By now, most people in Canada have heard that Steven Truscott, the man who as a 14 year old in 1959, was convicted of raping and killing his 12 year old classmate, was given compensation yesterday to the tune of 6.5 million dollars.
My colleague and I talked about Truscott, and she was quite interested in wondering what the law was here with regard to the wrongfully convicted and the compensation that they get. In China, where my colleague is from, the government would pay money to the wrongfully- convicted person, but the government would for example, punish the judge if an error was made in their judgment. For example, the state would lower his salary so that in effect, the state would recoup a small amount of money that was paid out to the wrongfully convicted person. She could not understand why in Truscott's case-while she was fine with him getting compensation-the judge would not be punished. I'll have to do some further research on it. I know that you could go after the Crown for malicious prosecution, but you have to be careful. If the judge made an honest mistake, do you then go after the judge? If you do, that could affect how judges make their decisions in the future. They may be so nervous about making a mistake, it could affect their fulfilling their duties.
Perhaps, as some have suggested, there should be legislation brought in that specifically states the kind of compensation one would get. Right now, we have an ad hoc system in Canada, where compensation usually depends on the media attention you get. However, as others have also pointed out, no politician would ever go for introducing legislation, at least not one who is not courageous enough to do so. They do not want to appear soft on crime. Then again, at least with legislation, we would have a clear idea of the compensation that should be paid out. See the article "Convicting the Innocent" by Mark Bourrie in (1999) volume 23 Can. Lawyer No. 11, 29-32 for more.
I wonder what others would have to say about this.