Govt fail in Bain com­pen­sa­tion


in­no­cence should al­ways re­sult in com­pen­sa­tion for those found to have been wrong­fully im­pris­oned and so­cially ma­ligned. Surely, such peo­ple shouldn’t be re­quired to then prove their in­no­cence to get the state to rec­om­pense them for its mis­take.

As an aside, the Bain com­pen­sa­tion case has high­lighted the ex­tra­or­di­nary con­cen­tra­tion of power within our jus­tice sys­tem.

The same Jus­tice Min­is­ter who over­sees New Zealand’s hu­manly fal­li­ble court sys­tem also ad­min­is­ters the pro­ce­dure for cor­rect­ing the in­evitable mis­takes, the mercy pre­rog­a­tive, the com­pen­sa­tion mech­a­nism, and the el­i­gi­bil­ity cri­te­ria (and fund­ing lev­els ) for the le­gal aid sys­tem that is the best way of help­ing to pre­vent mis­car­riages of jus­tice from oc­cur­ring in the first place.

‘‘Much of the blame for the costly de­lay has to be laid at the feet of for­mer Jus­tice Min­is­ter Ju­dith Collins.’’

This state of af­fairs isn’t in­evitable. For years, the likes of the Law Society have called for an in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sion to be es­tab­lished to in­ves­ti­gate po­ten­tial mis­car­riages of jus­tice, and to re­fer them speed­ily back to the courts for re-hear­ings. Eng­land and Scot­land have cre­ated such a body.

Three years ago, the calls to cre­ate a sim­i­lar Crim­i­nal Cases Re­view Com­mis­sion here were re­buffed by a po­lit­i­cal roadblock - for­mer Jus­tice Min­is­ter Ju­dith Collins.

Ide­ally, such a com­mis­sion could also be in­vited to ad­min­is­ter the com­pen­sa­tion regime, at the end of the process. It would be more trans­par­ent, would op­er­ate at arms length from the Jus­tice Min­is­ter, and be more in ac­cord with the sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers de­sir­able in the 21st cen­tury.

Po­lit­i­cally though, it prob­a­bly doesn’t stand a chance.

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