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Teina Pora will never truly be compensated for imprisonment

Opinion Piece

The amazing case of Teina Pora, unprecedented in New Zealand legal history, has taken yet another twist with a High Court decision this week indicating the ?$2.5 million compensation he was awarded is insufficient.

Justice Roberta Ellis has ruled that there were errors in the decision-making process, and the advice given to the Government on compensation contained errors. It ignored the impact of inflation.

The New Zealand Crown has compensated several people who have been wrongly convicted and jailed, but Pora’s 22 years and 11 months in prison is by far the longest.

His back story is worthy of Victor Hugo’s immortal novel Les Miserables, with Pora in the role of the wrongly-convicted Jean Valjean — although there are signs he is not enjoying the same eventual happy ending Valjean did on his deathbed.

Pora was originally convicted in May 1994 of the murder of Susan Burdett, who was later found to have been raped that night by serial solo stalker and rapist Malcolm Rewa. Pora was granted a retrial in 2000, but found guilty again. In March 2014 his conviction was quashed by the Privy Council.

The compensation issue will now go back before Cabinet, which is awkward for the Government as it has defended not allowing for inflation in the amount awarded. Mercifully for National this is not an issue that will have an affect on the election.

Pora suffers the effects of foetal alcohol syndrome and actually confessed to the murder of Burdett.

Tim McKinnel, the investigator who has worked so hard for Pora and deserves great credit, says he is not coping well and is finding life outside prison tough, despite the best efforts of those around him to shield him from the spotlight. A telling example of this came when Pora was approaching the court at the start of the latest case, but quickly retreated when he saw media approaching.

It suggests that whatever money he is eventually granted, it will never truly compensate Pora. He will need support and help for the rest of his life.