Bain given new hope for compensation

David Bain has been given some hope of getting his compensation claim considered. He had previously hit a l;egal brick wall in Judith Collins but the new Justice Minister Amy Adams seems prepared to deal with it,

Stuff: Bain has a fresh chance for compensation

David Bain has been given fresh hope in his fight for compensation after court wranglings came to an end.

The Government and Bain’s lawyers have agreed to end judicial review proceedings over a report that suggested he was innocent of the murder of his family.

It means the decision to award him compensation for wrongful conviction and for the 13 years he spent behind bars will go back before Cabinet ministers.

Justice Minister Amy Adams announced the move this afternoon.

“This discontinuance does not resolve Mr Bain’s underlying compensation claim, just the separate judicial review process,” she said.

“I plan to discuss next steps with my Cabinet colleagues over the coming weeks. 

“While the details of the agreement are confidential, I can confirm that there was no contribution made towards Mr Bain’s compensation claim as part of this discontinuance.”

Bain’s bid for redress stalled in early 2013 after a row over a report commissioned by then justice minister Judith Collins.

Written by retired Canadian judge Justice Ian Binnie, it found that Bain was innocent of the murder of his parents, brother and two sisters “on the balance of probabilities”.

Collins publicly questioned the findings and ordered a review by High Court judge Robert Fisher. Fisher pointed to errors in Binnie’s findings.

Bain’s legal team took the matter to the High Court and asked for a judicial review.

And they now seem to be making some progress.

I don’t have an opinion on whether Bain deserves compensation.

I’m not neutral on the Bain murders, but I’m uncertain. There doesn’t seem to be compeling evidence either way. And from what I’ve seen some evidence points one way and other evidence points another.

The fact is that legally Bain has been acquitted. And he’s trying to get financial redress.

If he is innocent (and that’s a distinct possibility) then he has a crap twenty years, having had the rest of his family killed or topped, copping all the blame and being locked away for years.

If he killed his family (and that’s also still a possibility) he has either got a massive cheel seeking compensation.

Or he’s been swept up in the Karam campaign and doesn’t know how to tell them to leave it now he’s at least out of prison.

I’m sure others will have views on this, many feel strongly one way or the other.

More on social media and defamation

Not surprisingly the Joe Karam defamation case victory has initiated comment online. See Karam defamation case a warning to blogs?  from yesterday.

There were some interesting reactions to this at The Standard yesterday.

More views on the Karam versus Parker and Purkiss defamation case:

The Paepae: Defamation via Facebook and ‘a private website’

This defamation case should be a shot across the bows of various internet wide-boys who think ‘defence of truth’ or ‘opinion honestly held’ is some kind of magic elixir or Get Out of Jail Free card. It’s worth noting the oh-so-easy-to-reach-for-until-you’re-tested ‘truth defence’ in this case was abandoned during the trial.

Occasional Erudite: The Joe Karam defamation case – what does it mean for blogs and social media?

To my mind though, the way in which Courtney J has applied the threshold test under which honest opinion can be relied upon doesn’t necessarily take into account the way that blogs and social media sites function.

That’s why I’m slightly uncomfortable with the judgment. A comment on a blog post, when viewed in isolation or as part of the individual blog post and the thread of comments that follow, may not appear to have a factual basis. However, when viewed as part of a blogger or commentator’s history of blogging or commenting, may have a factual basis that is well known to others who frequent the blog.

That’s not to say that the defendants in Mr Karam’s defamation suit don’t richly deserve to have been found to have defamed Mr Karam. My concern is whether the case sets a precedent that doesn’t necessarily fit with the way that blogs and social media actually operate.

Karam defamation case a warning to blogs?

Joe Karam has had a major win in a defamation case taken against two men who waged a campaign against him in social media.

People who comment on blogs and Facebook and Twitter and other online forums should carefully consider the potential implications of this case. I often see similar sorts of false or unprovable claims and personal attacks.

Karam awarded $535,000 over defamation

Joe Karam has been awarded $535,000 in a defamation case against two men who launched an “all-out assault” on his reputation because of his support for David Bain.

The online comments by Kent Parker and Victor Purkiss accused Mr Karam of being dishonest in his motivations for helping Mr Bain after he was cleared in 2009 of murdering five members of his family.

Mr Karam said the public campaign against his integrity was the “worst four years” of his life, and Justice Patricia Courtney said she believed the former All Black.

She ordered Mr Parker to pay damages of $350,500 and Mr Purkiss to pay $184,500.

Justice Courtney also ordered that all defamatory messages be removed from the websites.

She further punished the men by awarding indemnity costs against them because they “behaved egregiously” in choosing to use the defence of truth at the trial last October.

Justice Courtney’s judgment noted evidence of Mr Karam’s “integrity, generosity and altruism”.

That’s huge damages, made significantly worse because they tried to use the defence of truth,

Mr Purkiss did not attend it, but Mr Parker admitted under cross-examination by Michael Reed, QC, that he could not prove his claims.

A belated admission that claims could not be proven.

The legal bill could be $500,000 according to Mr Karam, bringing to around $1 million the cost to the defendants. That would make it one of the largest defamation damages and cost awards in New Zealand history.

Mr Karam said if the pair did not pay him, he would take bankruptcy proceedings against them.

Purkiss has moved to England and according to the herald the defamation case “was a factor in the break-up of his marriage”. From social media warriors to being in family and financial crap.

This should be a warning to bloggers and blog commenters, Twitter and Facebook users.

There have been major discussions on Kiwiblog on the Bain case and that has included many criticisms of Karam, not dissimilar to what have been described in this case.

In her ruling, released yesterday, the judge identified about 50 defamatory statements published on Facebook and on a private website by Mr Parker and Mr Purkiss — members of the Justice for Robin Bain group — to which there was no defence.

Mr Karam said the men had made “an all-out assault on me [in] an attempt to show that I’m shonky”.

He and Fairfax NZ had earlier agreed to settle defamation claims, on a confidential basis, arising from articles on stuff.co.nz that drew attention to the websites that contained the defamatory comments by Mr Parker and Mr Purkiss.

People commenting anonymously may think they are immune from defamation but that could be put to the test legally.

And bloggers who allow open slather comments should note that Fairfax NZ has been also held responsible in this case and have settled privately. I frequently see potentially defamatory comments made on a number of blogs.

At times stalking and harassment of me could amount to “an all-out assault on me [in] an attempt to show that I’m shonky”, and I’ve seen many other examples.

Most people being attacked online don’t take defamation action and the attackers probably think they are safe from being held to account.

Parker and Purkiss probably thought they were untouchable and could make unsubstantiated claims with impunity. They may have thought they could exploit the power of free speech.

They may have believed their own hype and thought that believing something was sufficient justification for attacking someone’s integrity. This seems have continued “in choosing to use the defence of truth at the trial”.

Those who think they are safe attacking and defaming online should have a good look at this case.

A PDF of the decision here.