The Bain murders: taxpayers have been bloodied too

June 6, 2009

Alf doesn’t want to put a dampener on the celebrations by David Bain and his supporters, after the non-guilty verdicts in the murder trial.

But he wonders how much of the retrial tab should be picked up by taxpayers.

The news media have been full of the story, after a jury yesterday found Bain not guilty of murdering his family – five separate charges – in Dunedin 15 years ago.

The verdicts showed the jury thought the system had got it wrong.

Costs have yet to be finalised, but sources have told The Press a “back of the envelope” total was $4 million to $5m. That does not include the salaries of police, judicial, ministry and court staff who have expended a huge amount of time on the case.

Police are believed to have spent about $500,000 on expenses for the retrial, and legal services provided to the Crown are expected to cost about $750,000 for the retrial and preliminary hearings over two years.

The Legal Services Agency disclosed yesterday that Bain had received $2,056,495 in legal aid to date for his retrial, although many invoices had still to come in.

Bain received $706,127 legal aid for his 1995 trial, his original Court of Appeal hearing and the original appeal to the Privy Council.

Bain supporter Joe Karam has been working 70 to 80-hour weeks since the Privy Council decision in 2007, having hardly a day off, he told The Press yesterday.

He was paid at the legal executive rate of $75 an hour and has been paid for three hours each day of the trial.

Private donations had helped, but had not been more than the campaign had cost him personally, he said.

Now the question of compensation is being raised.

Guess who will pick up the tab for that, if it is awarded?

We shouldn’t take it for granted there will be a payout.

Christchurch QC Nigel Hampton said Bain could apply for compensation. However, his chances of success would be limited because Bain would be required to prove his innocence, which was much harder than proving reasonable doubt to a jury.

But Alf has been hearing lawyers say they think Bain is a very deserving case.

Regardless of compensation, taxpayers have been bloodied, too, by the Bain slayings and the extraordinary judicial consequences.