Compensation-seeker in custody again

Last updated 05:00 08/07/2014

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The woman making a $50,000 compensation claim after being wrongly arrested and detained is in custody again.

While a High Court judge was hearing Camille Iriana Thompson's civil claim against the attorney-general late last week, a Wellington District Court judge just two blocks away was remanding her in custody. She has three District Court hearings scheduled this month.

In July 2012, she had two hearings scheduled but the issue that was to be dealt with at the second hearing was decided at the first, on July 18. Updating either the court computer system or the paper records should have cancelled the second hearing, but both were left unchanged and, when Thompson did not appear for the second hearing, a warrant was issued for her arrest.

Police found her in Mt Cook, Wellington, on July 31, and she spent more than 15 hours in custody.

Justice Alan MacKenzie reserved his decision on her compensation claim.

The events that led to Thompson's arrest were not disputed and neither she nor the court staff thought to have handled her file were witnesses.

Her lawyer on the civil claim, Douglas Ewen, said in court that despite the acknowledged wrong Thompson had not received even a letter of apology.

The evidence showed there was a poor level of training at Wellington District Court in 2012, he said.

Staff should have been trained to know that a person's freedom could be at stake if records were not properly kept, he said.

For the attorney-general, lawyer Sean Kinsler said what happened was "regrettable" and Thompson should not have spent the night in the cells in those circumstances. However, the attorney-general was not liable.

The process error was covered by an immunity that protected judges who made mistakes and extended to actions of "a judicial nature", which Kinsler said included staff.

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- The Dominion Post

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