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Compo unlikely after prison time blunder

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 22/09/2016 Peter Wilson, Political Writer

More than 500 prisoners are due for an earlier release after a Supreme Court ruling but Corrections Minister Judith Collins says they shouldn't get their hopes up about compensation.

The court ruled on Thursday that the department wrongly interpreted the Parole Act 2002 and had been miscalculating parole and release dates.

It has recalculated them, and is releasing 21 affected prisoners on Friday.

Another 500 are also affected and will have their release dates brought forward.

Ms Collins says the Supreme Court ruling overturned 14 years of jurisprudence.

"The law goes back to 2002 and there have been four Court of Appeal decisions in the past that upheld Corrections' interpretation of the law," she told NZ Newswire.

"We now have an entirely different interpretation, which is unappealable, and therefore Corrections will comply with it."

The lawyer for one of the prisoners whose appeal to the Supreme Court was successful has said he will apply for compensation, but Ms Collins doesn't think he'll succeed.

"He shouldn't get his hopes up," she said.

"It's very clear that any claim for compensation would be very difficult to bring given that Corrections was complying with the law as it was, having been interpreted by the Court of Appeal on four occasions.

"The advice I have is that any claims for compensation would be vigorously defended."

Ms Collins doesn't intend using retrospective legislation to clear that up.

"We wouldn't rush to do anything like that," she said.

"The Supreme Court did suggest the law needs clarification but I'm not anticipating anything urgent on that."

Department chief executive Ray Smith confirmed 21 prisoners would be released on Friday.

"Around 500 serving prisoners out of the prisoner population of approximately 9800 are also affected and will have their release dates brought forward," he said.

"In most cases this will only be by a matter of a few days or weeks rather than a significant period of time."

The Supreme Court decision relates to appeals by Michael Marino and Edward Booth.

Marino was first charged and remanded in custody in February 2015. He later faced further charges.

He was sentenced to concurrent terms of 22 months and 12 months.

The court said Corrections wrongly calculated Marino's pre-sentence detention, and the release date it worked out was incorrect, meaning he had spent around four months too long behind bars.

Booth's case was similar.

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