Bain case: Justice staff feared a 'feral' judge

David Bain. Photo / John Kirk-Anderson
David Bain. Photo / John Kirk-Anderson

Emails released in the High Court at Auckland today show Justice Minister Judith Collins' staff were seeking to stop a judge appointed to independently review David Bain's compensation case from "going completely feral".

An email sent from Ms Collins' press secretary Rachael Bowie to Ms Collins, her senior private secretary Megan Wallace and Ms Collins' senior adviser Margaret Malcolm said Justice Ian Binnie needed to be kept "in the tent for as long as possible" to avoid his "very damaging" report from being released.

The email's subject line read 'RE: Claim' - in reference to Mr Bain's bid for compensation after serving more than 13 years of a life sentence for the murder of his family until he was acquitted at a retrial.

"The reason for this phone call is that Binnie is more likely to hold off releasing his report if he feels his concerns are being taken seriously and will be given due attention - appealing to his sense of professionalism in the hope of avoiding him going completely feral," Ms Bowie's email read.

"During ph conversation, you could reiterate that seeking advice from another QC is a perfectly normal part of the process, that the Govt remains committed to a fair and even-handed process but (as he will understand) the high level of public interest in this case means releasing the report to Bain [is] not possible while the application is under consideration (which is also normal part of the process), and advise him of the next steps so he does not feel he is out of the loop.

"Aim is to keep him in the tent for as long as possible. This can of course change after any decision is made - but in the meantime, it would be may damaging if his report was released."

The rest of the email was retracted.

A lawyer representing David Bain at the High Court today suggested Ms Collins needed to step aside over the case.

Mr Bain's legal team is applying for access to 250 documents Ms Collins received over Mr Bain's compensation claim.

Mr Bain's lawyer Michael Reed QC said Ms Collins should step aside and another minister be appointed due to her handling of the case.

He told Justice Patrick Keane that Ms Collins had been biased and prejudiced in her handling of the Bain case.

The entire process had been hijacked by Crown Law and police, Mr Reed said.

He read a document from the retired Canadian judge Justice Binnie saying, "at the moment the Minister Collins' process looks very one-sided".

Ms Collins was acting as the Minister of Police, not the Minister of Justice and was struggling to distinguish between the two, Mr Reed said.

The Crown has refused to release the bulk of the documents relating to Mr Bain's compensation bid, saying they are highly privileged.

They had been merely "drip-fed" to his legal team, Mr Reed said.

"It may turn out that the remaining documents are innocuous, but we do not know.

"We need to see them [as they may] show a pattern of the bias."

Ms Collins' office was "fighting like fury" to keep the documents from Mr Bain's legal team in an attempt to run them ragged, Mr Reed said.

Also representing Mr Bain was lawyer Matthew Karam - son of long-time Bain supporter Joe Karam.

He said declining Mr Bain's bid for compensation was an orchestrated process to ensure a particular outcome was obtained.

Lawyers representing the Justice Minister are set to give their submission tomorrow.

- NZ Herald

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