Lawyer cautions on Bain money

17:00, Sep 10 2012

David Bain's problems may not all be solved by an inflated bank account, the lawyer for a man who was wrongfully imprisoned has warned.

A report by retired Canadian Supreme Court judge Ian Binnie, who was hired by the Government to assess Mr Bain's claim for compensation, was delivered to Justice Minister Judith Collins last week.

It concludes that Mr Bain is innocent of the 1994 murder of five of his family members and should be awarded compensation.

Mr Bain spent almost 13 years in prison, before the Privy Council quashed the convictions. He was acquitted after a three-month retrial in 2009 and could be eligible for about $2 million in compensation if his claim is successful.

But Murray Gibson, who helped free David Dougherty from jail and assisted his compensation claim, said receiving such a large amount of money after years of trauma could bring problems of its own.

Mr Dougherty was jailed in 1993 for raping an 11-year-old girl, but freed after DNA tests revealed he could not have committed the crime.


In 2001 he received an apology from the Government and was awarded $868,000 compensation.

Mr Gibson said Mr Dougherty had made a smart decision by buying a house, but had also been exceedingly generous to family and friends. In 2010 Mr Dougherty, now living in Palmerston North, was convicted of burglary.

When settling wrongful imprisonment claims, the Government should deposit the money into a trust and appoint a financial adviser, rather than just hand over a lump of cash, Mr Gibson said.

"I think a lot of people seek to share in the entitlement and, when a person has been incarcerated for a while, generosity can get the better of them, and in a few years they can find they're back to nothing.

"Being wrongfully imprisoned lives with you for the rest of your life. The money doesn't."

Dunedin-based lawyer Colin Withnall, who represented Mr Bain over seven years of appeals, said he was confident his former client would be fine, regardless of the outcome.

"David has learnt very much to take one thing at a time . . . After all he's been through, I think he can handle anything. He's making a life for himself and, if he gets the leg up, then all power to him."

Mr Withnall said he would be unsurprised if Mr Binnie had reached the conclusion that compensation was necessary, as the evidence was overwhelming.

The most recent compensation awarded by the Government was to two former Lower Hutt men last year.

Phillip Johnston and Jaden Knight were handed $146,011 and $221,936 respectively after being jailed in 2004 for a late-night arson at Foxton's Manawatu Hotel.

Yesterday Mr Johnston said receiving the compensation was a significant boost, but the time it had taken was frustrating.

During the negotiations the Government had made an offer and his lawyers responded with a counter-offer, but in the end he decided to accept an amount because of the time it was taking.

"I would have liked more but, like I said, I'm not worried about it. It's $100,000 I never had before."

The Dominion Post