Editorial: Paying for a principle

PETER O'NEILL
Last updated 05:00 13/12/2012

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It's been 18 years since the Bain murders at 65 Every Street, Dunedin.

Eighteen long years. And that's from where the public sits.

Imagine being David Bain.

People are now tiring of the case, just wanting some conclusion.

A New Zealand sense of justice is kicking in.

It might be nigh on impossible to prove David Bain innocent, which is different from not guilty, but having commissioned a report that apparently concludes he is, it should be accepted.

Yet Justice Minister Judith Collins says retired Canadian judge Ian Binnie stepped outside his brief, based his findings on incorrect facts and that he doesn't understand New Zealand law.

So she ordered a peer review of the independent review her party commissioned.

A review which cost us $400,000.

It doesn't sound like the peer review included an interview with David Bain, so how can it overturn Judge Binnie's conclusion?

How fair is it that the Crown, the side which backed prosecution all along and believed David Bain guilty, is the side that ordered the peer review? And is the only side to have seen the Binnie report?

I can't help agreeing with David Bain's camp that if the report's conclusion had suited the Government, even if it was flawed in some way, it would simply have accepted it.

The squirming not to pay compensation has become unseemly.

Those within the police, the Ministry of Justice and the Government itself might not think David Bain is innocent, but at some point they simply have to bow to the process.

Sure, there is a principle at stake in not paying compensation to just anyone, but there's also a principle about the logic of spending more on deciding whether there should be compensation than what you might actually pay in compensation.

And finally, does it strike anyone as unfair that $400,000 has been paid for this report when Susan Couch, the sole survivor of the Panmure RSA killings 11 years ago, only last week received a compensation settlement from the Department of Corrections. The amount ... $300,000.

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