If I commissioned a notable international jurist to write a legal report for me, it would take a lot of convincing from others for me to throw it in the bin. But that appears to be what Justice Minister Judith Collins has done with Justice Binnie’s report on David Bain’s compensation bid.
Collins’ behaviour is unusual, even bold, because Binnie is highly respected and his independence in this matter is unquestionable.
Conceivably, though, Binnie’s report might have contained errors. People make mistakes. But who decided that the report was flawed? Crown Law? The Solicitor General? The same agencies involved over the years in pursuing Bain? How independent is their initial assessment on Binnie’s report? How clear-cut are the alleged errors?
Very few people have seen the report, so we have to hope that the players involved in the process are behaving properly and are not being guided by the desire for a particular outcome. I don’t believe Collins wants to refuse Bain compensation, but it’s possible that some within Crown Law and other state legal agencies might react badly to a finding that Bain is innocent, and might look to find holes in any such finding. People don’t like being told they’re wrong.
It is also remarkable that our Justice Minister should be questioning the competency of a highly respected international jurist, and at the same time refusing to allow Bain’s defence team access to the report. If there are alleged errors in the report, shouldn’t Bain’s defence team also have the opportunity to assess and comment on them?
Binnie’s report is now being reviewed by a retired New Zealand judge, and Binnie has reacted badly to having his competence challenged. If the review of Binnie’s report concludes it to be unreliable, what then? Will Collins commission another report? Surely she will have to, otherwise if her recommendation to Cabinet is that Binnie’s report be rejected and that no compensation be paid to Bain, Bain’s supporters will claim that yet another injustice has been perpetuated, and we’ll never hear the end of this accursed case.