We read with interest your feature ‘An “appalling vista”’ (11 June). Justice has long argued that the compensation regime for wrongful convictions is inadequate and, to this end, intervened in the recent Supreme Court case of Hallam and Nealon v Secretary of State for Justice.
Another failing of the criminal justice system is the lack of support available to those who are released following a wrongful conviction. In April we published a report, Supporting Exonerees: Ensuring Accessible, Consistent and Continuing Support, which highlights this issue.
The report demonstrates how the criminal justice system fails to understand the issues facing exonerees. These include practical assistance needed upon release, the negative impact of incarceration on mental health and the difficulties of readjusting to everyday life. Exonerees do not receive the services and support needed to acclimatise and return to normal life upon release from prison. We note that some support services are available, but these are poorly resourced, often do not address the complex range of problems faced by exonerees, and are largely available on an ad hoc basis. We recommend ambitious development of existing services that would provide accessible, consistent and continuing support for exonerees.
We make 14 recommendations for reform, including:
- Better management of the transition from incarceration to release.
- The need for specialist psychiatric care.
- The setting up of a residential service to provide practical and welfare support to exonerees.
- An independent body to determine whether applicants are eligible for compensation.
- Automatic compensation for wrongful imprisonment, subject to exceptions.
- An apology and explanation of the failure that leads to a quashed conviction and, where necessary, a public inquiry.
Without such non-financial support, any form of compensation will be insufficient to assist victims to overcome the trauma of being wrongfully imprisoned, and the loss of liberty, employment and relationships that goes with it. This must change.
Andrea Coomber, director, Justice, London EC4