David Fisher

David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

Poll: Give Bain compo

Minister dismisses national survey's result, but says she will take decision options to the Cabinet next month.

David Bain and fiancee Liz Davies at home in Christchurch. Photo / APN
David Bain and fiancee Liz Davies at home in Christchurch. Photo / APN

Most Kiwis support paying compensation to David Bain, even though Justice Minister Judith Collins says many New Zealanders will be upset at any taxpayer payment for the man once convicted of murdering his family.

A Herald-DigiPoll summer survey found 74 per cent of those polled believe Mr Bain should be compensated if the judge who reviewed the case recommended that. (The survey was started on December 7, before Justice Ian Binnie's recommendation of compensation became public.)

Only 20 per cent said Mr Bain should not get a payment under any circumstances.

The Labour Party is calling on the Cabinet to make a decision on the issue when it meets next month.

Ms Collins says she expects any decision to upset voters.

She told the Herald yesterday: "There is a lot of feeling either way on this. We have to look past all that and come to the right decision."

Mr Bain was convicted in 1995 of murdering his parents and three siblings, then acquitted at a retrial in 2009. He spent 13 years in jail between the trials, and applied for compensation after his acquittal.

The poll of 500 people was done amid fallout from the review by Justice Binnie. The retired Canadian Supreme Court judge found Mr Bain "factually innocent", but Ms Collins criticised him for over-stepping boundaries in recommending compensation. The row flared midway through the survey period.

Ms Collins dismissed the poll for asking an invalid question, as Justice Binnie was asked not to make a recommendation on compensation.

But she recognised there was a strong desire to have the issue dealt with next year and planned to brief the Cabinet on options on January 23.

She did not reveal what those options were, but earlier suggestions have included a new review or an inquiry by a panel of judges.

Ms Collins said: "Whatever decision is made, we can expect a significant chunk of the population will not be happy ..."

She said options before the Cabinet include "whether we get a new report" and, if so, who would do it.

"I don't feel it is my role to charge along with 'this is what I want to do'. This is a matter where I am happy to outline what the options are."

She said any compensation to Mr Bain would be paid at the Cabinet's discretion. "David Bain doesn't have any entitlement to compensation."

Long-time Bain supporter Joe Karam said the Government had asked Justice Binnie to do a job.

"He did the job - his answer is clear and unequivocal. That is why the poll is as it is - it can be the only right thing for the Government to do."

Labour justice spokesman Charles Chauvel said the "ad hoc" process had become "rotten". He said Justice Binnie's report was "perfectly adequate" and did not deserve "bile" from an "Auckland tax lawyer" like Ms Collins.

He said the Cabinet had enough information to make a decision and should not spend more money on further reports.

In his report, Justice Binnie criticised the investigation into the 1994 murders. "It is my opinion that the egregious errors of the Dunedin police that led directly to the wrongful conviction make it 'in the interest of justice that compensation be paid'."

- NZ Herald

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