Majority support Bain compensation

Most Kiwis support paying compensation to David Bain, according to a Herald-DigiPoll summer survey being released today.

But Justice Minister Judith Collins says many New Zealanders would be upset at any taxpayer payment for the man once convicted of murdering his family.

She dismissed the poll, saying it asked an invalid question.

The Herald-DigiPoll summer survey found 74% of those polled believed Mr Bain should be compensated if the judge who reviewed the case recommended that. (The survey was started on December 7, before Justice Ian Binnie's recommendation of compensation became public.)Only 20% said Mr Bain should not get a payment under any circumstances.

The Labour Party is calling on the Cabinet to make a decision on the issue when it meets next month.

Ms Collins says she expects any decision to upset voters.

''There is a lot of feeling either way on this. We have to look past all that and come to the right decision,'' Ms Collins said yesterday.

Mr Bain was convicted in 1995 of murdering his parents and three siblings, then acquitted at a retrial in 2009.

He spent 13 years in jail between the trials, and applied for compensation after his acquittal.

The poll of 500 people was done amid fallout from the review by Justice Binnie. The retired Canadian Supreme Court judge found Mr Bain ''factually innocent'', but Ms Collins criticised him for over-stepping boundaries in recommending compensation.

The row flared midway through the survey period.

Ms Collins said the poll's question was invalid because Justice Binnie was asked not to make a recommendation on compensation.

But she recognised there was a strong desire to have the issue dealt with next year and planned to brief the Cabinet on options on January 23.

She did not reveal what those options were.

Earlier suggestions included a new review or an inquiry by a panel of judges.

Ms Collins said: ''Whatever decision is made, we can expect a significant chunk of the population will not be happy ...''

She said options before the Cabinet include ''whether we get a new report'' and, if so, who would do it.

''I don't feel it is my role to charge along with `this is what I want to do'. This is a matter where I am happy to outline what the options are.''

She said any compensation to Mr Bain would be paid at the Cabinet's discretion.

''David Bain doesn't have any entitlement to compensation.''

Long-time Bain supporter Joe Karam said the Government had asked Justice Binnie to do a job.

''He did the job. His answer is clear and unequivocal. That is why the poll is as it is - it can be the only right thing for the Government to do,'' Mr Karam said.

Labour justice spokesman Charles Chauvel said the ''ad hoc'' process had become ''rotten''.

He said Cabinet had enough information to make a decision and should not spend more money on further reports.

In his report, Justice Binnie criticised the investigation into the 1994 murders.

''It is my opinion that the egregious errors of the Dunedin police that led directly to the wrongful conviction make it `in the interest of justice that compensation be paid'.''

In response, Police Commissioner Peter Marshall issued a statement defending the police handling of the Bain case. Mr Marshall said reviews of the 1994 investigation found it was conducted in accordance with the standards of the day.

Which of these statements best fits your view about David Bain being paid compensation?
• Cabinet should approve compensation if the assessing judge recommended it 73.9%
• Cabinet should not give him compensation under any circumstances 19.9%
• None of the above 2.3%
• Don't know/refused 3.9%

Source: The New Zealand Herald-DigiPoll survey of 500 people early this month, margin of error 4.4%