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Ivan Henry (C) hugs his two daughters Tanya (L) and Kari (R) after he was acquitted of eight counts of rape from a conviction in 1983 which sent him to prison for 27 years.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

Lawyers for a British Columbia man who spent 27 years in prison for a series of rapes he didn't commit are turning their attention to securing financial compensation for their client, but don't believe there is any need to hold a public inquiry into the miscarriage of justice.

Ivan Henry was sent to prison after he was convicted of raping eight women in Vancouver between May, 1981, and June, 1982.

Last week, the B.C. Court of Appeal acquitted him on all counts nearly three decades after a deeply flawed trial that was riddled with errors by prosecutors and the judge.

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Mr. Henry joins a growing list of Canada's wrongfully convicted, many of whom have received multimillion-dollar settlements after wasting away for years in prison. Several have seen the injustices done to them examined at a public inquiry.

Marilyn Sandford, one of Mr. Henry's lawyers, said it's too early to say what exactly will happen next, but she and her colleagues are exploring the possibility of compensation, either through a settlement or litigation.

"Our focus in the criminal case was on getting the result in the criminal case, that was really the main thing on our plates at that time because until we had the decision, we weren't aware of whether it was even a case where it was appropriate to seek compensation," Ms. Sandford said in an interview.

"I think it's fair to say now we're at the stage of assessing all of that."

B.C.'s Attorney-General wasn't available for comment but has said an apology will not be enough to make up for Mr. Henry's lost years in prison, suggesting the province may be willing to offer him a settlement.

The Vancouver Police Department would say only that it regrets the mistakes "at all levels of the justice system" that led to Mr. Henry's conviction.

While other wrongful conviction cases have prompted a public inquiry to get to the bottom of what happened - most notably the case of David Milgaard, who spent 23 years in prison for murder before his conviction was overturned - Ms. Sandford said she doesn't see the need for such a mechanism to investigate what happened to Mr. Henry.

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Other public inquiries have already dealt with some of the issues in Mr. Henry's trial, Ms. Sandford said, such as how courts should consider eyewitness identification, and the laws around disclosure have changed significantly since the early 1980s.

"I don't see the need for a public inquiry to look at that again. I think that would be an enormous expenditure of public money with probably very little to be gained," Ms. Sandford said.

"We know pretty well what happened in our case and the Crown in our case pretty much agreed. … It's rare for a lawyer to say, 'I don't think there should be a public inquiry,' but our team hasn't been saying there has to be an inquiry and I think that's for a reason."

Mr. Henry, now 63, had proclaimed his innocence since his 1983 conviction for rape and indecent assault involving eight women, and the Court of Appeal concluded he should never have been found guilty.

At his trial, at which Mr. Henry represented himself, the Crown failed to disclose statements from police and witnesses that would have cast doubt on his guilt.

Victims picked Mr. Henry out of a police lineup as officers held him in a chokehold; the judge told the jury they could infer guilt based on Mr. Henry's resistance during the lineup.

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The judge also gave inadequate instructions to the jury about how they should consider eyewitness identification.

As for a potential settlement, Ms. Sandford said it's difficult to predict how much Mr. Henry could receive or how quickly an amount might be determined.

Settlements for other cases have varied widely, and courts and governments have yet to settle on standard criteria for calculating how much a wrongfully convicted person should receive.

"If you look at cases where compensation is given - and it's not every case where there is an agreement for compensation - the time period ranges enormously and the process also ranges enormously," Ms. Sandford said.

"It's a young area of law. Compensating people for wrongful convictions is relatively new."

Mr. Milgaard, whose case was the subject of a public inquiry that recommended changes to how the justice system reviews allegations of wrongful conviction, received $10-million from Saskatchewan and Ottawa.

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Steven Truscott was awarded $6.5-million after being acquitted by the Ontario Court of Appeal of the 1959 murder of 12-year-old Lynne Harper. Sentenced at the age of 14 to hang, his sentence was commuted to life in prison and he was paroled in 1969.

One week before Mr. Henry's acquittal, William Mullins Johnson of Ontario reached a $4.25-million settlement with the provincial government after he was wrongfully convicted of raping and murdering a four-year-old girl based in part on evidence from disgraced pathologist Charles Smith. Mr. Mullins-Johnson spent 12 years in prison.

The Canadian Press

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