12 Dec 2012

Justice Minister defends money spent on Bain report

6:13 am on 12 December 2012

The Justice Minister says a price can't be placed on justice, as she defends the $400,000 spent on a report on possible compensation for David Bain.

Mr Bain spent 13 years in jail for the 1994 murders of his parents and three siblings, before he was acquitted at a retrial in 2009.

He is seeking compensation for wrongful conviction and imprisonment.

Judith Collins says the report by retired Canadian judge Justice Ian Binnie has had to be peer reviewed because it appears to contain assumptions based on incorrect facts, not because she is shopping around for a different conclusion. And she says the report shows a misunderstanding of New Zealand law.

Ms Collins said she has received two unsolicited versions of his report since September.

The report is being reviewed by Robert Fisher, QC, and the minister expects to receive his review in the next day or so. "Ultimately, this review will not have an impact on Mr Bain's claim, apart from causing an unfortunate delay to the decision Cabinet will make," Ms Collins said.

'Secrecy' criticised

The lawyer representing David Bain has criticised the Justice Minister for not sharing the findings of the report. Michael Reed QC says complaints have been made to the Ombudsman and the Privacy Commissioner about the report being kept secret.

Mr Reed said despite Judith Collins saying justice must be seen to be done, the secrecy around the report means that is not happening.

A long-time supporter of David Bain, Joe Karam, said he is extremely distressed the report is being peer reviewed. Mr Karam said it is unfair and a blow to natural justice that Ms Collins sought advice from the Solicitor General, while leaving Mr Bain's side in the dark.

Compensation not covered

Ms Collins said Justice Binnie did not include a suggested figure for compensation, as he was tasked with determining whether David Bain was innocent on the balance of probabilities and, if so, whether he was innocent beyond reasonable doubt and if there were any extraordinary circumstances Cabinet could take into account when awarding any compensation.

Labour Party leader David Shearer says given the $400,000 spent on the report, Justice Binnie's work should be taken more seriously. But Ms Collins says money was not the issue in this particular situation, as justice is far more important than a dollar value.

A further announcement on Mr Bain's claim will be made in due course.