Calls for compensation tribunal for Bain
Tuesday 18 Dec 2012 8:56 a.m.
Calls are mounting for an independent tribunal to decide former inmates' compensation claims after the government rejected a former Canadian judge's report on David Bain.
Justice Ian Binnie recommended Mr Bain should be compensated for wrongful conviction and 13 years in jail, concluding that on the balance of probabilities he didn't murder five members of his family in Dunedin in 1994.
But Justice Minister Judith Collins said the report would not stand up to scrutiny and, following a peer review by Robert Fisher QC, she's gone back to the drawing board on how to decide on Mr Bain's claim.
Labour's justice spokesman Charles Chauvel says the Government's best option would be an independent criminal cases review commission, similar to one operating "cheaply and effectively" in the United Kingdom.
"This would remove the political element in a process which has shown itself under Judith Collins to be so open to mismanagement," he told NZ Newswire.
"The commission would tender its advice independently and openly, and the government of the day would be expected to follow it."
Mr Chauvel intends to push for such a commission to be part of Labour's policy platform at the 2014 election.
In 1998, the Law Commission recommended an independent compensation tribunal, which would decide whether a claimant should receive compensation, and how much.
However, the Government never implemented the report.
Former commission president Sir Geoffrey Palmer says the idea still has merit, and the Government "could hand the whole thing over" to such a tribunal, made up of a retired judge and experienced lawyers.
"The ultimate policy and constitutional question here is, whether ministers should take responsibility for this sort of thing, or whether it would be better to have an objective outside assessment and decision," he told Radio New Zealand.
If he were Justice Minister, the former Prime Minister said, "I would actually look very seriously at seeing whether [a tribunal] could be set in place at this juncture to deal with this so that the Government, the minister and the cabinet could wash their hands of it."