One of the country's most notorious criminals has been awarded $3500 compensation - for breach of privacy and hurt feelings.

The man, who is currently serving a prison sentence, has been convicted of crimes including attacking a police officer, unlawful possession of firearms, aggravated robbery, theft, burglary and trying to escape from custody.

But he took umbrage when he learned that the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) had wrongly listed him as having a conviction under the heading of "domestic violence".

"I have never been convicted of domestic violence," he told MSD officials.

"Indeed, the only violent offence I have ever been convicted of was for aggravated assault on a police constable."

When the ministry initially refused to correct the information with a file note and apologise, he complained to the Privacy Commissioner and then to the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

He said the stress and injury to his feelings, aggravated by the MSD's unlawful actions, meant "nothing less than monetary compensation and an apology is acceptable to me".

The inmate was allowed out of prison to give evidence before the tribunal. On the witness stand, he accused the MSD of "flouting the law".

The tribunal decided his privacy had been breached, he had suffered emotional harm, and he was entitled to a payout. Without him asking, the tribunal also ordered that he not be identified, in order to protect his family.

Yesterday, police and politicians expressed outrage.

Senior Sergeant Luke Shadbolt, vice-president of the Police Association, said "real justice" would be compensation to the man's victims for the emotional harm they suffered, rather than compensation to the prisoner.

And Act MP Rodney Hide said the payout was "totally sickening".

"Here's a violent criminal who's assaulted a police officer and the taxpayer has to cough up for his hurt feelings," Hide said. "He should be taken out in the public square, put in stocks and we throw fruit at him. We'll see about his hurt feelings then."

MSD chief executive Peter Hughes issued a terse statement to the Herald on Sunday.

"His violent criminal history speaks for itself and he has spent much of his life in prison," Hughes said. "

"He said our refusal to put a note on his file when he originally asked us caused him considerable distress, loss of dignity, humiliation and that his feelings were hurt. He then wanted money from us. I declined to pay him anything."

But, said Hughes, the tribunal had ordered $3500 compensation and - although he disagreed with the decision - he would comply.