Concerns with former Canadian judge, Justice Ian Binnie’s report into David Bain’s claim for compensation for wrongful conviction and imprisonment show peer review is needed, Justice Minister Judith Collins says.
“After reviewing the report prepared by Justice Binnie in September, I was concerned with some aspects of it. With the consent of the Attorney-General, I received advice from the Solicitor-General on the report. Following this advice, I decided the report should be peer reviewed. I commissioned Hon Robert Fisher, QC to do this.
“My concerns are broadly that the report appeared to contain assumptions based on incorrect facts, and showed a misunderstanding of New Zealand law. It lacked a robustness of reasoning used to justify its conclusions.
“This was not a decision I made lightly, but one that was absolutely necessary. Put simply, it would not be acceptable to make a recommendation to Cabinet based on a report that would not withstand the considerable scrutiny it would attract.
“I am very disappointed this peer review is needed – I think we would all agree that a timely conclusion to this matter would be best for everyone. But justice must be done – a robust and proper process is the only way to ensure a certain and final conclusion to Mr Bain’s claim.
“When the Secretary for Justice and I met with Justice Binnie in September, I made it clear to Justice Binnie there were concerns with the report he provided, and it would be peer reviewed.
“I also advised Justice Binnie the report must remain confidential and it would be premature to release it until after Cabinet had made a decision on Mr Bain’s claim.
“Since then, I have received from Justice Binnie, unsolicited, two further versions of his report.
“I will receive Mr Fisher’s peer review in the next day or so, which will be forwarded to Justice Binnie for his comment. When I hear back from Justice Binnie, I will take a recommendation to Cabinet on the next steps.
“Ultimately, this review will not have an impact on Mr Bain’s claim, apart from causing an unfortunate delay to the decision Cabinet will make,” Ms Collins said.
A further announcement on Mr Bain’s claim will be made in due course.
The David Bain case has been a festering sore in the New Zealand justice system for many years. It is a case on which opinion is polarised. Regular readers will be well aware of our opinion on the case.
But Judith Collins is doing absolutely the right thing in having Justice Binnie's report reviewed. If he has made errors of fact or of law, it is essential that these are identified and investigated.
One also has to wonder why Justice Binnie would be sending Ms Collins amended reports, unsolicited. Does he not stand by his original determination?
David Bain's legal team is upset at Judith Collins' explanation, but that is hardly a surprise. We've just heard Michael Reed complaining on the RadioLive news that Mr Bain is being denied natural justice by Ms Collins' actions. We do not believe that that is the case at all. Surely, they would want an inquiry which might exonerate their client completely to be comprehensive and above reproach, both on facts and legally.
If that tales a little more time, so be it. It is far more important that the right result is reached, regardless of the timeframe.