Collins points to alleged Bain report errors

ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 16:50 12/12/2012
Retired Canadian Supreme Court judge Ian Binnie.
Reuters
REPORT AUTHOR: Retired Canadian Supreme Court judge Ian Binnie.
David Bain
KIRK HARGREAVES/The Press
STILL WAITING: David Bain.

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Bain report's author takes aim at minister Justice Ian Binnie's letter about Bain compo claim

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Justice Minister Judith Collins says retired Canadian judge Ian Binnie got it wrong over crucial fingerprint evidence in the David Bain murder trials.

In Parliament this afternoon, Collins gave two examples of what she believed were ‘‘assumptions based on incorrect facts’’ and a misunderstanding of New Zealand law in his report.

She said there were "many" problems with the report, which was being peer reviewed by Robert Fisher QC.

Binnie relied on an ‘‘incorrect understanding’’ of a scientist’s evidence, she told MPs.

‘‘Justice Binnie asserts that a named scientist testified at the first trial that he had chemically enhanced the prints and later sought to resile from this," said Collins.

‘‘The reference to chemical enhancement was actually an error on a label attached to a fingerprint and this was explained as such by a scientist at the [2009] retrial.’’

Collins said Binnie did not take into account the correction.

During the re-trial, defence lawyers also asserted that the fact that evidence [from the original case] was no longer available could be interpreted adversely. Binnie wrongly assumed this was correct, Collins said.

Collins was responding to questions from Labour's justice spokesman Charles Chauvel.

'DEEP CONCERNS'

Earlier today Collins revealed Binnie went "well beyond" the terms of reference laid down by former Justice Minister Simon Power.

"I would have thought that was a pretty basic thing to get right," she said.

"I read it from cover to cover and I had deep concerns."

She was also worried that individuals who gave evidence were criticised in Binnie's report - and not given the opportunity to respond.

"There is also issues around the understanding of the law of evidence in New Zealand... there is quite a long list of concerns... anyone who is a lawyer would have concerns."

Both the Attorney-General Chris Finlayson and Solicitor-General Michael Heron shared those concerns and agreed the report should be reviewed.

Collins will receive a peer review from Robert Fisher QC either today or tomorrow.

"I am giving very careful consideration to the repeated requests from Mr Bain's supporters and also now from former justice Binnie that I release the reports," she said.

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She says they need to be released together.

"Mr Bain and his supporters have obviously got a lot of concerns and I think they are very worried about the process and I want to be as transparent as possible."

Yesterday she lashed Binnie's report for containing assumptions based on incorrect facts and a misunderstanding of New Zealand law.

But she also said he criticised individuals who gave evidence in the Bain trial - and gave them no recourse to respond.

"There are comments that have been made ...Now that we've had Justice Binnie come out and make statements which are very unfortunate, accusations that I was running a political process."

She said it was "very demeaning" for him to make the comments but didn't want to get into a ''slanging match'' with Binnie.

And she defended Heron from "extraordinarily unfair" attacks by Binnie, stressing he was not involved in the Bain legal proceedings.

Bain deserved a fair process - "and that's what I'm trying to deliver for him," she said.

Binnie bit back this morning, calling for his report to provided to Bain and made public.

It was a "curious feature" of the Bain case that all "external" judges who have looked at the case have rejected the arguments of the Solicitor General and the Crown Law Office regarding David Bain's guilt, he said.

He is understood to have suggested that Bain was innocent beyond reasonable doubt.

Bain is seeking compensation for his wrongful conviction and arrest. He spent almost 13 years in jail but was aquitted at a retrial in 2009.

He stands to get almost $2 million - but the Government is not legally obliged to pay out.

Collins has said she was hoping to release the report to the public by the end of the week.

- Stuff

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