15 Jun 2016

Apology and $2.5m for Teina Pora

10:00 pm on 15 June 2016

Teina Pora's legal team says it is disappointed he was not offered more than $2.5 million in compensation for being wrongfully imprisoned. Justice Minister Amy Adams made the details of the offer public this afternoon.

Watch Justice Minister Amy Adams' announcement here:

Mr Pora spent more than 20 years in jail before his convictions for the 1992 rape and murder of Susan Burdett in Auckland were quashed by the Privy Council last year.

A picture of Teina Pora provided by police in the early 1990s.

Teina Pora in the early 1990s Photo: FILE

Ms Adams announced this afternoon that an independent review by retired High Court judge Rodney Hansen had found that, on the balance of probabilities, Mr Pora was innocent of the charges for which he was convicted.

"The central and most important finding is Mr Pora has proven his innocence to the balance of probabilities," Ms Adams said.

"In Mr Hansen's report, the state of the evidence is such that, he could have proved his innocence to an even higher standard.

"I have written to Mr Pora to acknowledge his innocence and unreservedly apologise to him for the devastating impact his wrongful conviction and imprisonment has had."

The amount of compensation offered by the government was final, Ms Adams said.

'This man suffered 22 years in incarceration'

Mr Pora's lawyers said their client was deeply moved by the Crown's formal apology but they were disappointed at the compensation offer, as they had asked for about $8m.

"We sought a considerable amount more than has been offered, so it is natural that we would feel some sense of disappointment," one of the lawyers, Jonathan Krebs, said.

He stressed that was the legal and support team's feeling, not necessarily Mr Pora's.

Mr Pora had proven his innocence beyond reasonable doubt, he said.

Watch the reaction from members of Teina Pora's legal team - Jonathan Krebs, left, and Ingrid Squire:

Others had found in the past there were no appeal rights for compensation payments, Mr Krebs said.

However, he was concerned the government had not considered inflation when using the existing compensation guideline of $100,000 per year of imprisonment, which had been standard since 2001.

"That's been in place for approximately 16 years. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to realise the spending power of $100,000 is far less today than $100,000 in the year 2001."

Mr Hansen had recommended the government consider paying above that threshold, Mr Krebs said.

Members of Teina Pora's legal team - Jonathan Krebs, left, and Ingrid Squire - speak to reporters on 15 June 2016.

Teina Pora's legal team speak to reporters at a news conference in Auckland. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farelly

He said the offer of just over $2.5m was a "substantial amount" that one could not be ungracious about.

"But at the same token one can't lose sight of the fact this man suffered 22 years in incarceration in one form or another for crimes he did not commit."

The offer was not a negotiation process, and Mr Pora's options were to accept it or reject it.

"We need to spend some time talking that process through with him."

Teina's plans for compensation funds

Another of Mr Pora's lawyers, Ingrid Squire, said the main thing Mr Pora wanted to do with the compensation money was to put it into a whānau trust for him, his daughter and grandson.

"That of course means, and it's significant, that Teina will not have direct control over those finances."

Mr Pora had heeded his legal and support team's advice on how to manage the money, she said.

"That's not to say if this goes through and if it's accepted that he will not have some spending money. And he does have some large goals - to purchase an outrageously expensive motor vehicle... travelling to America to meet a pastor who he places a significant importance on turning his life around in prison."

He also had plans to help his friends and family, Ms Squire said.

She said the figure was intended to cover compensation for being in prison away from his family, as well as loss of earnings and costs incurred.

Apologies from Crown and police

At Mr Pora's request, Ms Adams read the apology letter she had written to him.

"I acknowledge that over the past two decades you have suffered considerably, including the many years you have spent away from your young daughter as the result of your convictions and imprisonment.

"While it can never completely remedy the injustice you have suffered, I hope that the Crown's offer of compensation can go some way to help you and your family build a better future together.

"I believe by and large that New Zealanders enjoy a fair and effective justice system, however mistakes are possible in any system that relies on human judgement."

Read the full formal apology from the Crown

Justice Hansen's review pointed to shortcomings in the police's conduct, Ms Adams said.

Cabinet has agreed to pay Teina Pora just over $2.5 million in compensation for his wrongful conviction and imprisonment.

Ms Adams announces that the government has offered Teina Pora just over $2.5 million in compensation. Photo: RNZ / Jeremy Brick

Police understood conditions like fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which Mr Pora suffered from, much more now than they did when he was arrested and convicted, she said.

"The very evidence in fact that established Mr Pora's innocence, the evidence around fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, was never put before the two [previous] courts that heard his trial.

"So I think what this tells us is we know a lot more now about things like fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, we know a lot more about how they affect people. Police practice has come a long way," Ms Adams said.

"The system now knows a lot more about the impact of conditions like Mr Pora's and is in a better position to handle them."

The police also apologised to Mr Pora, and acknowledged there were deficiencies in their original investigation.

There were lessons to be learned from Mr Pora's case but there was nothing to suggest that the police staff involved acted in anything other than good faith, they said.

Significant advancements had been made in investigation practices since the convictions, they said.

The ruling that cleared him

In its formal decision last year, the Privy Council noted that much was made at both Mr Pora's trials of his confessions to police.

The Privy Council received expert evidence from two medical experts, Dr McGinn and Dr Immelman.

They both gave evidence that concluded there was the risk of a miscarriage of justice and explained why Mr Pora's confessions might have been false.

The Privy Council concluded: "The combination of [Mr] Pora's frequently contradictory and often implausible confessions and the recent diagnosis of his FASD [fetal alcohol spectrum disorder] leads to only one possible conclusion and that is that reliance on his confessions gives rise to a risk of a miscarriage of justice.

"On that account, his convictions must be quashed."

No revision of compensation guidelines

The government had considered revising the compensation guidelines, including revising the $100,000 per year of imprisonment, but decided that wasn't appropriate, Ms Adams said.

The figure sat well with international guidelines, she said. "We were comfortable our figure remains appropriate."

However, Ms Adams wouldn't rule out reviewing the guidelines, formed in 2001, in the future.

Read a Q&A on the compensation offer provided by the minister's office