5 Oct 2016

Ex-inmate seeks payout over release date blunder

1:00 pm on 5 October 2016

A former inmate who was held in jail for longer than he should have been has filed a compensation claim against the Corrections Department in the High Court.

Prison bars, hands, generic

Michael Marino's lawyer says he has been contacted by four other inmates who also believe they've been detained illegally. Photo: 123RF

Michael Marino was jailed for 22 months on domestic violence and other charges and should have, by his calculation, been released in January this year, based on his time on remand.

When that did not happen, he took legal action that went from the High Court all the way to the Supreme Court.

Last month that Court ruled Corrections failed to factor in time spent in custody on remand when calculating Marino's release date.

His lawyer, Douglas Ewen, wouldn't be drawn on the figure of compensation being sought, but said it would be in the tens of thousands, bearing in mind his client was detained for just over four months longer than he should have been.

He said Cabinet guidelines gave some indication of the amount that could be available, but they had been in place since 2000.

"Inflation has eroded that substantially and while the current Minister of Justice didn't think adjusting for that was appropriate, this will be a court making a legal judgement on that, rather than the ex-gratia payment that Pora received."

Mr Ewen said he was seeking summary judgement in the High Court, which was a speedy route to obtain a result in cases which didn't require evidence to be heard at a full trial.

"That claim can be made if Corrections has no defence in law to the claim. I am asking the High Court to determine that as a result of the Supreme Court judgement, all crucial facts have been determined and the only remaining question will be how much the compensation will be."

Mr Ewen had heard from other former inmates who believe they were also held illegally.

He said the time frames of their detention varied widely.

"It was two and a half weeks for one of the people who was released the day after the Supreme Court [decision] came out. Equally I'm aware of a case where the detention may have been up to 10 months longer ... [which is] a very long time to be unlawfully detained."

Mr Ewen is now awaiting a hearing date in the High Court, but if the Corrections Department defends the case, it may not be heard until next year.

The Department of Corrections has not responded to RNZ's request for updated figures regarding how many prisoners might be released this week, earlier than expected, as a result of the Supreme Court decision.

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