Justice Minister Amy Adams declared the almost $1 million payout to David Bain "pragmatic".

After all these years, the endless back and forth, the expense and waste in the tens of millions of dollars, she couldn't declare justice served or a hard principle fought for and won.

No. Her best shot was an appeal to pragmatism.

Adams thereby managed to rile everyone, conclude nothing and leave a family's murder hanging without result. Sure, Adams has a report saying Bain hasn't established his innocence but he has been given a million likely designed to encourage him not to contest that.

Advertisement

That's hardly a ringing declaration of strength. There's also the very large matter of the Government's earlier report by Justice Ian Binnie, who concluded Bain innocent on the balance of probabilities with the many egregious police errors constituting extraordinary circumstances.

The best that can be said is the long saga is over. The warring sides have packed it in, without a winner or a loser, too exhausted to fight on.

And there's the problem. The Government should never have gone to war.

Its job is to serve justice. But our justice system can't admit mistakes and fights not for justice but to be right.

The Binnie report cost $373,000. The Fisher review of Binnie $207,000. The subsequent Callinan report $298,000.

The cost to the Government and the Bain team preparing and providing material for the reviews would double that cost.

The pragmatic result would have been to accept the Binnie report. The Government could have paid Bain $2m compensation and the taxpayer would still be ahead.

That would have been accepting the result of the very process that Government itself chose - and that would have been just.

Of course, those who think Bain guilty would be upset but as with the retrial they could at least take comfort in the process, if not the result.

What we have now is an outcome pleasing no one, two reports contradicting each other, an indefensible process and an apparent admission from the top that it's not justice or principle that rules but pragmatism.