Why the Ministry of Justice Paid Compensation After a Warrant for Custodial Sentence Error


Client: “Artur” (name changed)

Claim: Civil action against the Ministry of Justice for:

  • false imprisonment
  • breach of Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights. (Which is a breach of section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998)
  • negligence.

Claimant’s lawyer: Kemmi Alfa, Chartered Legal Executive

Defendant: Ministry of Justice

Result: £5994.84 compensation plus legal costs.

What happened?

On 28 February 2022, Artur was convicted at the Magistrates’ Court for three offences.

He was given a sentence of imprisonment for each offence:

  • one was for six weeks
  • another was for three months
  • the last offence resulted in a sentence of 4 months’ imprisonment.

The Magistrates’ Court issued a court order and Warrant for Custodial Sentence. This type of court warrant is used in matters “so serious that neither a fine alone nor a community sentence can be justified for the offence.”

The Custodial Sentence Warrant said: “The defendant shall be taken to the nominated prison establishment and kept for the overall length of sentence shown.” It was used as:

  1. the authority to instruct Prisoner Escort and Custody Services (PECS) to transfer him to prison
  2. for the Governor of HMP/YOI Wandsworth to keep Artur for the term of imprisonment detailed in the warrant.

Importantly, Artur’s three sentences of imprisonment were to run “concurrently” (at the same time), and not “consecutively” (one after the other). This meant that he received a four-month sentence but was eligible for release in two months.

Artur was imprisoned in HMP Wandsworth. Having served his debt to society, he eagerly anticipated release on 28 April.

But that date came and went with no news about when Artur would be freed.

Frustrated, he contacted his criminal solicitor. She noticed that there was an error on the Warrant of Custodial Sentence. It said that the sentences were to run consecutively, not concurrently.

Artur’s criminal solicitor contacted the court on 5 May. The court accepted the change and sent an amended warrant to the prison on 10 May.

Despite this, Artur was held for another week before release on 17 May. He was detained for nineteen extra days in total.

Photo of Kemmi Alfa, Chartered Legal Executive, who represented a client in a warrant for custodial sentence error compensation claim.

Kemmi Alfa, Chartered Legal Executive, helped a victim of a warrant for custodial sentence error get compensation.

How Donoghue Solicitors Got Involved

Artur was disappointed, angry, and upset. He asked his criminal solicitor for advice. She recommended Artur contact Donoghue Solicitors because we specialise in court warrant compensation claims.

Also, she read that we often accept client referrals from other solicitors. We were happy to help.

Legal Analysis of Liability (Responsibility)

In August 2022, Artur contacted Donoghue Solicitors and discussed matters with Kemmi Alfa, Chartered Legal Executive.

Kemmi immediately saw that there were two parts to this legal issue:

  • the first was that the court failed to accurately record the way Artur was to serve his sentence (concurrently, not consecutively)
  • which led to the prison’s failure to release him on time.

As a result, Artur had a potential compensation claim for:

  • false imprisonment
  • breach of Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to liberty). Claims are brought in England and Wales as a breach of section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998
  • negligence on the part of the Court’s employees due to the administrative error.

Bringing a Compensation Claim for the Warrant of Custodial Sentence Error

Donoghue Solicitors agreed to represent Artur on a “no win no fee” basis. This was a relief to Artur as it meant that he did not need to fund his case out-of-pocket.

Kemmi reviewed all the relevant documents and sent a formal “Letter of Claim” to the Ministry of Justice, the government body responsible for the Magistrates’ Courts.

In her letter, she explained Artur’s case and why he deserved compensation.

Kemmi pointed out that, even though her client was detained by HMP Wandsworth, it was the Court’s responsibility to make sure the Warrant for Custodial Sentence was accurate. As a result, the Ministry of Justice was liable for Artur’s false imprisonment and other claims.

Ms Alfa demanded a formal response from the Ministry of Justice within the appropriate time limit.

A lawyer for the Ministry responded fully on 25 November 2022. They denied liability, but accepted that Artur was unlawfully detained between 28 April and 10 May, when the Court emailed the prison with an amended warrant. (The Ministry of Justice did not accept responsibility for detention after that date.)

Legal Analysis of Quantum (the value of the claim)

Despite denying liability, the government’s lawyer was willing to discuss settlement terms. She made an offer to settle Artur’s compensation claim which Kemmi discussed with her client. The offer was valued by referring to the leading case of Governor of Her Majesty’s Prison Brockhill Ex Parte Evans, R v. [2000] UKHL 48; [2000] 3 WLR 843 (27th July, 2000)

The case was relevant because it mirrored Artur’s situation.

In Brockhill, the Claimant (Michelle Evans) was lawfully detained, but her detention later became unlawful. She was awarded compensation for the unlawful detention period. But, the Law Lords who heard the Brockhill case approved reasoning used in lower court hearings when valuing her claim. They said that compensation in these circumstances should be lower than, for example, people with unblemished characters who are unlawfully detained from the outset. (See How to Calculate Police Abuse Compensation for more about this.)

Result: Compensation and Legal Costs Paid

Kemmi knew that Artur had been unlawfully detained at the end of his sentence through no fault of his own. She was confident in his claim and assured him the firm would support it.

Following discussions, Artur accepted nearly £6,000 compensation from the Ministry of Justice plus his legal costs. Artur was paid in January 2023, just over 5 months after speaking to Kemmi Alfa for the first time.

Contact Donoghue Solicitors for help with your court warrant compensation claim on 08000 124 246 or by completing the online contact form on this page.