Government rejects compensation for David Bain

On 20 June 1994 someone shot five people dead in the Cullen Bain household in Dunedin. David Bain was arrested shortly after the murders and tried for them. After a three week trial he was found guilty of all the murders and sentenced to life in prison with a 16 year non parole period. Thus began one of the longest, most controversial and expensive legal wrangles in New Zealand history.

He served 13 years behind bars. Having been the subject of three Court of Appeal hearings to overturn the convictions in 1995, 1998 and 2003, Mr Bain’s support team went to the Privy Council in 2007 where they managed to get the convictions overturned. Mr Bain was retried. In 2009 he was found to be not guilty of the murders on the grounds that the evidence was not strong enough to meet the legal threshhold required under New Zealand law, which states guilty as being “beyond reasonable doubt”.

Although that trial found him not guilty, questions remained – and still do – about his version of events. He claims someone else pulled the trigger. If this is true then:

  1. Why were his finger prints found on the rifle?
  2. Why were the clothes he was wearing stained with blood?

Although Mr Bain was found not guilty of the crimes by a jury, significant questions remain and include:

  1. If Mr Bain did not fire the gun, who did?
  2. How did that blood get on his clothes?

The Government has weighed up the facts and concluded that Mr Bain is not deserving of compensation. It comes to this conclusion on the balance of probabilities, suggesting that although a retrial found him not guilty, it did not unequivocally dismiss the evidence of which there is enough to raise several cautionary flags. The Government also has to remember that there are substantially stronger cases for compensation – or in the case of Teina Pora, topping up the existing payout.

Although Mr Pora has been granted compensation, it is sadly lacking on the grounds that it has not been adjusted for inflation and is therefore short by about $1 million. This figure is based on the fact that from year to year inflation changes. Over the 21 years he was in jail for a crime he did not commit, that would be a substantial amount. If one also acknowledges that views of the gravity of crimes committed change over the years, so too presumably does the gravity of the injustice when one is found to have NOT committed a crime – especially if it took over 20 years to a acknowledge.

In the balance of considerations though, to pay Mr Bain out nothing would be an injustice. It would inflame the situation, which seven years after the 2009 retrial and given no new evidence is going to be found after this time would help no one. I have mentioned the circumstances of the case before and there is nothing further that can be added other than the only thing that can be reasonably done now is stamp the David Bain file:


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