Teina Pora offered $2.5M compensation, Govt apology

Teina Pora
Teina Pora

Teina Pora's offer of $2.5 million compensation from the Government has "disappointed" his legal team, but their client has taken an apology for his wrongful imprisonment to heart.

The Government officially announced the compensation package for Mr Pora following two decades in prison for a crime he didn't commit. However, it is up to Mr Pora now whether to accept the money.

Justice Minister Amy Adams on Wednesday afternoon announced the recompense for Mr Pora's wrongful conviction and imprisonment as well as a written apology. It follows an independent review, which found that on the balance of probabilities Mr Pora was innocent.

Mr Pora spent 21 years behind bars for the 1992 rape and murder of Auckland woman Susan Burdett before ultimately having his convictions quashed by the Privy Council.

Ms Adams says she'd written to Mr Pora to "unreservedly apologise".

"I have written to Mr Pora to acknowledge his innocence and unreservedly apologise to him for the devastating impact his wrongful conviction and imprisonment has had on nearly 20 years of his life," she says.

"While it can never completely remedy the injustice Mr Pora has suffered, I hope that these findings, along with the compensation, can go some way in helping him and his family build a better future together."

The report, done by retired High Court Judge Rodney Hansen QC, recommended compensation be paid and calculated it as $2,520,949.42 -- advice Cabinet approved.

It's been proposed most of the money will be paid into a trust, which will benefit Mr Pora and his family.

Ms Adams says there will be a range of views about how much Mr Pora deserved, but there's a clear guideline, which is applied across all cases.

"That is the process that's been used for the previous eight people to receive compensation since the guidelines of quantum were adopted, and it is the process that has been applied here."

The figure in New Zealand is $100,000 per year of wrongful imprisonment and doesn't take into account inflation.

Mr Pora was 17 when he was first convicted of the crimes in 1994.

Three years later, police said they'd arrested Malcolm Rewa in connection to Ms Burdett's death as well as other sex attacks.

In 1999, Mr Pora was granted a retrial, though the second jury reached the same verdict as the first.

The case got to the Privy Council in London in 2015, where it was argued Mr Pora had foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), which left him with the mental age of a 10-year-old. The disorder was believed to have led him to make false confessions.

The report says neither jury heard evidence about FASD being a potential factor affecting Mr Pora.

"What this tells us is that we know a lot more now about the impact of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder; we know a lot more about how they affect people. Police practice has come a long way.

"I think what this reflects is the system now knows a lot more about conditions like Mr Pora's and is in a better position to handle them."

Mr Pora's lawyer, Jonathan Krebs, said as his counsel they were disappointed with the amount of money on offer. They had argued for more, comparing it to the amount others had received and taking into account the consumer price index. Mr Pora and his team will now consider the offer.

Teina Pora offered $2.5M compensation, Govt apology

Teina Pora's lawyers Jonathan Krebs and Ingrid Squires (Newshub.)

"His options are to accept it and to reject it. We need to spend some time talking that process through," Mr Krebs says.

While it is a "substantial amount" of money, they could not overlook the two decades spent behind bars, he says.

When asked how much Mr Pora should have received, Mr Krebs replied: "That's not something they teach you in law school."

Mr Pora was "deeply moved" by the Government's apology.

His other lawyer, Ingrid Squire, says if Mr Pora accepted the offer, he would get some spending money and use it on a number of things, including a trip to the US to visit a pastor who'd helped him, buy a nice car and use it to "help others".

Police have also apologised to Mr Pora for the "deficiencies" in the original investigation.

Acting Commissioner Glenn Dunbier says police accepted the report's finding that Mr Pora's version of events "can't stand up to critical scrutiny".

However, he said maintained the investigation and prosecution was "conducted in good faith".

Cmmr Dunbier says there are lessons from the case, but there's nothing to suggest police staff didn't act in good faith. It included better interview techniques, better understanding of confessions and the risks they can create. 

The $2 million figure, first reported by Newshub on Tuesday, was on Wednesday criticised by Massey University dean of law Chris Gallavin as "woefully inadequate". He said the figure took into account pecuniary loss, but not the loss of freedom, including the chance to build a family and career.