9 Nov 2020

Abuse in Care inquiry: Survivors disappointed no apology from Solicitor-General

10:11 am on 9 November 2020

Survivors of abuse in state care are bitterly disappointed the Solicitor-General hasn't apologised for the way Crown lawyers treated them during lengthy court battles over compensation.

Una Jagose QC, Solicitor General at a Supreme Court hearing on whether an appeal for the convicted child sex offender, Peter Ellis, should continue after his death based on tikanga Māori.

Solicitor-General Una Jagose QC (file photo) Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Solicitor-General Una Jagose QC spent three days last week giving evidence at the Abuse in Care inquiry in Auckland, telling the Commissioners she was [https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/political/429705/solicitor-general-faces-abuse-in-care-inquiry-over-crown-role there to explain the Crown's role but not to necessarily defend it.

The Royal Commission is continuing its hearing in Auckland into the processes around redress for people abused and neglected in state care.

Survivors of abuse have repeatedly told the inquiry that they were re-traumatised by what some called the Crown's brutal approach to litigation.

Leonie McInroe spent 18 months in the adolescent unit at Lake Alice Psychiatric Hospital between 1975 and 1977.

During that time she was given massive doses of medication and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

McInroe was disappointed with the Solicitor-General's evidence and felt it was dismissive of concern over the the way Crown Law approached her case.

''The tactics that she's renamed litigation steps is quite interesting but I fully stand by my claims of the obstruction of justice.''

McInroe said Crown Law's treatment of her during the litigation process over a nine-year period was abhorrent and abusive, and included having a forensic psychiatric examination and having her private diaries taken.

She felt Jagose dismissed and brushed over that.

"I feel like, yet again, the opportunity for the Crown and the Solicitor-General on behalf of that Crown to apologise and say 'you know what, we did some things dreadfully wrong', is remiss, it wasn't there.''

Paul Zentveld

Paul Zentveld said survivors have been "put through hell". Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

Paul Zentveld, another survivor of Lake Alice, wants Jagose replaced.

"The evidence is pretty shocking about how they fought Winston Churchill-style when they were going to defend against me, but later on they abandoned the appeal on my court case.

"It is all about the way they treat people. It is not about just me, it's about all the survivors. We have been put through hell.''

Keith Wiffin was sexually and physically abused at the Epuni Boys' Home in the 1970s.

While he respects the Solicitor-General's knowledge of the law, that is where it ends for him.

''In terms of the law she knows her apples, but does that mean I trust her, no it doesn't. From what I have seen there is a lot of minimising going on, there's a lot of abdicating responsibility, passing the buck.''

He said the buck must stop with her and she must be held to account. He said a full apology may go some way towards that.

Citizens Commission for Human Rights director Mike Ferriss

Citizens Commission for Human Rights director Mike Ferriss. Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

The Citizens Commission for Human Rights, a mental health organisation established by the Church of Scientology, is observing the Abuse in Care inquiry.

Its director, Mike Ferriss, said he would have liked to hear a full apology from the Solicitor-General and believes she was hedging during her evidence to the Royal Commission.

''She should be representing her office in a more professional way instead of saying 'I can't remember because I wasn't there'. Not enough background research into the operation of her own office especially around the Lake Alice cases.''

Ferriss said an apology from someone like the Solicitor-General would mean a lot for survivors.

Solicitor-General Una Jagose was approached for comment.

A written response from her office said: "The Solicitor-General was grateful for the opportunity to speak about these matters to the Royal Commission when she gave evidence in public for three days this week. She will not be making any further public comment in the media while the Royal Commission is considering these matters."

The Commission will hold its next public hearing from 30 November to 11 December when it will investigate redress for survivors of abuse in faith-based care.

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