The government has agreed to pay $10,000 to a convicted murderer who was unlawfully held in solitary confinement.
Image: Lyndon Hood
The UN Committee Against Torture has ruled inmate John Vogel had his human rights breached in 2000 after he was confined to a cell for drug offending for 21 days - six days longer than legally allowed.
It said the solitary confinement was disproportionate and urged the government to give him fair compensation.
In a letter to Vogel's lawyer, Attorney-General David Parker said he had agreed to pay $10,000 compensation as well as covering part of his legal costs.
Vogel was sentenced in 1988 to life in prison for murdering Peter Hoey in Auckland.
He was released on parole after a decade, but was recalled to jail in January 2000 after further offending.
Vogel's lawyer Tony Ellis told Morning Report his client had failed a drug test and initially spent eight days in solitary confinement.
He appealed to a visiting judge who increased the penalty to 21 days, but the maximum allowed by law was 15 days.
Dr Ellis said the judge's reasoning was that Vogel had asked for the increase as he wanted to get off drugs, but the committee noted the Court of Appeal had rejected that, and said if a request was unlawful it could not be granted.
"If he'd asked for the death penalty, which is also unlawful, he wouldn't have got that."
The ruling was a major step forward for international human rights, Dr Ellis said.
"I had invited the government, when we had the win before the Committee Against Torture, to provide him with compensation.
"Between $10,000 and $20,000 I thought would be reasonable, and they've picked the lower number, not unsurprisingly.
"Never before have the government recognised a win before an international human rights tribunal by paying compensation.
This may well encourage more people to make international claims."
Mr Ellis said he was waiting on a decision from the government after the UN's Human Rights Committee ruled that two serial rapists had been kept in punishing conditions after their non-parole period had finished.
The committee said the government should immediately review facilitating their release, give them reparation compensation and amend the law so it doesn't happen again, he said.
"I'm looking forward to a positive response on that one as well.
"There's clearly, with this government, a change of attitude to international human rights law, which is very promising."
As for Vogel, Mr Ellis said the case wasn't just about money.
"He's quite pleased about it, but we're seeking some extra rehabilitation for him too because he says he's had nightmares about what happened to him.
"These things are never about money."
Vogel remains in prison.