Wednesday, January 30, 2013

This will be interesting

Back in December, Justice Minister Judith Collins publicly rejected an independent report on whether David Bain should be granted compensation. Instead, she threw out the report, signalling that she would be seeking a further one from more amenable experts. And now, she's getting sued for it:

David Bain has filed a claim in the Auckland High Court seeking a judicial review of Justice Minister Judith Collins' handling of his compensation case.

A statement issued by Bain supporter Joe Karam said he was seeking a judicial review of the actions taken by Collins since she received Justice Binnie's report in late August 2012, including the "secret process" which culminated in the subsequent report by Judge Robert Fisher.

"The claim includes allegations that the Minister has breached David's rights to natural justice, breached his rights under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, acted in bad faith, abused her power, and acted in a biased, unreasonable and predetermined manner," Mr Karam said.

And on the face of it, from what's been made public about Collins' "process" (which included getting a "peer review" done in secret, effectively by one of the parties, without any input by the other) that all seems entirely correct. The question is what the courts can do about it. There's no statutory right to compensation for wrongful conviction, it is entirely at the discretion of Cabinet, and I'm not sure if the courts can intervene in that process (Graeme Edgeler and Andrew Geddis will no doubt give us an answer on that in the next day or two). But OTOH, if they find Bain's right to natural justice has been breached, then they can award him compensation for that, regardless of what Cabinet decides on the matter of wrongful conviction. So, Judith Collins' aggressive protection of her "tough on crime, tough on people wrongfully convicted of crime" reputation may have just cost us all rather a lot of money.