He was found not guilty and should get millions for his 13 years in prison

Where is the money? There was some expectation created last week that, according to one report anyway, "the Government will move quickly to settle the Bain compensation case", now that it is back in front of Cabinet.

No such luck.

The expectation grew when it was announced the David Bain/Joe Karam camp had dropped their judicial review into the Judith Collins-led review of the Justice Ian Binnie review. A feeling that the wheels might now, at last, be turning again and the Government might well be keen to sort this whole thing out.

Cabinet came and went - nothing.

Advertisement

I suspect because they're bogged down in legal advice about who stands where, where to go from here, what sort of precedent any money sets, whose court the ball is in.

And that's before you get to the political stuff like, whose side are the public on, what sort of settlement - if any - they would tolerate, and whether this even needs to be addressed at all?

I come from the very simple standpoint that doing the right thing is one of life's expectations if you're a halfway decent person.

Here's why we owe David Bain.

He's not guilty. Has been found so by the courts.

Don't start relitigating what you think happened or didn't happen, what the police said or did or missed. It's all been hashed out in the process we all accept as being the judicial system.

That system found him not guilty.

So he was in prison for 13 years for something he was found not guilty of.

A decent society doesn't do that to a person without at least trying to put it right.

We have odd rules around that bit, the process steps out of the legal arena and into the political.

The person concerned must not just be not guilty, but shown to be innocent on the balance of probabilities and/or the circumstances of the case must be seen as extraordinary.

That last bit is a lay-down misere, it's the most extraordinary case of modern times.

The first bit was covered by Binnie, who was hired by the former Justice Minister Simon Power, who was seen as a real political talent but, perhaps oddly, woke up one morning and decided banking was more fun.

Anyway we all know what Binnie found, except Power's replacement Collins didn't like it and got the review reviewed.

Karam and Bain challenged that legally, which was a big mistake given you don't anger the same people you want money off, and, given the decision was made by Cabinet, lord knows what a judge was going to say or do.

Last week that got dropped and here we are.

I wonder if Bain hasn't, in an odd way, done himself a disservice. Never was his cause more alive than when he was in prison battling the system or just-released accompanied by those dramatic pictures of freedom.

Ever since, he's kind of vanished by getting on with his life.

Getting work, getting married, having a child.

But the wrong hasn't been put right, and that's the critical bit.

With regards to precedent, this is slightly tricky. What makes Bain so unusual, and therefore this case so unfair, is that he is no criminal.

There is no previous record, no string of offences for which he was guilty, he's not a bad bastard that got wrongly accused of one crime amid myriad others.

He was an innocent who'd done nothing wrong legally, until that fateful day in Dunedin, after which his life was tipped upside down, and he paid a 13-year price until our justice system decided they got the wrong person.

I mention this because I am sure if the Government writes a cheque there will be others looking to join the queue. But critically, how many of them will have a clean rap sheet?

My guess is the Government will call for a report, another one, and if they do, it should be full and final.

Why? Because if they wanted to settle now they would have, but they haven't, and there will be a reason for that.

But forget the lawyers and advice and the politics for a moment.

Forget the weird Cabinet rules about guilt or innocence, and just focus on this.

David Bain was found not guilty after being inside for 13 of the most potentially fruitful and productive years of his life. He is owed something.

Our best way of putting that right is with money. It's crude, but it works.

He is owed millions. How many? In a way it doesn't matter.

What's more important is that we do the right thing.

What's more important is that we sort this once and for all.

Debate on this article is now closed.