9 Jan 2019

Paedophile among offenders awarded thousands by Corrections

1:59 pm on 9 January 2019

A man who distributed child pornography as part of a paedophile ring is one of 12 people awarded compensation totalling hundreds of thousands of dollars by Corrections last year.

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Photo: RNZ/Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The money includes claims by offenders who were held in jail beyond their release date after a miscalculation by Corrections.

Joshua Domican, who was jailed for more than three years for distributing child pornography and unlawful sexual connection with a 13 year old boy, was awarded $35,000.

The largest payout went to Gideon Wilson, who was awarded $108,000.

In total, $342,057 was awarded last year.

Victims are able to make a claim against the money before it's given to offenders.

In 2016, the Supreme Court ruled that Corrections made mistakes in calculating sentence lengths for prisoners who had spent time on remand before they were sentenced.

One of the two men in that ruling, Michael Marino, is among those to have been awarded compensation.

He was jailed for 22 months on domestic violence and other charges, but was detained for about four months longer than he should have been. In that case, Marino received $50,000 compensation.

A Corrections spokesperson said as a result of that Supreme Court decision, it had settled the claims of 15 offenders since the 2016 ruling.

At the time, Corrections said 21 prisoners should have been released sooner.

Since 2003, the department had made its calculations on a charge-by-charge basis and used different calculations when sentences were cumulative or concurrent.

A subsequent appeal by Corrections that the Supreme Court decision should apply only to future cases was not successful.

The lawyer for the former prisoners who have received payouts for being kept in jail past their release dates says he has plenty more on his books.

Wellington barrister Douglas Ewen said the numbers could grow with further claims still to be resolved.

"The corrections department made it clear that after the Supreme Court judgment in 2016, 21 people got immediately released but 500 people also had their centive calculation adjusted downwards, and that's 500 people in one year and this mistake did go back to 2003."

Mr Ewen said many might not be aware they could make a claim or simply wanted to put their experience behind them.

A Corrections spokesperson said it was not pursuing any further appeals and was settling compensation claims.

"Compensation is paid in accordance with the Prisoners' and Victims' Claims Act 2005," he said.

"The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) may then deduct any reparation, legal aid or money owed to victims under earlier orders before paying the balance into the victims' claims trust bank account and publishing information on the MoJ website so that victims can make claims against it."

Bruce Findlay, acting group manager of Courts and Tribunals, said the Victims' Special Claims Tribunal then decides whether or not a victim is entitled to any of the money, after the offender has been given two months to make submissions on the claims.

"The decisions are not issued publicly to protect the privacy of the victims," he said. "However the decision on how the money to be distributed will be gazetted, showing either that it will all be awarded to the victims, it will be split or that it will all be awarded to the offender."

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