The announcement that Teina Pora is to get $988,099 to cover inflation for a compensation award draws a financial line under what has been a long and shocking miscarriage of justice.

Justice Minister Andrew Little said the payment, with $45,000 to cover Pora's latest court costs, ended all claims by Pora against the Crown.

In financial terms, the Government has in total paid Pora $3,509,048.42 arising from his wrongful conviction for rape and murder and 20 years of imprisonment.

But In terms of justice the protracted Pora case strengthens the argument for an independent criminal cases review commission, which the Labour-led Coalition is committed to creating.


Had such an agency been in existence it is entirely possible Pora would not have waited two decades for justice and to be cleared of horrendous crimes which he did not commit.

Pora's journey to compensation and apology was extremely testing and always uncertain.

Two previous justice ministers defended the system when the Pora case was raised, and insisted New Zealand had a robust appeal process for individuals who believed they were wrongly convicted.

Yet at many turns in this path the system was entirely unwilling to accept that the wrong man was behind bars.

The work to set Pora free was undertaken not by the agencies of the state but by determined individuals prepared to toil long and hard and often without reward to set right a failure of criminal justice.

Pora was a teenager when he was charged for the rape and murder of Susan Burdett.

He had been questioned without a lawyer for days, encouraged by the mention of a reward, and made what the Privy Council in London called "vague" and wildly inconsistent" statements confessing to the attack.

Long after his first conviction, in 1994, it emerged that Pora had foetal alcohol spectrum disorder.


At the time of his arrest, he had the mental age of a 9- or 10-year-old.

His confessions were described later by the world's leading authority on false confessions as "fundamentally flawed and unsafe".

The police were twice sued by the legal team around Pora to get access to critical evidence.

Paid witnesses and a jailhouse informant gave testimony which helped seal Pora's conviction for the crime, despite the absence of DNA, fingerprints or other compelling evidence placing Pora at the murder scene.

Some of these details became apparent only years after Pora's convictions.

Tim McKinnel, the investigator who fought to clear Pora's name, compared the process of obtaining official files about the Burdett case to "pulling teeth".

This is not a sign of a robust appeal process. It is more like a system that, forced to admit mistakes, prefers to look the other way rather than accept it got things badly wrong.

Jonathan Krebs, the lawyer who acted for Pora, yesterday described his client as finally being "happy and free".

An appropriate footnote to his struggle would be the conviction of Susan Burdett's true murderer and the creation of an independent legal agency capable of putting right miscarriages of justice.