Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

City divided on compo for David Bain

Cabinet mulls decision over compensation for years in jail.

It is difficult to put a figure on compensation for David Bain (left), says supporter Joe Karam (right).  Photo / APN
It is difficult to put a figure on compensation for David Bain (left), says supporter Joe Karam (right). Photo / APN

Dunedin MPs say their city has strongly mixed views over David Bain's innocence but that the Cabinet should ignore public opinion when deciding whether he should get compensation.

Leading public law specialist Grant Illingworth, QC, says it would be "very strange" if the Cabinet ignored the advice of former Canadian Supreme Court judge Ian Binnie over compensation for Mr Bain.

Mr Binnie's report concludes that on the balance of probabilities Mr Bain is innocent of the murders of his parents, two sisters and a brother in 1994 and should be paid compensation for wrongful conviction and imprisonment.

Mr Bain served almost 13 years in prison before being acquitted at a retrial in 2009.

Justice Minister Judith Collins has said she will not comment on Mr Binnie's report until after the Cabinet has decided whether to pay compensation.

Dunedin-based National list MP Michael Woodhouse said: "Only Cabinet should make the decision; I don't think public opinion should enter into it."

He said the issue had divided the city for years and whatever the decision, it would do that again: "But I have to trust the Cabinet process."

Dunedin South MP Clare Curran, whose electorate covers the former Bain family home, said she did not have any view as to whether Mr Bain should get compensation.

Asked if public opinion should be taken into account, she said the Cabinet needed to consider the opinion of the judge whose advice it had sought.

"There's no hurry to make an announcement."

Under Ministry of Justice guidelines, Mr Bain would have to have persuaded Mr Binnie he was innocent on the balance of probabilities, and have persuaded him there were extraordinary circumstances that justified compensation.

The Cabinet would also have to be persuaded of those two conditions. Any payment would be ex gratia - by grace, not legal obligation.

Mr Illingworth said the Government had engaged a high-powered jurist and given him the opportunity to investigate the matter thoroughly.

"If it is true that he has reached a conclusion that David Bain is not guilty on the balance of probability ... then it seems to me that even though the situation technically falls outside the guidelines, it would be a very strange outcome if the Government were to say 'well, despite the finding and despite the recommendation for compensation we are not going to give him any'."

Bain campaigner and friend Joe Karam told TV3 it was difficult to put a dollar figure on compensation.

"Having your freedom taken away and being incarcerated for years for something that you didn't do, no amount of money can probably fix that up because your life is irrevocably destroyed," he said.

Friends of David Bain spokeswoman Catherine Spencer told the Otago Daily Times compensation would help to restore public faith in government institutions. Mr Bain deserved compensation for the "absolute trauma" he had been through.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n4 at 02 Aug 2014 12:42:55 Processing Time: 429ms