Shattered Snowdon camp 'moving on'

MATT STEWART
Last updated 05:00 19/05/2014

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Lynne Snowdon's husband has spoken of the heavy psychological toll of her 11-year battle against former employer Radio New Zealand, which cost the couple about $3.5 million.

"Litigation destroys people - there are no winners in litigation," said John Hickling, a lawyer who spent years working on his wife's long-running case.

No more appeals would be filed, he said. "At the end of the day, it's a relief that the whole damn thing's come to closure. It's time to move on."

His comments come as figures released under the Official Information Act show the publicly funded state broadcaster spent more than $2m fighting the employment case after it sacked Snowdon as managing news editor in 2005, including nearly $1.3m in legal expenses.

By the time Snowdon was dismissed, she had already been on sick leave for more than two years.

In a conclusive Employment Court decision handed down last month, Judge Tony Ford rejected each of Snowdon's three main claims, saying her employment grievances were not justified, her dismissal had been fair, and there was no evidence whatsoever of financial fraud by RNZ.

He said a relatively straightforward employment dispute seemed to have spiralled out of control, involving 23 preliminary hearings, and 70 formal minutes, orders and rulings even before the 47-day full hearing began last year.

It is understood RNZ is now seeking costs of about $1.1m from Snowdon.

Throughout the long-running legal battle, Snowdon and Hickling have rarely spoken publicly. Snowdon declined again to speak to The Dominion Post last week, but Hickling said the dispute had cost his wife and her family about $3.5m and had "partly destroyed" their lives.

It had left Snowdon emotionally bereft, with little chance of finding work anywhere in the world, because of her allegations of financial mismanagement being easily accessible on the internet.

Hickling said being locked in the dispute for so long was like drowning in quicksand.

"You're a small person up against a Goliath with unlimited resources and virtually no accountability.

"I had faith in the system, and that was my naivete."

Although she had weathered it, Snowdon had suffered a heavy psychological toll.

"She's basically been a nobody for 12 years."

RNZ deputy chief executive and chief financial officer Ken Law - who was involved with the case from the start and was the subject of serious allegations levelled by Snowdon - said the end of the case was an "absolute relief" in what had been a "huge distraction" for the organisation.

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- The Dominion Post

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