Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Bain compo: new twist

David Bain. Photo / Simon Baker
David Bain. Photo / Simon Baker

The Government has ordered a second opinion on the David Bain compensation case, this time from New Zealand's foremost specialist, Robert Fisher QC, after a retired Canadian judge concluded Mr Bain was innocent and should be compensated.

Mr Fisher, a former High Court judge, has advised the Government on compensation claims, including from Rex Haig after his murder conviction was quashed.

In that case, Mr Fisher found it was more probable than not that Mr Haig had participated in the murder.

He recommended that compensation be declined and the Government accepted his recommendation.

Simon Power, when Justice Minister, commissioned advice on the Bain case from Ian Binnie, a retired Canadian Supreme Court judge, because it was so controversial in NZ.

Last night, Mr Bain's lawyer, Michael Reed, QC, said it was "appalling" for the present minister, Judith Collins, to seek more advice and delay the compensation deal to at least early next year.

"By convention, you should accept it [the advice]. Why send it to a more junior person to review the top judge in the Commonwealth, who is independent? It's ridiculous."

Ms Collins had said in September that the report would be released in two months.

"Now she's changed her mind, and she's hiding something," Mr Reed said.

"The judge was asked one question: 'Is David Bain innocent?' He has found him innocent. Isn't it a fair go to let him get on with his life, give him some money and let him go away? He's not looking for a fortune, he's been fair and reasonable, but no one else has been reasonable."

The QC said his client had no money and was desperate to get his life back in order after 13 years in jail.

"He doesn't do very well. Poor guy, he lost all that life of his, and lost 13 years - no wine, no restaurants, no travel, no sex, no girlfriends. It's pretty nasty, isn't it?"

In September, the Herald revealed that Justice Binnie had delivered a confidential report to the Government concluding that on the balance of probabilities, Mr Bain was innocent of the 1994 murder of his parents, brother and two sisters and should be compensated for time in jail.

Former All Black Joe Karam campaigned for Mr Bain, including taking a case to the Privy Council, which quashed his convictions in 2007 and ordered a retrial. Mr Bain was acquitted after a retrial in 2009.

The Cabinet has no obligation to follow the compo recommendation. But if it does, the payout could be at least $2m, based on previous cases.

Yesterday, Prime Minister John Key refused to discuss whether members of the Cabinet believed Mr Bain was guilty or innocent and whether their opinions would have a bearing on its final decision on compensation.

Sir Bob Jones, a close friend of Mr Karam, said Ms Collins had "behaved badly" in seeking another QC's advice on the compensation claim.

"They got the top judicial figure, a senior judge from Canada came over, spent months going over it, spent a day grilling David Bain, then she says, 'I don't like what he's come up with'."

He believed she was acting on personal beliefs and was "abrogating" her job. "That's a disgrace."

- NZ Herald

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