5 Aug 2017

Former inmate awarded $10k over release date error

12:48 pm on 5 August 2017

A prisoner jailed for a month longer than he should have been has won $10,000 in compensation.

Sliding barred doors and lock

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham Farrelly

Shane Gardiner's release date was supposed to be 24 August 2016, but he wasn't let out until 30 days later, following a Supreme Court judgement which changed the way release dates are calculated.

Now the High Court has awarded Gardiner compensation for the extra time he spent behind bars, to accurately factor in the time he had spent on remand.

In her judgement, Justice Dunningham said the right not to be unlawfully imprisoned was a fundamental one, included in the Bill of Rights Act.

"In my view, and as was acknowledged by both parties, the importance of the right to be protected from unlawful or arbitrary detention is undisputed.

"It is a core right acknowledged in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which New Zealand is a party to. It is also a right which is expressly protected by section 22 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

"In this case, the period of unlawful imprisonment lasted for one month. That is not a trivial or fleeting breach, but rather is a period of unlawful detention which warrants compensation simply to reflect the loss of liberty," she said.

But Justice Dunningham said the Department of Corrections did not intentionally set out to keep Gardiner in prison.

"It was, of course, uncontested that the Department did not act deliberately or in bad faith."

It had earlier appealed the ruling that it must pay compensation to former prisoners held for longer than they should have been.

Gardiner will also be entitled to costs.