7 Dec 2012

RSA survivor's benefit won't be stopped

8:25 pm on 7 December 2012

The sole survivor of the RSA triple murders in 2001 will not have her benefit stopped by Work and Income following a payout from the Corrections Department.

Susan Couch was almost beaten to death by William Bell 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.

Ms Couch accepted an offer of $300,000 from the Corrections Department on Thursday.

She had been suing Corrections for $500,000 after it emerged that the Probation Service was not properly monitoring Bell.

Ms Couch's legal team has been very mindful of the risk of Work and Income clawing back her benefit once a settlement was awarded.

But on Friday Work and Income spokesperson Sandra Ford has confirmed that it would not be touching or changing Ms Couch's benefit payments, nor would it be seeking any of the $300,000 payment.

Susan Couch is now seeking compensation from the Accident Compensation Corporation.

Her lawyer, Brian Henry, said his client should be getting proper compensation from ACC but can't because she is on a social welfare benefit and deserves more financial security than that benefit offers.

Mr Henry said he would campaign for a change to ACC legislation and expected a long, hard battle.

Meanwhile, Corrections says it is not trying to set a precedent with its settlement with Susan Couch.

Chief executive Ray Smith said both parties could have spent a million of dollars in court and Ms Couch would have ended up with very little of that.

"I just looked at a person that I thought I can't let my department, if I can avoid it, take this person to court or appear in court and defend a case against her. Why would we want her to sit through that for three months.

"I think most New Zealanders out there would say, 'Just do something - sort it out'".

Mr Smith said he can see why people might think the department is trying to avoid having its failings exposed in court, but his offer is genuine.