Public Interest Project launches

June 13, 2015

The New Zealand Public Interest Project is being launched in Christchurch today.

What does it do?

In even the fairest justice system, there are those who fall through the cracks. The New Zealand Public Interest Panel was founded on the belief that it is in the highest interest of the New Zealand public to investigate and appeal potential miscarriages of justice wherever possible.

In some countries, such as in England and Scotland, there are Criminal Cases Review Commissions whose role is to pursue these miscarriages and see that they are amended. While these organisations were created and funded by Acts of Parliament, no such Act exists here in New Zealand. 

We see this as an important absence in our country’s legal system, and so we decided to create one ourselves. 

The New Zealand Public Interest Project was founded by a volunteer team that includes prominent lawyers, academics, investigators and forensic scientists, all of whom are committed to acting in the interest of the public. Prior to the launch of NZPIP, members of this team have been privately involved in public interest cases and potential miscarriages of justice such as those of Teina Pora, Michael October, Mark Lundy and David Bain.

NZPIP is supported by the University of Canterbury School of Law, whose facilities help us to keep costs low. UC law students also play a key role in NZPIP, both as volunteers and working for course credit. Their involvement gives us the manpower to keep running on a day-to-day basis but also provides a great opportunity to develop

We take cases that we think are in the public good, whatever they may be. This includes appealing miscarriages of justice against individuals, but can also extend to civil matters where access to justice is inhibited or where there is a public interest which would not otherwise be  effectively served. This may consist of test cases or class actions where the rights of many citizens are affected, or cases where issues of considerable public interest are involved, such as human rights and freedom from discrimination, civil and political rights, or commercial or consumer matters where fundamental economic security are at risk including health, work, and accommodation.

The people behind NZPIP are:

* Dr Jarrod Gilbert, a sociologist and lecturer at the University of Canterbury and a coordinator of the Criminal Justice Degree. He is also the lead researcher at Independent Research Solutions.

* Tim Mckinnel, a Director of the investigation firm Zavést.

* Nigel Hampton  OBE QC.

* Dr Anna Sandiford, a forensic science consultant and director of The Forensic Group Ltd, a scientific consultancy based in New Zealand with extensive national and international networks of experts.

* Kerry Cook, a barrister and a member of the New Zealand Criminal Bar Association Committee.

* Glynn Rigby, the founding Director of investigation firm Zavést.

* Dr Duncan Webb, a expert in Professional Responsibility and Liability.

* Associate Professor Chris Gallavin, the Dean of Law and the Head of the School of Law at the University of Canterbury.

Review prompted by concerns with Bain report

December 11, 2012

Justice Minister Judith Collins says concerns with the report into David Bain’s claim for compensation for wrongful conviction and imprisonment by former Canadian judge, Justice Ian Binnie show peer review is needed.

“After reviewing the report prepared by Justice Binnie in September, I was concerned with some aspects of it. With the consent of the Attorney-General, I received advice from the Solicitor-General on the report. Following this advice, I decided the report should be peer reviewed. I commissioned Hon Robert Fisher, QC to do this.

“My concerns are broadly that the report appeared to contain assumptions based on incorrect facts, and showed a misunderstanding of New Zealand law. It lacked a robustness of reasoning used to justify its conclusions.

“This was not a decision I made lightly, but one that was absolutely necessary. Put simply, it would not be acceptable to make a recommendation to Cabinet based on a report that would not withstand the considerable scrutiny it would attract.

“I am very disappointed this peer review is needed – I think we would all agree that a timely conclusion to this matter would be best for everyone. But justice must be done – a robust and proper process is the only way to ensure a certain and final conclusion to Mr Bain’s claim.

“When the Secretary for Justice and I met with Justice Binnie in September, I made it clear to Justice Binnie there were concerns with the report he provided, and it would be peer reviewed.

“I also advised Justice Binnie the report must remain confidential and it would be premature to release it until after Cabinet had made a decision on Mr Bain’s claim.
“Since then, I have received from Justice Binnie, unsolicited, two further versions of his report.

“I will receive Mr Fisher’s peer review in the next day or so, which will be forwarded to Justice Binnie for his comment. When I hear back from Justice Binnie, I will take a recommendation to Cabinet on the next steps.

“Ultimately, this review will not have an impact on Mr Bain’s claim, apart from causing an unfortunate delay to the decision Cabinet will make,” Ms Collins said. . .

This is indeed unfortunate.

The retrial found Bain not guilty. That is not the same as saying he is innocent but it does mean the jury could not say, beyond reasonable doubt, he was the murderer.

The review is adding time and cost to an already lengthy and expensive process, but if there are concerns about the initial report, peer review is required.

Bain not eligible for compensation

June 6, 2009

David Bain isn’t eligible for compensation under current rules for the 13 years he spent in prison, Otago University Dean of Law Mark Henaghan says.

He said there were four requirements to satisfy for compensation:

The first was to be convicted of a crime, the second was to have it quashed in an appeal without an order of retrial, the third was to be alive and the fourth was to personally prove innocence.

Because the Privy Council “clearly ordered a retrial” when Mr Bain’s convictions were quashed, the Cabinet would need to reconsider the guidelines and the other two would still need to be satisfied.

If political pressure was strong enough, the Cabinet might change them, he said.

A not-guilty verdict counted for his acquittal but did not prove Mr Bain’s innocence, Prof Henaghan said.

Apropos the last point, the trial was held in Christchurch rather than Dunedin because of the difficulty of finding jurors who didn’t already have firm views on the case in the city where the murders took place.

We were in Dunedin yesterday where the case was the topic of conversations and we were with people from there last night. They all had very firm views and none of them agreed with the verdict.

But none of them was in court, heard all the evidence and had to make a decision beyond reasonable doubt.

And there views might not have been representative: an ODT poll asking opinions on the verdict has 50% of respondents agreeing with it, 30 disagreeing and 20% not sure.

Not guilty – what will it cost us?

June 5, 2009

David Bain has been found not guilty.

Wonder how much compensation he’ll be seeking?

Who dunnit? Who knows? Who Cares?

June 5, 2009

Justice matters.

There was a mistrial the first time David Bain was charged with the murder of his family.

The Privy Council which ruled that, didn’t rule on his guilt or innocence.

All of which makes a strong case for a retrial.

But without deliberately reading, watching or listening to any reports on the trial, I have learned far more than I wished to know about what appears to have been a very dysfunctional family; I’ve heard far too many people who can have no idea of what happened pontificating on the case; and I’ve seen far too many reporters breathlessly imparting not very much.

There is only one person alive who was in the house on the morning of the murders and he’s in the dock. The mind can do strange things so it’s possible he killed his family but believes he didn’t.

I don’t envy the jury their job and realise the importance of them doing it carefully and thoroughly, so that whatever the verdict, the case is closed.

I hope they do it quickly because if this was a soap opera I’d have changed the channel weeks ago.

But this isn’t a show, put on for our entertainment. These were real people who were killed, this is a real man who is charged with their murders and I don’t like the way it’s been turned into a circus.


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