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Compensation For A Wrongly Convicted Individual

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Justice
Media Statement

3 September 2000


Justice Minister Phil Goff announced today that Cabinet has decided to pay $570,696.93 by way of compensation to an Auckland man who was wrongly convicted and imprisoned on sexual charges.

The man - whose details have been suppressed from publication by order of the Courts –was charged with indecent assault and anal intercourse on his two sons, both then aged under 12 years. He was convicted in 1995 in respect of one of the two boys. The Court of Appeal quashed his convictions without an order of re-trial after both his sons retracted their allegations. He served approximately 14 months in prison.

“The payment of compensation in this case, the first under the criminal compensation criteria adopted by Cabinet in 1998, follows the recommendations of Mr David Williams QC who was asked to independently examine this matter, " Mr Goff said.

Mr Williams has certified that in his view the Auckland man is innocent beyond reasonable doubt of the offences he was charged with. He has recommended that a total sum of $570,696.93 be paid as compensation for the pecuniary and non-pecuniary losses incurred by the man.

“The Government accepts without reservation the finding of innocence by Mr David Williams QC and has decided to pay compensation at the level assessed by the QC.

“As a father I can only imagine the appalling experience that this man has gone through. There can be nothing worse for a parent than to be wrongly convicted of sexually abusing your own children. Given the nature of the charges, this man would have been despised in prison as well as the community.

"I know the traumatic effect this case had on his parents and partner. His parents who were in their sixties had to mortgage their home and go back to work in order to meet legal costs. Both sadly died before the wrong done to their son was put right.

"With the assistance of the compensation payment, I hope that the man, his partner and children are now able to make a fresh start.

“Mr Williams found no evidence of wrongdoing or malice on the part of the agencies involved in this case. Neither was there any suggestion of bad faith on the part of the Police. However, Mr Williams did conclude that the Police officer in charge of this case committed a serious error by failing to advise the man’s lawyer that the children had retracted their allegations before the trial.

"As it turned out the retractions were withdrawn by the children within 48 hours of being made but the Police failed to make those facts available to defence counsel so there was no cross-examination about the retractions at the trial. The Police have accepted that this amounted to an error of judgment and the Commissioner of Police has apologised unreservedly to the Auckland man.

“This compensation payment demonstrates the government's commitment to putting right serious mistakes made in the criminal justice system.

“An individual’s right to liberty is at the core of the criminal justice system in New Zealand. When a person has been wrongly convicted and deprived of that liberty then, as a society, we should make good the losses incurred by that person," Mr Goff concluded.


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