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Pora properly compensated now — no closure yet for Burdett family

Opinion Piece

The announcement yesterday that Teina Pora is to receive nearly ?$1 million more in compensation, to allow for inflation since a guideline of $100,000 a year for wrongful loss of liberty was set in 1998, may trigger a number of similar cases.

Making the announcement, Justice Minister Andrew Little also said he was keen to set up a Criminal Cases Review Commission, which is part of the coalition agreement with New Zealand First.

Praising independent investigator Tim McKinnel, who helped Pora, Little said there would be other innocent people in prison now who did not have someone like McKinnel, but were entitled to a system that could put things right.

Cynics will say this is an invitation for lawyers to file cases, possibly paid by legal aid. Setting it up will require a lot of thought and care.

The decision to give Pora another $988,099 is popular — although some will question why it is significantly more than the $600,000 inflation adjustment recommended in a judicial review of the previous government’s $2.5m payout (Pora is also receiving $45,000 costs for this successful judicial review).

Convicted of the rape and murder of Susan Burdett, Pora suffers from foetal alcohol syndrome and had a mental age of nine when he was arrested in 1993. He spent 20 years in prison before his conviction was quashed by the Privy Council in 2015. It was the longest time in jail for anyone the government later admitted was innocent.

It is timely to think again of the suffering of Susan Burdett’s family, who still lack closure. Serial offender Malcolm Rewa was convicted of raping her and there is a push for him to be tried again for her murder, despite a stay of proceedings from the solicitor-general after two hung juries on this charge, the last in 1998.

Yesterday’s announcement is a positive for the new Government after the fiasco on Tuesday in which it had to make concessions on select committee membership to National, to get Trevor Mallard confirmed as speaker of the House.