December 09, 2015 - 4:30 PM
VANCOUVER - A man who was wrongfully imprisoned for 27 years on sex crimes convictions deserves compensation of $30 million or more, his lawyer has argued in British Columbia Supreme Court.
John Laxton is calling on Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson to send a "strong message" of deterrence and vindication when deciding how much to award Ivan Henry.
"No amount of money can restore to him the decades he has spent behind bars," Laxton told court Wednesday. "However, a monetary award may offer some compensation of his long period of wrongful imprisonment and the many lost life opportunities it entails."
"There are few scenarios that can shake the public's confidence in the justice system more than those alleged by Mr. Henry."
Henry was acquitted by the B.C. Court of Appeal in 2010 on 10 counts of sexual assault involving eight women and is suing the province for compensation.
Laxton said in closing arguments that Hinkson has "almost unlimited discretion" in determining the amount the province should pay because there are few legal precedents. But he outlined several wrongful conviction cases to establish a ballpark figure.
He pointed to the case of Steven Truscott, who was wrongly sentenced to death at age 14 in 1959 for the rape and murder of a classmate. The Ontario government awarded him $6.5 million in 2008.
Laxton said that in 2015 dollars, that amount rises to $7.2 million or $722,000 a year. Multiplying that amount by 33 years — the time Henry spent in prison plus six years of unnecessary litigation — would get him nearly $24 million.
He asked the judge to add an amount for vindication and deterrence, as well as the fact that there was no fault attributed to Crown or police in the Truscott case, bringing the total deserved by Henry to about $30 million.
"A strong message needs to be sent, and we're looking forward to seeing you making that strong message," Laxton told the judge.
He also pointed to the case of Vancouver lawyer Cameron Ward, who received $5,000 for a wrongful strip search. Given that Henry underwent about 20 strip searches a year, and unlike Ward, didn't get to keep his underwear on, he deserves about $10.8 million for that indignity, Laxton argued.
He said Henry faced beatings from fellow inmates, constant oversight by guards and a "medieval" parole system while he was wrongfully imprisoned.
The province is expected to deliver closing arguments next week. It is the only remaining defendant in Henry's suit for compensation after the federal government and City of Vancouver settled for undisclosed amounts.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2015