Key: Crown doesn't have to pay Pora anything

Teina Pora
Teina Pora

Prime Minister John Key says if Teina Pora's not happy with his payout, he can turn it down -- but the Government has a "very strong case" against having to pay more than $2.5 million.

There has been widespread criticism of the Government's announcement on Wednesday that Mr Pora would be compensated $2.5 million for the two decades he spent in jail for crimes he didn't commit.

The exact figure -- $2,520,949.42 -- was calculated by retired High Court Judge Rodney Hansen QC, and accepted by Cabinet, which has the final say on any payout.

The figure disappointed Mr Pora's legal team, and is dwarfed by previous compensation payments here and overseas.

"Does he have to accept it? No," Mr Key told More FM this morning. "He can go through a legal process and challenge that."

If he does though, Mr Key says Cabinet has a "very strong case" against having to pay more -- the figure was calculated independently of Cabinet, according to guidelines set up in 2001.

Mr Key says there are "plenty of people" who think Mr Pora didn't deserve $2.5 million.

"Payments are made at the discretion of the Crown. They don't have to make payments."

David Dougherty, who was wrongfully imprisoned for three years and awarded $870,000, says Mr Pora is getting "doubly ripped off".

"Fifteen years since I received compensation, you'd expect it to be higher, rather than lower than what I got."

The same year Mr Dougherty got his compensation, the guidelines were changed to aim for $100,000 per year of wrongful imprisonment.

Justice Minister Amy Adams says no amount of money can fix the Crown's mistake in prosecuting Mr Pora, and the process used to work out his payout is "robust and principled".

"Every case is not the same. You can't simply have a calculation that says X number of years in prison calculates to this amount," she told Paul Henry.

"They are entirely different cases and you cannot compare one case with another simply on how long each person spent in prison."

Part of the reason Mr Pora didn't get more, says Ms Adams, is that the Crown didn't wilfully frame him.

"While there are things they could and should have done better, actually that is not the reason Mr Pora was convicted. It's part of... a wide factual matrix, which includes the fact of a confession."

"The Crown should have realised that the evidence didn't stack up," adds Mr Key. "Lots of people confess -- just because you confess doesn't mean you go to jail... No doubt the Crown got it wrong, but it wasn't malicious in that it didn't frame evidence."

Mr Key also says the Government has nothing to gain by deliberately short-changing Mr Pora.

"Without being stupid, we're politicians. We're not trying to put ourselves in the middle of the firing line."