Collins seeks second opinion on Bain

ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 05:00 04/12/2012
David Bain
KIRK HARGREAVES/The Press
David Bain

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Prime Minister John Key denies the Government is casting around to get the advice it wants on compensation for David Bain.

He confirmed yesterday that Justice Minister Judith Collins had sought a second opinion on recommendations from retired Canadian judge Justice Ian Binnie.

Robert Fisher, QC, has been asked to look at Justice Binnie's report, which the Government has had since September.

Asked if it was a question of the Government looking for the advice it wanted, he said: "No, I don't think so . . . she [Collins] had some concerns, or at least issues, that she wanted to flesh out a bit more before she took the next step.

"There will be a lot of public interest in what happens here and obviously the Government needs to ensure it's fair."

Justice Binnie concluded Bain was innocent on the balance of probabilities of the murder of his parents, two sisters and brother in Dunedin in 1994.

Bain is seeking compensation for the almost 13 years he spent in jail after being convicted in May 1995. Bain was acquitted at a retrial in 2009 and stands to get about $2 million. But the Government is not obliged to pay compensation.

Key refused to confirm if the Government was still considering a payout. "Look, I wouldn't want to characterise that. The Government needs to consider the recommendations."

Collins, who is overseas this week, has delayed her decision, and her recommendations will not go to the Cabinet until next 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.

Former justice minister Simon Power asked Justice Binnie to consider the compensation claim in November 2011.

Justice Binnie was paid almost $400,000 for his work and expenses.

Asked if there was a risk the Government would spend more in legal advice than the compensation pay-out Key said: "I hope not."

Auckland-based Fisher was a high court judge for 15 years. He was asked by the Government to look into a compensation claim from Aaron Farmer who was accused of rape. He found in favour and Farmer was awarded $350,000.

In September Fisher told TV3 that Bain could get a payout. "It's done out of a sense of humanity," he was reported as saying. "How it normally works is that you can get compensation if you have a successful appeal without an order for retrial."

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