Former Welly advocate fires up ACC protest

SHANE COWLISHAW
Last updated 05:00 23/05/2013
Mike and Jolene Dixon-McIver, ACC battle
KENT BLECHYNDEN/Fairfax NZ

BATTLE CONTINUES: Mike Dixon-McIver and his wife Jolene have been battling with ACC.

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A man who helped dozens of people with their ACC claims says the corporation has driven him into bankruptcy and depression.

After more than 20 years of acting as an ACC advocate, Mike Dixon-McIver has spent the past six years locked in a battle with the corporation after it tried to prosecute him for fraud.

That case was thrown out and a judge awarded Mr Dixon-McIver, of Upper Hutt, full legal costs. But the corporation has refused to go to mediation to discuss damages.

This has infuriated Mr Dixon-McIver, who at noon today will host a barbecue protest outside the corporation's head office in Wellington to publicise his plight.

He plans to camp outside the office until ACC agrees to meet him.

"Nobody has said 'we're sorry', nobody, and that's the first thing I ever wanted from them."

Adding to his frustration, he and wife Jolene will be forced out of their home on Friday after an option to buy the property expires.

He sent ACC a starting figure for damages and losses of $4.69 million, including sums for loss of earnings and impact on his mental health.

But ACC believes this sum is too high and has said in a letter that there is no merit in his claims.

The fraud charges against him were laid in 2007 and stem from advice he provided to a client in 2003 about how to fill out reimbursement forms for his home-help services.

The charges were dismissed in November 2008 by Judge Michael Behrens, who believed Mr Dixon-McIver was motivated by good intentions.

Soon after the decision, Mr Dixon-McIver suffered a breakdown that left him severely depressed and unable to work.

The couple survived "on the smell of an oily rag" as they tried to deal with the fallout, he said.

"He was so traumatised by it all, he could hardly work for the first six months, he was so frightened and ashamed," his wife said.

In 2010, struggling under mounting debt, he was declared bankrupt, and in November 2011 applied to the court for costs against ACC.

In January, Judge Behrens delivered his decision, making the rare order for ACC to pay full legal costs of $13,000 to Mr Dixon-McIver, as he was "without blame".

"It was an extraordinary allegation, given Mr Dixon-McIver's occupation," the judge said.

He also said of ACC investigator Timothy Trask: "My impression is that Mr Trask was for some reason blinded by his wish to proceed against Mr Dixon-McIver before he had examined the evidence with more care."

However, he also noted there was no evidence of malicious intent on ACC's behalf.

ACC spokesman Glenn Donovan said in a statement it accepted Judge Behrens' criticism of the decision to prosecute.

The corporation would be happy to sit down to mediation with Mr Dixon-McIver and address his concerns, but his excessive monetary expectations meant this would be unproductive.

Human rights lawyer Michael Bott, who represented Mr Dixon-McIver in his initial proceedings, said ACC had "bullied and bludgeoned" him.

"Really, if the department had any ounce of decency, they should look at what they did to Mr Dixon-McIver. They made his life a living hell."

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WHAT IS AN ACC ADVOCATE?

An advocate is someone who can be nominated to speak to the corporation on behalf of a claimant.

Often they are part of an independent organisation, but some individuals act on their own as private advocates.

An advocate has good knowledge about the workings of ACC and can assist people if they encounter problems during their claim process.

 

TIMELINE

2003: ACC claimant Colin Shingleton approaches Mike Dixon-McIver for advice about how to fill out his home-help reimbursement forms.

2006: Mr Shingleton’s landlady, Sharron Alexander, is charged with fraud, with the Ministry of Social Development alleging she was receiving money from Mr Shingleton’s ACC payments as well as the domestic purposes benefit.

She is convicted but the decision is overturned on appeal.

2007: Fraud charges are laid by ACC against Mr Dixon-McIver, Mr Shingleton and Ms Alexander.

Nov 2008: Judge Michael Behrens throws out all charges before the trial starts. Soon after the decision, Mr Dixon-McIver has a mental breakdown and is unable to work.

2010: He is declared bankrupt after using $10,000 earmarked for tax payments to pay his lawyer.

Dec 2011: Mr Dixon-McIver files an application for costs against ACC.

Jan 2013: Judge Behrens awards Mr Dixon-McIver his full costs of $13,000, stating he was ‘‘without blame’’. ACC has paid the costs.

May 2013: ACC sends a letter to Mr Dixon-McIver, stating it will not meet to discuss damages as there was ‘‘no merit’’ in the claim.

- The Dominion Post

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