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Compensation payment for David Dougherty


Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Justice
Media Statement

11 July 2001

Compensation payment for David Dougherty


Justice Minister Phil Goff announced today that Cabinet has accepted a recommendation that $868,728.80 be paid to David Dougherty as compensation for his conviction and more than three years imprisonment for a crime he did not commit.

"David Dougherty was convicted in 1993 for abduction and rape of an 11-year-old girl. He was subsequently acquitted on retrial in 1997 when it was found that DNA evidence left on the girl's clothing could not have come from Mr Dougherty but belonged to another man.

"Stuart Grieve QC was commissioned to assess Mr Dougherty's eligibility in accordance with the interim criteria established in 1997. Mr Grieve confirmed that Mr Dougherty was innocent of the charges and recommended that $868,728.80 should be paid to compensate for the losses and suffering incurred because of a wrongful conviction.

"The Government acknowledges the wrong done to Mr Dougherty and what he suffered as a consequence.

"Pecuniary losses were assessed by Mr Grieve as $168,728.80 in lost income and the legal and other costs incurred by his conviction.

"Non-pecuniary losses including loss of liberty, loss of reputation, loss or interruption of family and other personal relationships and mental and emotional harm were assessed at $700,000.

"Calculations of this sum took into account that no aspect of the investigations carried out by the Police and ESR could be regarded as aggravating or contributing to the wrongful conviction and detention of Mr Dougherty. The convictions were the result of the mistaken identification of Mr Dougherty by the complainant.

"The amount payable was also reduced to take account of Mr Dougherty's previous convictions and imprisonment in line with New Zealand case law on false imprisonment. It should be noted however that the offences for which he had previously been convicted were less serious and did not involve sexual or violent offending.
"We are fortunate in New Zealand that by and large we enjoy a criminal justice system which operates fairly and effectively.

"However, mistakes are possible in any system which relies on human judgement. When such mistakes are made and result in wrongful imprisonment, it is our responsibility as a society to acknowledge that wrong and to endeavour to set things right including by payment of fair compensation.

"I acknowledge and apologise to Mr Dougherty for the wrong done to him. Mr Dougherty was entirely innocent of the crime for which he was convicted and imprisoned. The payment made to him is a practical expression of society's obligation to make up for what he lost and what he has suffered.

"There is however, no simple answer as to how much compensation should be paid for wrongful conviction and imprisonment.

"On one hand the impact on a persons life is traumatic and cannot be minimised. At the same time, it is important to remember that others adversely affected by the criminal justice system such as those acquitted of offences, and victims frequently receive no compensation at all. The additional guidelines which will apply in future aim to strike an appropriate balance and give some certainty about the amounts which will be awarded as compensation for wrongful conviction.

"Such payments will be in line with previous court decisions and are likely to be less generous than the two cases recently decided.

"Payment of the compensation will be conditional on this being in full settlement of any claims arising out of Mr Dougherty's wrongful conviction and imprisonment," Mr Goff said.

The Minister will publicly release Mr Grieve's report once the Ministry of Justice has made any deletions necessary due to privacy considerations. This process is expected to be completed by next week.

ENDS

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