13 Feb 2013

Corrections spent $440,000 on Couch case

6:09 am on 13 February 2013

The Department of Corrections spent more than $440,000 fighting a compensation claim it eventually settled last year for $300,000, new figures reveal.

Susan Couch, the sole survivor of an attack at a Returned and Services Association in which three people were killed, battled for more than seven years to get compensation after it was revealed that her attacker William Bell had been on parole.

Ms Couch was almost beaten to death during the attack at the Mt Wellington-Panmure RSA on 8 December 2001 and has not fully recovered from her injuries. Bell is serving a prison term of 33 years without parole for the murders of William Absolum, Mary Hobson and Wayne Johnson.

The figures, released to Radio New Zealand under the Official Information Act, show that Crown Law spent $441,000 before it finally offered Ms Couch a settlement.

Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesperson Garth McVicar says he is appalled at the figure, which in his view amounts to bullying.

"We live in a country that is supposedly meant to be compassionate and caring and all that. But when a travesty like this happens, they throw everything at it knowing that they could probably wear us down, that we just didn't have the financial resources that the Crown had."

Mr McVicar believes the department should have settled on day one.

However, Corrections' chief executive Ray Smith says the department had to respond to the legal action.