In April 2018, JUSTICE published its report Supporting Exonerees: Ensuring Accessible, Consistent and Continuing Support at White & Case LLP in London. The report highlights the inadequacy of the compensation regime. The compensation award is capped and the application process is burdensome and complex. Furthermore, changes to legislation have created a higher threshold test and led to a reduction in successful compensation claims.
In 1982, JUSTICE published a report, Compensation for Wrongful Imprisonment. Unfortunately, little has changed since then. Exonerees still do not receive the support they need to return to a normal life and are not properly compensated.
This report demonstrates how the criminal justice system fails to understand the issues facing exonerees: including practical assistance needed upon release, the negative impact of incarceration on mental health and the difficulties 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 also set out that measures for exonerees should go further than financial and non-financial support and include a public acknowledgement that a wrong has happened.
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 certain exceptions.
- An apology and explanation of the failure that leads to a quashed conviction and, where necessary, a public inquiry.