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Miscarriages of Justice: Compensation

Volume 461: debated on Thursday 14 June 2007

To ask the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice whether an estimate has been made of the total potential liability faced by the Government from claims before the Independent Assessor of Compensation for Miscarriages of Justice; what oversight mechanism is in place to review the assessor's work; what the budget of her office is for 2007-08; how many and what proportion of cases completed in 2006-07 took more than two years to conclude; what the average length of an independent assessment process was over the last five years; in how many open cases interim but not final payments have been awarded; how many cases are before the assessor as at 7 June; how much the assessor was paid in each of the last five years; and how much has been deducted for board and lodging in awards made by the assessor in each of the last five years. (141393)

It was estimated at 31 March 2007 that the potential liability in respect of compensation for miscarriage of justice was some £25 million. This estimate was based on the number of cases in which the Secretary of State had approved eligibility for compensation and in which the assessor was to make his final assessments. The performance of the independent assessor is monitored by the miscarriages of justice team in the Better Trials Unit of the Office for Criminal Justice Reform. A monthly audit of cases is carried out and regular meetings are held with the assessor. It is also open to any applicant who is dissatisfied with the assessor's handling of their case to seek a judicial review.

The independent assessor does not have a dedicated support office, but is able to look to the miscarriages of justice team to support him in administrative duties associated with his role. It is the responsibility of applicants to make written submissions to the independent assessor regarding the quantum of their claims, and he cannot make a final assessment until such time as those submissions have been made and agreed. Of the 38 cases in which a final assessment was made in 2006-07, 28 (76 per cent.) took more than two years from eligibility for compensation being approved to the final assessment. Over the five years from 1 April 2002 to 31 March 2007, the average length of the independent assessment process, that is from eligibility being confirmed to final assessment, was three years. As at 7 June there were 116 cases in which eligibility for compensation has been approved but a final assessment not yet been made. In 79 of those cases (68 per cent.) one or more interim payments have been made, on application by the applicants. There were 16 cases with the independent assessor for final assessment and three cases in which applications for an interim payment have been made. The total fee payments to the independent assessor in each of the last five years were:












The independent assessor does not make deductions from assessments for 'board and lodgings'. In certain circumstances he makes deductions in respect of saved living expenses. This practice was upheld by the House of Lords in a recent appeal. Central records of the amount of such deductions are not kept.