Rachel Smalley is a radio host for Newstalk ZB. Listen to her between 5am and 6am every weekday morning.

Rachel Smalley: Crown must apologise over Teina Pora mistake


Teina Pora will today be told that he'll receive compensation for his wrongful imprisonment for the murder of Susan Burdett.

He's expected to get over $2 million for spending 21 years of his life locked up in jail for a crime he didn't do.

His case went before the Privy Council and revealed that Teina Pora suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome. His confession, which was central to his case, was therefore unsafe.

Pora was never there. He was never in Burdett's house.

It was a challenging case. It was the early 90s and here was this kid, essentially with a low intellect and little understanding, if any, of the judicial system - and he confessed to murdering Susan Burdett. He told the police what he thought they wanted to hear.

And there were so many challenges for police, for the judicial system - but make no mistake, Teina Pora was failed at every turn.

Here was a young man who needed protecting from himself, but a flawed investigation saw him locked up instead.

The end result - 21 years in jail for a crime he didn't do. How do you compensate for that? How do you put a dollar figure on it?

The loss of liberty. The loss of so many simple choices that so many of us take for granted every day. Would he have had more children? He would, at the very least, have had an opportunity to see more of his child - and his grandchild born 7 years ago.

Pora is expected to receive a little over $2 million dollars - and that will amount, give or take, to about $100,000 for every year that he spent inside.

Cabinet will follow guidelines for determining to what degree someone should be compensated, and it starts at $100,000 a year for wrongful imprisonment. It's safe to assume it will be over the $2 million dollar mark.

But also along with that compensation must come an apology. Someone, on behalf of the crown, must say sorry to Teina Pora for the failures of our justice system. 21 years, wrongfully imprisoned - an apology must accompany compensation.

Of course, on the other side of this tragic situation - the victim. Susan Burdett was raped and murdered in her own home - and no-one has been held accountable for that.

Malcolm Rewa is serving life for the rape of Burdett and for many other women - but no jury could agree on whether Rewa murdered her. That case remains closed. There are no winners in any of this. None at all. But there are plenty of victims.

And so Pora is likely to receive $100,000 a year for each of the 21 years he's spent in jail. Is that adequate? Is that fair and just? What price would you put on spending 21 years in jail for a crime you didn't commit - can you even put a price on it?

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Rachel Smalley is a radio host for Newstalk ZB. Listen to her between 5am and 6am every weekday morning.

Rachel’s career in journalism is extensive. She has reported from Europe, Africa, Asia and America, covering elections in Britain, the United States, France and New Zealand. She joined Newstalk ZB as host of KPMG Early Edition in 2013 and also works on TVNZ’s Sunday and Q&A current affairs programmes.

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