The Solicitor General, Una Jagose QC and Crown Law came under vociferous attack during the hearings into historic abuse claims being held presently.
Jagose, a LawFuel power list member, had given evidence earlier when she said some cases handled by Crown Law had been poorly handled, but that the office had ‘evolved’ in how it handled such matters.
Many survivors have told the Commission that they had attempted for years to get compensation for historical abuse from the Crown but had suffered long-running litigation and delays.
The government has this week said that $47.8 million had been paid to claimants, $30.6 million paid as legal aid, legal fees or reimbursements, and $3.5 million in Crown litigation costs.
Legal aid lawyer Sonja Cooper has been the major legal aid earner in the country through her representation of victims of abuse.
See: The Legal Aid Lady
No Excuses, Says Jagose
Attempts by Una Jagose to excuse Crown Law’s conduct was not enough for the victims’ lawyers, however.
Fellow QC Frances Joychild (left) launched a stinging attack upon Jagose and her office, along with the Ministry of Health, saying it had adopted an “aggressive, punitive, heartless litigation strategy to block claimants from any monetary compensation at all”.
Crown Law, she said, had been the problem with historic abuse cases all along, saying that the provable claims that had been made resulted in threatening and intimidating responses from the Offices, followed sometimes by ‘pathetic’ settlement sums.
She also told the Commission that they were hopelessly conflicted when dealing with such matters and should discontinue any further involvement in the claims.
An experienced litigator who has handled a variety of abuse and human rights claims, Joychild said that she believed the victims of the historic abuse claims had felt abused for the second time and were due an apology from Crown Law.
“I can’t even justify that… If that is what was said, that is appalling.”
Joychild said that the Crown had failed to protect children and had housed and employed their abusers, which lead to a major conflict and also conflicted the government and the departments from then attempting to resist claims being made by the victims.
Joychild said her clients have told her that in every institution there would have been two or three paedophiles working with two or three staff members preying upon young boys after the lights went out.
She said there should be a national apology from the Crown.
Joychild said a new body should be set up to handle the claims.
On instruction from her clients she asked that no one who has acted as Crown counsel in the area of historic claims in the past should be able to be appointed to any leadership or decision making positions within a new body.
“Likewise, and maybe this has to be softened, but no public servants in government departments who have worked in the area of compensation for claimants should be so employed.
“Unfortunately there is such a level of distrust and anger towards the Crown Law Office and the government offices among many survivors, not all, but many.”
She said the credibility of such a new body would be seriously compromised were any such people to be appointed.
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