7 Oct 2016

HRC defends denying legal help to expletives cake woman

7:44 pm on 7 October 2016

The Human Rights Commission is defending its decision to deny legal help to a woman who went on to get the second highest-ever award for a breach of her privacy.

Karen Hammond went to the Human Rights Review Tribunal after pictures of a cake containing rude messages about her bosses were taken from her restricted Facebook page and sent to employment agencies.

She received damages of $98,000 plus costs after representing herself before the tribunal, after she said Director of Human Rights Proceedings Robert Kee refused to represent her, citing a lack of public interest in the case.

Karen Hammond

Karen Hammond Photo: SUPPLIED

Ms Hammond said she was worried other people might have received similar treatment and been deterred from seeking justice.

But the Human Rights Commission said that if Mr Kee had taken up the case he would have been providing free legal representation to Ms Hammond.

The commission said, in deciding whether or not to take up a case, the Director of Human Rights Proceedings had to follow strict legal guidelines.

These included whether or not the matter raised a significant issue of law, whether resolution of the complaint would affect a large number of people, whether provision of representation was an effective use of resources, and whether it would be in the public interest.

In the end Mr Kee decided not to provide representation, and Ms Hammond went ahead, without a lawyer.

The commission has also provided figures that differ from Ms Hammond's claim that only four of 54 applications were taken on by Mr Kee.

It said in the year to June, there were 62 applications for representation under the Human Rights Act.

Of these, 17 decisions were made to provide representation, 13 for representation in the Human Rights Review Tribunal, three for settlement purposes, and one for mediation.

Two matters were referred back to the Human Rights Commission for mediation.

Thirty-three decisions were made not to provide representation and no action was taken in the remaining cases.

The commission said none of the director's proceedings covered privacy matters.

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