evidence you rely on to show your innocence. The onus is on you to establish your innocence, at a minimum, to the balance of probabilities.
If your claim is outside the Cabinet guidelines, you'll also need to explain why you think there are extraordinary circumstances in your case justifying compensation. This is a high standard to meet.
Send your application, including any supporting documents and submissions, to the Office of the Minister of Justice at:
Minister of Justice
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