Audrey Young

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

Bain fight: public faith at stake

Collins says confidence in judicial system a key issue as row over Canadian judge's compo reports rages on.

David Bain. Photo / Pool Photo
David Bain. Photo / Pool Photo

The public's confidence in the judicial system is at stake in the David Bain compensation case, says Justice Minister Judith Collins.

"It is not only a serious matter for Mr Bain; it is actually a serious matter for the public and for our confidence in our judicial system."

Yesterday, she was forced to release reports on Mr Bain's claim for compensation, after a backlash for her criticising the author, retired Canadian judge Ian Binnie, while keeping it confidential.

She redoubled her criticism of him, saying he went beyond his mandate and made extensive, serious errors.

Justice Binnie points a highly critical finger at the investigation into the 1994 murders of five members of Mr Bain's family, and recommended compensation for him because of its "extraordinary circumstance".

That blatantly breached his terms of reference set by former Justice Minister Simon Power, who explicitly told him that he did not want an opinion on whether Mr Bain qualified for compensation and said the issue of "extraordinary circumstances" was a matter for the Cabinet.

Justice Binnie's criticism of the police is singled out in the peer review of his report by former High Court judge Robert Fisher, QC.

Dr Fisher said the purpose of the Cabinet granting an ex gratia payment for wrong imprisonment "is to compensate the innocent, not to root out official misconduct".

"Condemning official misconduct should be reserved for those cases that are so bad they threaten the integrity of the judicial system. Planting evidence is a classic example; overlooking a possible line of investigation is not," Dr Fisher said.

Mr Bain's legal team is livid that it was shut out of the review of Justice Binnie's report. "It is grossly unfair and grossly disturbing," Michael Reed QC said last night.

Dr Fisher's report contained factual errors, he said, and he described a four-page email Justice Binnie sent to Ms Collins yesterday on the Fisher review as "magnificent".

In the email, Justice Binnie accuses Dr Fisher of having a "lack of familiarity" with the evidentiary record.

Mr Bain's long-time supporter Joe Karam said it was too soon to offer detailed comment on the package of reports Ms Collins released yesterday. "It is voluminous. Nine PDFs, nearly 2000 pages. We're trying to read our way through it."

Ms Collins indicated yesterday that another review would be required and that it could be Dr Fisher who undertakes it.

He would be an unpopular choice for the Bain camp, which explicitly sought an overseas candidate to conduct the original inquiry.

Ms Collins will take recommendations to the Cabinet next year on what the next step should be.

Ms Collins told reporters yesterday the Binnie report was "fatally flawed".

Read more: Bain fight: public faith at stake

- NZ Herald

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