The Press

No redress for abuse victim – Faafoi

- Kirsty Johnston

A domestic violence victim who spent a year on home detention after being wrongfully convicted for perjury will not receive compensati­on, Justice Minister Kris Faafoi says.

The woman, referred to as Mrs P in a Stuff story about her ordeal, lost her job as a teacher and experience­d worsening mental health after her criminal conviction in the district court in 2018.

Mrs P was accused of changing an ACC document and lying about being abused by her husband during a 16-year marriage, during a Family Court proceeding in 2015.

On appeal, two higher courts found there was ample evidence of abuse, including a letter from her husband where he admitted to hurting her for his own satisfacti­on. In 2020, the Court of Appeal quashed the conviction, saying there were a raft of concerns in the case and that the court was ‘‘uneasy’’ about the way the district court judge reached his conclusion­s.

It was also critical of police for failing to provide the original document; and the Crown for what it called ‘‘bullying’’ crossexami­nation.

Mrs P’s lawyer, Elizabeth Hall, told Stuff she believed her client deserved compensati­on for wrongful conviction and imprisonme­nt. ‘‘When errors happen there needs to be real redress,’’ Hall said.

Hall plans to write to Faafoi, putting her client’s compensati­on case.

However, the justice minister seems to have already made up his mind. In answer to Stuff questions about the case yesterday, Faafoi’s press secretary, Peter Stevens, said it was ‘‘unlikely’’ he would take a different approach to his predecesso­r, Andrew Little. When the Cabinet guidelines for wrongful conviction and imprisonme­nt were updated last year, Little said people on home detention would remain ineligible for compensati­on.

‘‘You get to be in a place you are familiar with, usually with people you are familiar with ... It is not the level of regimentat­ion and stony-faced existence you would get in prison,’’ Little said. Faafoi confirmed yesterday he was not considerin­g taking a different position to Little.

Otago University law professor Andrew Geddis said there was no principled reason why you would distinguis­h between home detention and prison – and Mrs P could have easily ended up in jail and therefore be eligible for compensati­on.

‘‘It makes no sense if you are compensati­ng for a wrongful conviction,’’ he said.

‘‘It is depriving you of your liberty ... It is still a punishment.’’

Geddis said any distinctio­n could be dealt with in the amount of compensati­on given, just as other factors like loss of income or mental health impact were taken into account in other compensati­on payments. The guidelines were not law, and therefore were up for interpreta­tion.

Mrs P is currently bankrupt after facing court costs of $400,000.

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