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Bain compo judge 'misunderstood NZ law' - Collins

Published: 11:05AM Tuesday December 11, 2012 Source: ONE News

Serious questions are being asked about the Government's handling of advice over David Bain's compensation case.
Justice Minister Judith Collins has gone public about concerns she has with some aspects of a retired Canadian judge's report, which is believed to recommend compensation.
The judge, Justice Ian Binnie, may have sat on Canada's Supreme Court but Collins has ruled his work on Bain's claim for compensation is not good enough.

She says the judge "misunderstood" New Zealand law and that is why she is having local lawyer Robert Fisher review the Binnie report.

"There are parts of the report, particularly around facts, matters of fact, but also around process, that would not mean it would stand up to any sort of scrutiny," Collins said.

Former justice minister Simon Power said Justice Binnie had had a distinguished career in a country with a similar compensation regime to New Zealand when he appointed the retired judge to assess the Bain claim in November last year.

Collins said today: "The appointment was very much based on the fact that Mr Bain's supporters wanted an outside judge."

Binnie is believed to have found Bain not guilty of killing his parents, two sisters and brother in Dunedin in 1994, and recommends Bain be compensated for 13 years in prison after his conviction in May 1995.

He was acquitted at a retrial in 2009 and stands to get about $2 million. But the Government is not obliged to pay compensation.

Binnie's report has cost taxpayers over $400,000. And he was called to Wellington shortly after completing it in September for what he calls a brief meeting with the Minister.

In a statement to ONE News, Binnie says he has no idea what the concerns with his work are and that he has had no communication from the Minister or her office since the Wellington meeting.

Collins disputes that claim.

"My office has certainly been in contact with Justice Binnie but not about particular details. It would simply not be appropriate," she said.

Bain's lawyer, Michael Reed, says the process is "nonsense".

"If she [Collins] has genuine concerns surely they should have be raised with Justice Binnie on a continuing basis," Reed said.

"He's a highly respected judge, much more senior than the person she's referred to for a second opinion or peer review."

Collins will receive Fisher's peer review by the end of the week but Cabinet will not have a decision on Bain's compensation until the New Year.

Only those who have had their convictions quashed or who have received a free pardon can apply for compensation. They must establish their innocence on the balance of probabilities.

Because Bain was acquitted after a retrial, he falls outside these Cabinet guidelines.

However, the rules also allow discretion in "extraordinary circumstances" which the claimant must demonstrate.

Collins said the peer review would not have an impact on Bain's claim, apart from causing a delay to Cabinet's final decision.