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Miscarriages of Justice

Volume 447: debated on Thursday 15 June 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department on what basis the Independent Assessor to the Home Secretary on Miscarriages of Justice makes recommendations for interim payments to claimants; and whether interim payments have been made on compassionate grounds. (76920)

Exceptionally, an interim payment of compensation in respect of a miscarriage of justice may be made by the Home Secretary, on the advice of the independent Assessor, before the final amount is determined. The amount of any interim payment will be paid on account and will be deducted from the final award. The Assessor’s consideration of whether, and how much, interim payment might be made in a particular case is based on the information available to him about the miscarriage of justice in respect of which compensation is being paid and the consequences which flowed from it, not simply on what the applicant’s financial needs are at the time. In very exceptional circumstances interim payments may be made on compassionate grounds depending on the circumstances and provided the payment is within the scope of compensation under the scheme.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what average time was taken for the office of the independent Assessor to the Home Secretary on miscarriages of justice to reply to correspondence in the last period for which figures are available; (76922)

(2) what the standard procedure of the independent Assessor to the Home Secretary on miscarriages of justice is in responding to correspondence from claimants’ legal representatives;

The independent Assessor for compensation for miscarriages of justice does not generally correspond directly with applicants or their legal representatives. All correspondence is handled by the Miscarriages of Justice Team in the Office for Criminal Justice Reform. They attempt to resolve any apparent discrepancies in the submissions from applicants or their representatives, to ensure that the Assessor has all the information he needs to make an assessment. Claims for compensation can amount to hundreds of thousands of pounds and some run into millions. Claims are complex and time consuming and often require investigation by forensic accountants, and, on occasion, high-level legal advice. In many cases an interim award is paid before a final assessment of compensation is made. All correspondence requiring a response should receive an interim or substantive response within the Home Office target of 20 working days. In the circumstances of these applications an interim reply is often unavoidable. Detailed statistics on performance against target for correspondence for this work are not immediately available and I will write to the hon. Member as soon as possible with performance figures for the last quarter.