Friday, December 14, 2012

Minister of injustice II

So, the Bain reports are out, prompting another round of "did he - didn't he", complete with bloody socks, glasses, and debates over the average airspeed of a laden Dunedin paperboy. I have no opinion on any of that - crime news bores me shitless, and the research required to have an informed opinion on the case simply isn't worth the effort. What I do have an opinion on is the Minister's behaviour, and IMHO its pretty fucking shocking.

The reason the government went to an outside judge in the first place to assess David Bain's compensation claim is because we needed a fresh, independent look at the case. Everyone in New Zealand - lawyers included - either has an opinion on it, or like me finds it such a turnoff that they'd rather gouge their own eyes out than trawl through it. In the case of lawyers its also a problem because of the incestuous nature of our legal community - everyone knows everyone else, and it would be difficult to find someone of sufficient expertise who wasn't associated somehow with one party or another. So the only credible reviewer would be an outsider, someone with legal expertise who wasn't tainted by the New Zealand debate about the case.

Justice Binnie gave us that independent, outside review. And the Minister rejected it and ordered a secret, one-sided hatchet-job because she disagreed with the conclusions and/or thought that accepting them might harm her political image with the politically valuable sadist bloc. Whatever you think of the Bain case, that's not justice. Instead, its a rejection of some of justice's basic principles: neutrality, independence, and hearing both sides of a dispute.

Given our constitutional structure, the involvement of politicians in ultimately deciding compensation for miscarriages of justice is unavoidable. But I expect them to adhere to basic principles of justice in doing so. Collins hasn't. And that is simply disgraceful.