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Wrongful conviction of teenage girls


Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Justice
Media Statement

17 October 2001

Wrongful conviction of teenage girls


The wrongful conviction and imprisonment of three young teenage girls is a serious matter which requires and will receive full investigation of how the justice system got it wrong says Justice Minister Phil Goff.

“No justice system is infallible and human error from time to time produces a miscarriage of justice.

“It is important when this occurs that what caused that miscarriage is fully investigated to understand what went wrong and to help ensure that future mistakes of this type can be avoided.

“The police will undoubtedly wish to investigate how errors were made and there is also the possibility of investigation by the independent Police Complaints Authority.

“In response to any application for compensation for wrongful conviction and imprisonment, I will certainly carefully consider the matters raised.

“Under established procedures, enquiry is made as to whether applicants whose convictions are quashed by the Court of Appeal can be considered innocent of the offence.

“Currently, innocence must be proved ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. However changes will be made which will base this judgement on the civil law standard of ‘on the balance of probabilities’.

“Changes will also be made to ensure the process is not as protracted as that which was followed in the Dougherty case.

“If applicants satisfy the criteria, compensation would be based on the guidelines for assessing quantum which I released last year.

“Compensation is based on the time wrongly spent in prison as well as the losses and trauma suffered as a result of the trial, conviction and imprisonment for offences which applicants did not commit.

“I have no doubt that New Zealanders will share my concern that young people have been subject to experiences which no parent would wish their children to suffer.

“We now have the responsibility to take steps to avoid such mistakes being repeated and to consider appropriate compensation for those who have suffered unfairly as a result of failures of the justice system,” Mr Goff said.

ENDS

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