1 Aug 2013

RSA widower receives payout

12:28 pm on 1 August 2013

The widower of a woman murdered in the RSA triple killings has been given a $60,000 payment by the Corrections Department.

Tai Hobson, 79, has been battling for compensation since it emerged his wife's killer, William Bell, was on parole at the time of the attack.

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

Mr Hobson took the Corrections Department to court in 2003 and was later joined by Susan Couch, who last year won a $300,000 settlement.

The Court of Appeal ruled in 2007 that Mr Hobson was a secondary victim and not eligible for compensation, so with few other options, he wrote to Cabinet Ministers pleading for a voluntary payment and an apology.

His lawyer David Garrett says $60,000 is a miserly amount and comes far too late. "It actually makes my blood boil to think that if Bell, who murdered Tai's wife, was to get roughed up in jail he'd get handed a hundred grand or more, and here is his victim after a 10-year struggle gets sixty grand. It's extremely miserly in my view."

Both Mr Garrett and Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman Garth McVicar speak highly of Corrections Department chief executive Ray Smith, without whose help they say no payment would have been made.

Mr Smith says the money could never compensate for the loss but it is an acknowledgement the department could have done better.

He told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme the most important part of the process has been speaking with Mr Hobson and his family and he intends to do the same with the other families.

"It's not about getting out and about with a chequebook. We need to sit down and have a talk and then do the right thing by those people, and I intend to do that."

Corrections Minister Anne Tolley admits the payment has taken too long, but says it was made in good faith and from a desire to do the right thing.

"The reality is these people have lost a family member and I don't believe any dollar ever makes up for that. But it's a reasonable amount of money, we've looked at other circumstances and we feel that that's a reasonable amount."

Susan Couch's lawyer, Brian Henry, says the latest payments are not compensation but, rather, a long-awaited acknowledgement that something went very wrong.