Unless you have been living in a cave for the past few months then you will have heard of the hit Netflix series Making a Murder. In brief the documentary was filmed over 10 years in the USA, following the wrongful imprisonment of Steven Avery. This real-life thriller had millions hooked by the first episode which showed Steven Avery finally getting released from prison after serving 18 Years for a rape conviction that he did not commit. He then goes on to claim again the people that stole 18 years of his life and ruined his reputation in the local community. Avery’s lawyers tried to sue the Manitowoc County (whom wrongfully imprisoned him originally) for $36,000,000 which is roughly £25,000,000. The series goes on to leave us hanging off the edge of our seat over 10 episodes, but as avid lovers of the law, we wanted to look more into the legal process and see how much you can claim for a similar wrongful imprisonment in the UK.
Let us remind ourselves of the Michael Shirley case in 1986. Michael was an 18-year-old sailor living in Portsmouth in the UK, he was convicted of the rape and murder of a 24-year-old barmaid, although he never admitted committing the crime, he was sentenced to a minimum of 15 years in prison. The fact that he maintained his innocence meant that he would never be released on parole. In 2002 the case was referred by the criminal Case Review commission to the Court of Appeal, where thanks to the discovery of fresh evidence Michael was released in 2003. He lost over 16 years of his life in prison and in the legal processes. Not only this but his reputation and faith in the justice system had hit rock bottom.
Like Steven Avery, although nothing could bring back the years of his life that would always be lost, he looked to seek compensation for his ordeal. His lawyer was looking to claim up to £25,000 for each year he spent in prison, which would be a total of over £400,000, but reports say that his case would be worth over 1 million.
In the UK millions of pounds are spent each year on compensation for victims of wrongful imprisonment. However, in 2006 the government put a cap on compensation resulting in cases where a victim of wrongful imprisonment was innocent at £500,000 or £1,000,000 if they spent over a decade in prison. No amount of money can bring back the missing years but it can help victims get back on their feet. You can claim against the police for various wrong doings, from an unwarranted search to a unnecessary body search.