Victimised prisoners denied $290,000 legal compensation

Less than half the compensation awarded to New Zealand prisoners who have been mistreated has actually been paid to them – or to their victims.

The scheme, which came into effect in 2005, was set up to ensure that prisoners who have been mistreated do not receive compensation until any outstanding debt they owe to their victims has been paid.

One prisoner, Steven Brent Gunbie, was awarded $43,313 for [something].  However, the payment has been held in trust since 2007, and Gunbie will only receive the money after claims from victims of his crimes are settled.

However, only six victim claims have been successful since the scheme started in November 2005.  The six victims have received payments totalling $49,000, and another $63,000 is being held in 19 cases for court-ordered reparation.

The delays are caused by [something].

The scheme was originally set up after prisoners at Auckland Prison at Paremoremo were forced under a programme called the “behaviour management regime” to live in isolated squalor and were treated inhumanely.

The prisoners were awarded a large sum in compensation.  This led to public outcry over the rights of victims of crime.  The Labour government introduced the current law on a trial basis to ensure money would not go directly to prisoners if their victims were owed anything.

The Government has now made the scheme permanent, even though its own advisers say it does not help victims of crime.

Prisoners have received $220,000 from a total pool of $516,000. Another $290,000 is being held in trust pending 12 claims from victims.

After the initial payments, almost all compensation payments are being made to prisoners who have been kept in prison beyond their release dates.

Correction Minister Anne Tolley said work was in progress to move to an electronic system to reduce the number of these errors, but also said prisoners should not receive taxpayer money, despite being illegally detained after their sentences finished.

Garth McVicar of the Sensible Sentencing Trust criticised the scheme for forcing victims of crime to re-engage with offenders if they wanted compensation.  He said the Justice Minister at the time, Phil Goff, “was trying to pacify and tried to have a foot in both camps.”

Current Labour Party justice spokesperson Andrew Little said the law did not work and failed to meet victims’ needs.  It also had the perverse effect of victims benefiting only when the state abused prisoners.

Outstanding payouts

[insert list of unsettled claims here if necessary]

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This is the article which David Fisher wanted to run in the NZ Herald – an article about obstacles in the path of giving just compensation to prisoners mistreated by bungling corrections staff.

It’s just a pity the version which got published was headlined “Prisoners paid $500,000″ – which isn’t true – describes Steven Brent Gunbie as “violent gun-wielding kidnapper Steven Brent Gunbie” and began,

A child sex offender was paid $26,600 in compensation by the taxpayer under a scheme which has awarded more than $500,000 to prisoners since it came into effect in 2005.

which puts a rather different spin on the matter, don’t you think?  Or am I just unintelligent and poorly informed?

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But let’s be serious – David Fisher could’ve written the above – or even something better.  The NZ Herald?  Ain’t got no time for giving a shit about abuses of prisoners’ rights.  Not when there’s pageviews in them thar hills.

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