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Compo bill unfair to prisoners - Ombudsman

Thursday 21 Feb 2013 12:17p.m.

Bill unfair to prisoners - Ombudsman

A bill that would allow crime victims to get part of any compensation awarded to their abuser has been criticised by the chief Ombudsman, who says it is unfair on prisoners.

The Prisoners' and Victims' Claims (Continuation and Reform) Bill permanently extends a current law, due to expire in July, which sets guidelines for how prisoners should be compensated for abuses suffered while in prison – such as human rights violations or unlawful detention.

It also sets out a process for how their victims can claim a share of that compensation.

Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverly Wakem told Parliament's justice select committee on Thursday that the legislation was "unreasonable" toward abused prisoners, who would be "re-victimised" when compensation that was due to them was then taken away.

She said that sent a message to prisoners that justice was "retributive" and gave them no incentive to rehabilitate if they were "denied justice where justice must be seen to be done".

Dame Beverly added that legislation was needed for a better regime of compensation for victims of crime generally.

"Victims' claims for compensation for what has been perpetrated against them should be the subject of a set of terms and conditions and appropriate arrangements which don't rely on victimising somebody else," she said.

"In this legislation, a victim's chance of compensation is effectively dependent on his or her abuser being abused in turn, and the victim is then reliant on the abused prisoner making a claim for compensation that the prisoner knows they will likely never receive, or only receive in part."

Dame Beverley also warned that part of the legislation might be breaching international human rights law.

NZN