Damages payment cut for prisoner released 10 months late


A man who spent 10 more months in prison than he should have done because of administrative errors has seen his damages cut from £10,000 to £6,500 by the Supreme Court.

Five justices allowed an appeal by the Parole Board that the award to Daniel Faulkner was excessive - and dismissed Faulkner's claim that it was inadequate and that his imprisonment during the period of delay constituted false imprisonment.

But they upheld an appeal by another man, Samuel Sturnham, who had challenged a decision to quash an award of £300 for anxiety and distress caused by a six-month delay in his case.

In 2001, Faulkner was sentenced to life imprisonment for a second offence involving grievous bodily harm and, in 2007, Sturnham was convicted of manslaughter and given an indeterminate sentence.

In each case, there was a delay in holding a hearing before the Board after the minimum period tariff had expired due to administrative errors for which the Secretary of State for Justice was responsible.

Both men were eventually released following Board hearings, but Faulkner was twice recalled to prison in respect of allegations of which he was acquitted, and remains in custody.

Each sought a judicial review of the failure to conduct a review of his detention "speedily" as required by the European Convention on Human Rights.

The award made to Faulkner by the Court of Appeal followed its ruling that there had been a breach of his Convention rights. In Sturnham's case, the High Court said that, while there was a breach, there was no prospect he would have been released any earlier had the hearing taken place speedily, and its award was later quashed by the Court of Appeal.

Giving general guidance in the two test cases, the judges said that the amount of any award should broadly reflect the level made by the European Court in comparable cases brought by applicants from the UK or other countries with a similar cost of living, with the appropriate amount reflecting the facts of the individual case.

Pecuniary losses proved to have been caused by the prolongation of detention should be compensated in full but damages should not be awarded merely for the loss of a chance of earlier release.

Even where it was not established that an earlier hearing would have resulted in earlier release, there was a strong presumption that delay would cause frustration and anxiety which, where the delay was three months or more, should result in an award of modest damages.

In Faulkner's case an award of £6,500 was considered adequate compensation while £300 was reasonable in Sturnham's.