Minister of Justice Amy Adams told the public that it was a preferred way, in the public interest to go a bob each way on Callinan's opinion that David Bain was not innocent by some magic formula that didn't hold water. That bob each way bet was to deny compensation but pay close enough to a million dollars anyway by reason that the compensation claim was tardy. Or in other words it had been delayed for years by the Government itself dithering perhaps on how to avoid acting fairly.
By doing this the Government was using an Executive Power. There is no Law that requires a government to make or deny payments to those applying for compensation. What is clear however is the use of executive power, according to NZ Law, and exposed by David Bain having already used Judicial Review (JR) against the application of Executive Power (EP), is a recognition that petitions for any request under executive Powers are not constrained in scope - but their treatment must adhere to the NZ Bill of Rights (BORA). Since 30 years ago when then Prime Minister Rob Muldoon pardoned Arthur Thomas and awarded him compensation of around a million dollars one could say it has been a long time between drinks from an era when there was no BORA. A long time since EP was used in a forthright way that was understood to have been applied when the legal system was locked into a Miscarriage of Justice. It could be argued that Muldoon was before his time or that he was misusing a Power - although few New Zealanders did not agree with his actions at the time, or his good sense to order a Royal Commission whose determination supported Muldoon's instinctive measure.
Since then unfortunately use of EP has become clouded in political interest and no doubt was before. Another 2 generations of politicians have failed to separate themselves from politics when considering the Royal Prerogative of Mercy in particular. Scott Watson's application took 4 years to be decided and has waited a further 4 years for his decision to seek a review of the decision. Of course such delays favour a Government, time cures all ills, or at least urgency to correct things which may be wrong in the Judicial process - the very reason why EP and JR exist.
So to recap, Muldoon acted where he could plainly see a Miscarriage of Justice. This act was similar to what any Government since could have done in the Peter Ellis case, or could do now. Amy Adams acted where it was obvious that the Government's report commissioned from Callinan was hardly worth the paper it was written on - putting it another way of course, saying that she had been told that it would be reviewed. Did she do this out of generosity to the principle and heart of what the use of the RP was designed to do? Or was she merely being pragmatic? For all intents and purposes it doesn't matter because others, including politicians, have seen the broadening of scope of Executive Powers on the one hand, and the more sobering reminder on the other, that their decisions must be advanced carefully in respect of the BORA and are not tempered in scope.
With the inevitable advance in the shelter of the BORA Judicial Review is an opportunity, as the Bain case showed, to have a fair application of the concept of Mercy brought before any Government knowing that the Courts are not excluded from the process of that application, or from what the Government considers and how, any matter in fact that might constitute relief to a NZ resident. These are some of the true concepts of what mercy is, a recognition that a system may stall or fail at some point where fairness appears to be gone. It wasn't fair for David Bain to have his application delayed for years because of the conduct of a previous Cabinet, many of whom remain in the current cabinet. It is still not fair that his application was denied the use of forensic science at the cutting edge, however that remains alive for another day and is in fact in print in international, peer reviewed papers being used in Courts, forensic science labs and Universities throughout the world. Time will submerge the resistance to science that was indeed the Callinan report. He may yet be seen as a fool who wore no clothes in the face of reality. He did however, even in his fumblings, preserve some truths that had previously been hidden. He acknowledged that suicide was possible (though it could hardly be denied), he acknowledged that Robin Bain died with blood on his palms - something that can't have got there from his own wounds, he vicariously acknowledged what Martin Van Beynan lied about for over 20 years - saying that there were no scratches found on David's chest after Van Beynan had claimed there were and that they had arrived there when David had allegedly fought with his younger brother Stephen. History will preserve that the man who died with blood on his palms got that blood there in the commission of murdering his family. A preservation supported by science that Callinan, wrongly, foolishly, perhaps even deliberately excluded to deny David Bain Justice - acts and omissions which were all part of this Government's unprecedented decision to pay an unsuccessful suitor for fairness cash to go away. They were over defending a crock of crap.