Possibility of new Bain inquests

Possible coroner's inquests into the Bain killings and the question of compensation for David Bain mean there may be more chapters to come in this "utterly absorbing" case, University of Otago Faculty of Law dean Prof Mark Henaghan says.

Mr Bain was acquitted on Friday afternoon by a retrial jury in the High Court at Christchurch on charges of killing five members of his family in Dunedin on June 20, 1994.

Lawyers say one implication of the acquittal is that Robin Bain killed his family, then committed suicide.

As a result, the earlier issued death certificates might not be correct.

Dunedin coroner David Crerar said yesterday he was considering whether to hold inquests into the deaths.

Matters would be reviewed this week and on Friday he would be able to make further comment on the matter.

In the light of Mr Bain's acquittal, it had to be decided whether various scenarios, including "the alternative scenario of Robin Bain being guilty of murder", should be considered at an inquest.

"David Bain is no longer convicted of murder," he said.

A "fresh review must be undertaken" as to whether to further investigate the five deaths and how that was to be undertaken, he said in an interview.

Prof Henaghan said a coroner's inquest would not necessarily reach exactly the same conclusions as the trial jury.

Robin and Margaret Bain and their children Stephen, Arawa and Laniet were killed in the family home in Every St, Dunedin, in June 1994.

David Bain, now 37, was convicted in 1995 of killing his family.

The convictions were quashed by the Privy Council in 2007.

A new trial was later ordered.

Mr Bain spent 13 years in prison.

Evidence was heard from 184 witnesses during his retrial in Christchurch, lasting 13 weeks.

Prof Henaghan said there were potentially unexplained aspects of the Bain deaths.

Coroner's inquests were not criminal proceedings and were not intended to establish guilt or innocence, but to explain the cause of deaths and to determine whether something could be done to reduce the likelihood of further such deaths in future.

Although the jury had found that Mr Bain was not guilty, by the standard of reasonable doubt, the latest trial had not proved that his father, Robin Bain, was responsible for the deaths, Prof Henaghan said.

"They're different things - we've got to get that clear.

"That would be an awful conclusion to reach" without fully considering all the evidence.

Irrespective of any coronial outcome, all criminal proceedings against David Bain had clearly reached an end, with the Crown stating that it would not appeal the jury's verdict.

But matters with significant implications for both the deceased and the living could be raised again at such inquests, he said.

"There are things at stake."

A coroner had considerable discretion about how to hold a hearing and which, if any, witnesses to call, he said.

The extensive transcript of evidence from the jury trial was available and had been tested in court, and he believed it was unlikely that witnesses would be required to repeat the three months of testimony they had recently given.

Lawyers representing the interests of David Bain, or other family members with different perspectives, could potentially make either written or oral submissions to such coronial hearings, which were often held in public, he said.

On the compensation issue, Prof Henaghan agreed with another commentator that there could be a "sting in the tail", because if it was turned down, that could imply the claimant had not been able to prove his innocence.

 

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