12 Dec 2012

Call for commission to deal with compensation claims

11:49 pm on 12 December 2012

Legal professionals are calling for a review commission to be set up to deal with future compensation claims to avoid the problems in the David Bain case.

Retired Canadian judge Ian Binnie has launched a scathing attack on Justice Minister Judith Collins after she announced she is having his report on David Bain's claim peer reviewed.

The minister says the report, which has not been made public or shown to Mr Bain, appears to contain assumptions based on errors of fact, and showed a misunderstanding of New Zealand law. A decision on compensation is up to the Cabinet.

Lawyer Jonathan Eaton acted for Rex Haig whose plea for compensation for wrongful conviction and imprisonment was rejected by the Government in 2009

Mr Eaton says there are at present no rules or processes for deciding compensation.

He says the public would be more reassured that a robust process is taking place if a formal commission with the role of investigating cases was making the decision, rather than an individual.

Kevin Dawkins, professor of criminal law professor at Otago University, says there should be a more formal structure in the interest of transparency.

He says in previous compensation claims the investigator has been able to consider all relevant material, even evidence that was deemed inadmissible in court.

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.

Process criticised

Professor Andrew Geddis of Otago University says the reason for having a Canadian judge look at the Bain case was because he would be impartial and far from New Zealand where there has been much debate about the case.

However, he says it now seems to have been decided that there was a lack of knowledge of what happens in New Zealand, so the Government has asked for a New Zealand view on his decision. "In terms of process, it's beginning to look a little bit mickey mouse really."

Professor Geddis says a decision on compensation is a political one as there is no legal obligation to compensate Mr Bain for his time spent in prison.