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In some circumstances, a person who has had their conviction quashed or set aside by the court can apply for compensation for the time they've spent in prison as a result of that wrongful conviction.
There’s no legal right to receive compensation from the Government for wrongful conviction and imprisonment. However, the Government, in its discretion, may decide to compensate someone who’s been wrongly convicted and imprisoned by making an ex gratia (voluntary) payment.
Cabinet (the Government's central decision-making body of Ministers) has established Compensation Guidelines to aid its consideration of applications for such compensation. The latest version of the Guidelines was issued in 2020.
You can find more information about Cabinet's 2020 decision at:
The information below summarises the main features of the Compensation Guidelines.
You can make an application for compensation if:
The Guidelines also apply if you've been convicted and imprisoned under military law – see below for further information.
The payment of compensation is at the discretion of the Government.
Cabinet must be satisfied that:
Pecuniary (financial) and non-pecuniary (non-financial) losses suffered after you’ve been convicted can be compensated.
The compensation payment can be adjusted upwards or downwards by up to $150,000 for aggravating and mitigating features of the case.
The Government can also decide to make a public apology or statement of innocence.
The information below is to help potential applicants understand the process for making an application under the Compensation Guidelines.
If you believe you’re eligible to apply for compensation, you can make an application yourself. Alternatively, someone else, such as a lawyer, can apply on your behalf.
A lawyer can advise you on the merits of making an application and, if you go ahead, can also help you collect relevant information and prepare your submissions.
You’ll need to provide information about your convictions and imprisonment, and how your convictions were quashed or set aside.
At the very least, you’ll need to explain why you’re innocent of the charges and state what evidence you’re relying on to show your innocence. As the applicant, it’s your responsibility, not the Government’s, to establish your innocence on the balance of probabilities.
Send your application, including any supporting documents and submissions, to the Minister of Justice at the following address:
Minister of Justice
If your application concerns a military conviction, the Minister of Defence will oversee its assessment, in consultation with the Minister of Justice.
In this case, send your application for compensation to the Minister of Defence at:
Minister of Defence
If a lawyer is helping you with your application, you may be able to apply for legal aid. You can find out more about legal aid on our website at:
The Ministry of Justice initially considers your application and reports to the Minister of Justice.
If the Minister agrees to further assessment of your application, that will focus on:
The Minister decides on a suitable assessment procedure for each application. The Minister may (but isn’t obliged to) seek independent legal advice on any aspect of your application.
If your application concerns a military offence, the Minister of Defence will oversee its assessment, in consultation with the Minister of Justice.
Cabinet must make any decision to pay compensation under the Compensation Guidelines.
You can find an archived version of the previous Guidelines below, which were replaced by the current Guidelines in August 2020:
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