Editorial: The Bain report should be released

By Kim Gillespie

Whether in years to come David Bain will be viewed in the same light as Arthur Allan Thomas remains to be seen.

But it's clear that many in New Zealand - this country known for backing the underdog, the little Kiwi battler -

nevertheless have reservations about paying him compensation for his many years in prison after he was convicted for the murders of his family members.

Mr Bain was found guilty of murdering his parents, brother and two sisters in Dunedin in 1995.

In 2007 he appealed to the Privy Council, which quashed his convictions, citing a miscarriage of justice, and ordered a retrial, at which, in 2009, he was acquitted on all charges.

Mr Thomas was twice convicted, in 1971 and 1973, of the murders of Harvey and Jeannette Crewe but later given a Royal Pardon. He was released in December 1979 and received compensation. Decades later his name still resonates as a man wronged by the system.

With Mr Bain, on the face of it you have a New Zealander who spent a third of his life, more than 13 of his 40 years behind bars.

A jury of his peers found him not guilty and he is now a free man.

Our justice system has spoken.

Should he receive compensation for those many lost years?

That's the question still being bandied about the corridors of power more than three years after his release.

In 2010 Mr Bain requested compensation. The then Justice Minister Simon Power commissioned a report

to examine his case for reparation.

In September this year it was revealed that the report,  by retired Canadian Supreme Court judge Ian Binnie, had concluded that, on the balance of probabilities, Mr Bain was innocent.

Current Justice Minister Judith Collins has rubbished the report, and ordered a peer review by a New Zealand judge.

She has rejected claims she is "shopping around" for an opinion she likes.

But whether there's any merit to that argument or not, that's what many people will see.

What's the point in spending hundreds of thousands of dollars - $413,764 to be precise - on an independent,

overseas opinion from a respected legal mind, only to undermine its findings before its public release?

The minister says she is not prepared to take the report to the Cabinet without it being peer reviewed because she does not believe it will stand up to public scrutiny.

So what? The public has had its say. No matter what the odd juror says now _ they acquitted him at the time.

If the minister has misgivings about the report and is happy to say so, she should reveal its details, at the very least, to the Bain camp.

As a politician it's understandable the minister would be worried about the court of public opinion. But as the Minister of Justice, she should show more concern for the actual courts and legal process, not to mention good old common fairness and decency.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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